Authors: Sophie Monroe
Not Ready To Fall
Copyright © 2015 by Sophie Monroe
All rights reserved.
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are a product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.
The author also acknowledges the trademark status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction and have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with or sponsored by the trademark owners.
The author acknowledges the use of the following:
Jack Daniels, Black Stone Cherry, Dierks Bentley, Flordia Georgia Line, Sam Hunt, Listerine
There are so many amazing people in my life that help fuel my creative drive. They're my supporting force. Whether they live down the street, or across the country, I know they're there unconditionally.
My fans/readers: I am eternally indebted to you for allowing me to do what I love. THANK YOU for taking the time to read what I write. (Hugs!)
Skittles: Gah, what would I do without you? You get me. Period. #selfie&skittles #bff's
As always, my Twinnie. She reads as I go and guides me. She deals with my breakdowns, my scary one o'clock in the morning Snapchats and rocks my socks. I really need to send her bagels.
Reub- My BBB! Another person I'd lose my shit without. I'm so lucky to call him a friend!
All my other buddies: there's too many of you to list and I could fill a book (maybe one day I will) of all the reasons I love you and why you're special to me. I'm nothing without you guys <3
So much Sophie love!
MEETINGS OF THE UNEXPECTED KIND
Fairytales aren't found, they're made. Just like a house, they're laid brick by brick, piece by piece. They're made of hardships, tears, fears, realities, happiness, but mostly, love.
There are so many definitions of love. Everyone loves differently. My definition is, having someone that knows and sees all of you. Your fears, flaws, weaknesses, beauty, and adventure. To truly be soul-baringly (yeah, I made that word up) naked with someone.
To be able to be weird and ridiculous in their presence and know in their head, they are thinking,
that's my weirdo, hands off!
The fear of falling sometimes holds us back, as does unrealistic expectations of what love should be. Love should be organic. When you love with no expectation, you are sometimes given the greatest reward.
Here's to life's greatest fall...
At twenty-eight, Charlotte Baker thought she had her life figured out. The nice guy, the good job, a great apartment, and a little money in the bank. Unfortunately, she couldn't have been more wrong.
Her boyfriend of six years, turned fiancé, decided he wanted different things. Three weeks ago, she came home from work to find all his things gone or in boxes. A note was front and center on the dining room table.
I'm sorry to have left you like this, but I feel like it's the easiest way for both of us. Our relationship has run its course and has for some time. I wish you all the best in all that you do. I'll be in touch soon to get the rest of my belongings.
Heartbroken and blindsided, she threw herself into her work and looking for answers. She couldn't understand how one day they were set on building a future together, and the next he was gone with little, make that no, explanation.
After weeks of moping around, her girlfriends finally convinced her that she was going out tonight. Even if it meant kidnapping. Begrudgingly, she finally agreed. She'd lost weight and hadn't been sleeping much. She knew the bags under her eyes were starting to form bags. She needed to snap out of it. So what if Owen decided to bail. Fuck him. She deserved better, and she knew it. It didn't matter how much she repeated it to herself, she couldn't help but feel sad, and a little lost.
Unplugging the curling iron, she took one last look in the mirror. As far as she was concerned it was as good as it was going to get. She paired her black leggings and cream colored peasant shirt with a pair of black strappy sandals, before grabbing her clutch and heading for her Mustang.
At thirty-two, Jack Easton was in the process of building a successful business. Unlucky in love, he threw himself into his work and spending time with his friends. Always the adventurous type, he was the risk taker in the bunch. He had a smile that couldn't help but be noticed, and a way of always drawing a crowd.
Tonight was much like any other Saturday night, he was heading to the bar for a night of drinking with his buddies. Grabbing the keys to his GMC truck, he headed out the door to Binge.
Her first thoughts opening the door were the place smelled like stale cigarettes and beer. It was just clean enough to be deemed an acceptable place to converse. She spotted her girlfriends over at the far end of the bar and started making her way over. Feeling socially awkward, she scanned the bar and surrounding tables. People gathered chatting happily over their alcoholic beverages and appetizers. She envied, and almost despised, the couples that looked happily in love.
