All or Nothing #2
Ciara’s life has returned to normal for the most part. There’s been no dark messages in her locker or masked psychopaths lurking in the shadows. She’s months from graduating high school — the end is in sight — when Denver blows through her back door like a whirlwind, stirring up old hurts and confusing emotions. Denver comes in hard and fast, and the chase is on, but Ciara has her doubts, and their past sits between them like an impenetrable wall that may be too hard for her to climb. Denver makes promises, but Ciara fears he’s running on empty. Denver has a history of abandoning her in her time of need.
Denver seeks revenge, but Ciara’s no saint. She has her own secrets, ones she doesn’t want Denver to find out. Can Ciara keep her eyes on the prize, or will Denver prove to be too much of a distraction?
BUY THE BOOK
Spring Break is next week! I can’t believe I’m going to graduate high school in just a few months. It doesn’t seem possible! I’ve managed to put last year behind me, with the help of my sister Char, my brother Crash, and my wonderful counselor named Jackie, who I can’t imagine handling recent past life mistakes without. Jackie is the only reason I’ve ventured outside of Drury, the quiet, small Midwest town I live in, the only home I’ve ever known; a town most people knew nothing about until me and my brother and our ridiculous escapade involving a drug-dealing serial killer put it on the map. My senior year had better be drug free.
I don’t know why I resisted going to see Jackie in the first place, but I can be pret-ty proud and pret-ty stubborn. I met her in person initially, but thanks to the convenience of ZOOM, I no longer have to drive twenty miles down the road to see her. I only need decent Wi-Fi, which is easily obtained when I park behind the local library.
I had resigned myself to working all Spring Break for Char at the local nursing home, because it never hurts to make some extra money. However, Char insists I stay home and enjoy my “last week of freedom” before I graduate and enter the real world of working, paying rent, and being a full-time college student, nose deep in studying.
I entertained taking a road trip for about half a second, but I have no money for a hotel, and no one to take the trip with. I’ll probably end up taking walks around the lake and eating microwave smores at night while I cozy up with Netflix, vegging out on The Gilmore Girls and dreaming of Rory’s Yale, a place I’ll never see in person, but I’ve seen enough virtual tours of the place so my dreams of going there are pret-ty vivid.
I hop out of bed and stretch. I can’t help but smile. It’s finally Thursday, the last day of school this week. The best thing about attending a small-town high school is I get more breaks. For the entire month of March, we have four-day school weeks. I’ve had every Friday off this month, including tomorrow.
I rush through my shower and brush out my hair before braiding it down the back. I throw on my favorite Dr. Pepper tee and faded blue jeans with a pair of sandals. I grab my pack and race down the stairs, and hurry to the kitchen to snag some leftover coffee from the pot. Char’s tires crunch on the gravel as she backs out of the driveway. I stand at the sink pouring half milk and half coffee. I pause when I hear the screen door creep open. I’m on instant high alert. I slam the milk on the counter before I drop it. Crash has already gone to work, and so has Char. Who just walked in through my back door?
My heart races and I glance around the room, looking for something big and heavy. I see nothing. I whip open a drawer and grab the biggest knife I can find. It feels foreign in my hand. I drop it with a clatter when I imagine it being wrenched from my trembling fingers. I stop my imagination, muttering to myself, “Don’t go there, Ciara.”
Footsteps fall heavy and sure. Whoever’s coming up my back hallway is in no hurry. I have no choice. My heart hammers in my chest. I make a break for it and run blindly toward the front door, too scared to look back. “Ciara!”
I’m steps from flying out the front door when a voice from the past, the one that still comes to me in dreams or nightmares, I haven’t decided which, breaks through my wall of fear. I trip on the rug, fall to the floor, and pray he’s alone as I turn to face him. “Ciara.” I hear no pity in his tone, nor does he move to help me up as I get to my feet, all clumsy and red-faced from embarrassment and anger.
“Denver.” His name on my lips stings of betrayal. His very presence is an offense to Char, my older sister, the one who stuck by my side through all my recklessness and stupidity last school year that got me shoulder-shot and almost stuck in a house fire. These are the hazards that come from knowing Denver. For the past year I’ve been working through everything with my counselor, albeit selectively. We haven’t broached the subject of his possible return. I drown in my emotions. “What are you doing here?”
He stares at me like I’m his mortal enemy. “You know what I’m after.” My heart lurches in my chest. Those five words break through my carefully-built wall I’ve built brick-by-brick over the past year with Jackie. I stare back at him. My emotions overcome me. Did he really come back for me? I shove those thoughts aside. It doesn’t matter, I’m not going with him. I can’t—not after everything Char has done for me. His eyes are cold and distant. They don’t exactly scream invitation or pining.
“I’m sorry, what?” There’s fear in my voice. I hate feeling weak, but Denver has always been the thorn in my side, the one person who can make me bleed, among other things. He walks toward me. His eyes don’t waver as he tracks me. My body betrays me, and my inner thermometer starts to rise. My feet are like cement blocks stuck to the floor. Denver keeps coming at me until his path deviates.
Why is he running up my stairs? This sets off a whole new set of alarms, and I race after him. “What are you doing?” He doesn’t answer me. He just keeps up his steady run like a soldier marching onto a battlefield. He slams my bedroom door open like a cop with a search warrant. The noise echoes off the walls.
I stand in the doorframe, trembling. He goes straight for my dresser, tugs the drawer open, and runs his hands through my bras and underwear. Memories flood me with shame, because it’s not a stretch to imagine his hands on me. I know the feeling all too well. I’m like a broken record that someone has muted. “I said, what are you doing?” My voice comes out barely above a whisper.
He turns on me. “Where is it?”
My stomach drops. I know it’s stupid, and he’ll see right through me, but still, I choose to play the game. “Where is what?” The way he looks at me, like I owe him something, like he’s not the one who burst into my life uninvited, turning my world upside down before skipping town with my broken heart, pisses me off, and I turn stubborn, goading him. “I already gave you my red bra, Denver.” Along with my heart. “It’s not in there.”
His face flushes and he looks down for a second, but the face that pops up at me has no trace of the fun-loving guy I once knew as he sneers at me. He strides across my room and grips my chin just a little too hard. “I don’t have time for your childish games, Ciara. Just give me what is mine.” He growls.
My hands fly up, courtesy of a self-defense class Char and I took together as soon as my shoulder healed from the gunshot wound last year. I knock his hands from my face, and my reward is instant. The slight look of surprise on Denver’s face as he glances down at his hand like he can’t figure out what just happened makes my heart soar. My moment of triumph is short-lived as his mouth covers mine. He invades my space with the surety of a mob boss who kicks in doors and takes what he wants, leaving only wreckage and ruin behind. His heavy hands fly to my butt, squeezing just hard enough to cause a little pain. I’m on fire. I’m in way over my head. Shit. No self-defense class ever taught me how to handle a flaming ball of lust named Denver Evans.
He takes a step back. His chest heaves. I lean against the wall, unsure of how I’m still standing. I hold his stare, but don’t say a word. Seconds drag by. My mind is blank. He takes a breath and his swollen lips curve upwards slowly, forming a smirk. I so want to slap him. “How dare you.” I say, feeling very much like an incensed, dramatic woman in the old westerns that Roberto, my sister’s favorite resident where she works, loves to watch.
Denver steps back into my space, lays a heavy hand on the back of my neck, strokes my skin, and fans the flame once more. “Oh, I dare, Ciara. And I’ll do it again, and more, if you don’t give me what I want.” Whoa. Denver has seriously stepped up his game. I feel like I’m on the sidelines, and all I want is to be tagged in.