She remembered a time, not long ago, when that was her. Pushing that emotion aside, she decided she was going to make the best of the evening. She thought maybe she'd even look for a rebound to get back in the game, but that wasn't her style. She wasn't a risk taker. She was the orderly planner, the one that liked to always know what was coming. She was the saver, except she couldn't save her relationship with Owen.
Her girlfriend, Jamie, waved her over and greeted her with a hug. No need for beer goggles in this place, the dim lighting was just bright enough to see the surroundings. As she took a seat at the mahogany bar, the bartender sat down a napkin and asked her what she was drinking. Pulling a ten out of her wallet, she ordered a Jack and Coke.
Jamie smiled at her. Two of her other friends, Vanessa, and Jess sat on the other side. It was going to make having a conversation a pain in the ass, but they seemed pleased that she was here. They were asking her how she was coping with the Owen situation. She knew there was no avoiding it. They were just concerned. She plastered on a fake smile and said she was doing fine. Maybe if she said it enough, she'd start believing it herself. There was no worse feeling than feeling weak, it left her unsettled. She didn't need anyone that didn't want her.
Picking up her drink, she lifted the straw to her lips and took a long sip. She scanned the bar again, as Florida Georgia Line sang about getting your shine on. She noticed a group of five guys standing around a table laughing and drawing a crowd.
For the next twenty minutes, she found her eyes kept drifting their way. Judging by the amount of people stopping to greet them, she assumed they must have been regulars. Their carefree laughter lifted her spirit and she found herself in her own head. As she was staring their way, a pair of green eyes met hers. Even in the dim light she could see the deep shade of green full of mystery. Even though she was intrigued, she quickly looked away.
Something felt off about this night from the second he walked out the door. Almost like something bad was going to happen, but whatever it was he wasn't feeling like his normal happy self. The normally attentive staff was slow as fuck and his beer was empty. He strode over to the bar to order another. As he turned to make his way back to the table, he bumped into the girl he locked eyes with earlier. What was a full beer now soaked her top, making it sheer. The light pink bra she was sporting was now on display for all to see. Her flushed face grimaced in annoyance and embarrassment. Trying to think on his toes, he took his unbuttoned, button up shirt off and offered it to her.
"I'm so sorry."
An expert on reading people, he could see the pain in her eyes. He thought it was a shame for someone so beautiful to look so pained. As she accepted his shirt, she clung it to her chest.
"It was my fault, I should have been paying better attention. I was getting ready to leave anyway, this will give me a valid excuse to bail."
Jack looked at his watch seeing it was only twenty to eleven. The night hadn't even started yet. He took in her honey-colored blonde hair and tanned skin. She had beautiful features, but the pain in her hazel eyes bothered him. He found himself wondering what was making her sad. He wasn't in the market for a relationship. Business was busy and as much as he enjoyed the company of women, they were a lot of work. He usually always ended up getting screwed over to boot. He hesitated for a few seconds contemplating his next move.
Offering his hand, "I'm Jack."
Awkwardly holding the shirt to cover herself, she placed her hand in his. "Charlotte ."
"Can I at least buy you one more drink before you go? I'm sure your girlfriends won't mind." She seemed hesitant until he flashed his signature grin and gave a meek nod.
He pulled out a barstool and waited for her to sit before taking the one next to her. Raising his hand, he flagged the bartender back over and ordered them drinks. Jack turned and took a few moments studying her. There was no ring on her finger. She seemed fragile, yet strong. The silence was content, but he found himself wanting to know more about her. He was intrigued by people, always wanting to know what made them tick.
"Girls night?" He asked. She took a sip from her straw and nodded. It obviously wasn't going to be easy pulling information out of her. "Boyfriend?" Then he saw the pain come to the forefront and he knew he had hit a nerve. Without waiting for her to answer, "it's his loss."
Her hazel eyes locked on his green ones. "You don't even know me." She nearly spat at him.
"I'm a very good judge of character. I can tell you'd be worth keeping, and no I'm not trying to pick you up. In fact, I'm not looking for anything at all."
She looked offended for a second before shrugging. "Me either."
They shared small talk for another twenty minutes before her drink was empty. Jack offered to buy her another, but she declined. She thanked him and handed him back his shirt before walking over to her girlfriends to say goodbye. Her ass was stellar. As much as he wasn't in the market for anything, he wanted to see her again. He sat waiting for her to walk past him to exit. As she did, he hopped off the stool and offered to walk her to her car.
Holding his hand out, he opened the door and placed his hand on the small of her back. He followed her to a black Mustang Shelby. He didn't take her for that kind of car, he thought she'd be more of a Jetta girl. This new piece of information made him even more intrigued. He opened her car door.
"Charlotte," he paused. She turned to look at him. "I'd love to take you out to lunch or dinner sometime. If you'd like of course."
Again, she seemed to hesitate for a moment while she contemplated. "I thought you weren't trying to pick me up?"
"I wasn't. Well, I'm not. Not really anyway. I'd just like the opportunity to get to know you better."
She pulled her phone out and added his number to her contacts and sent him a text so he'd have her number.
"Thanks for the drink." She looked down at her shoes.
His phone started ringing. It was a Missouri area code. His younger brother Zane lived there. He held his pointer finger up, asking her to wait while he answered it.
The night up until this point felt like a complete shit show. Nothing had gone right. Her shirt was most likely ruined. The girls were talking about Owen and how he'd already moved on. It made her think that he'd probably been seeing this girl for a while before he decided to leave. The thought was like another knife to her heart. She should have been used to it by now.
A crack of thunder sounded off in the distance, startling her. She turned her attention back to Jack. He seemed rugged and very masculine. So not her type, but something about him attracted her. She liked clean cut, guys. Guys with office jobs and drove Audi's. It wasn't always nice to make assumptions, but she was pretty sure by the look of his large calloused hands that he did manual labor. His shaved head and facial hair added to his rugged appearance.
She stood next to her open car door wanting to go home. All night she had been looking forward to changing into some boyshorts and a hoodie before diving into a good book. Something in her gut told her to stay and wait for him to get off the phone.
All the color seemed to drain from his face. He said a few things she could barely make out to the person on the other end of the line and hung up the phone. He turned to the car parked next to hers and leaned on it for support. Something bad had happened. Her maternal instincts kicked in as she placed her hand on his shoulder. Jack was trying to hold it together.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
Wordlessly, he shook his head no. "That was the hospital where my brother lives. He was killed riding his motorcycle about an hour ago. I'm his emergency contact. Fuck!"
His large fists banged on the roof of the car. Instinctively, she knew she should back away. Instead, she moved closer in an effort to comfort him. Wrapping her arm around his waist, she leaned into him and rested her head on his shoulder.
"I'm so sorry, Jack. I don't even know what to say." And she didn't. She wasn't immune from tragedy either, but everyone dealt with things differently. In a moment, it seemed so petty that she had spent weeks moping over Owen. She was still here and spent years trying to be what he wanted her to be. She spent her life feeling unfulfilled just to make him happy. There were so much worse things in life.
Right then, they shared a moment. A moment defined by circumstance and tragedy, but it seemed like more. Jack turned and pulled her into an embrace. He was trying hard to keep his composure. He didn't seem like the breakdown type, but this was his brother. Charlotte knew there was little she could do, but try her best to comfort him. As his chin rested on her head, she couldn't help but notice how well they fit together. She wasn't ready to put her defenses down to let anyone get close to her just yet, but right now she was all he had. Owen was still fresh in her mind, almost mockingly so.
He looked down at her. She returned it with sympathy filled eyes. There was something about Jack that seemed like it could be dangerous, but not enough for her to shy away. It was as if her inhibitions were tossed to the wayside. Jack was like human Novocain, numbingly dangerous.
This can't be happening,
was the only thought that kept running through my head. Zane was my shadow. Only eighteen months apart, we were extremely close growing up. He decided to leave for the West after dropping out of college. He needed a change of scenery. A fresh start. I'd go out every few months to visit for a week or two, sometimes longer if I had the time. We've remained close, despite the distance and now in the blink of an eye he was gone forever.