Today, we welcome R.K Lilley, as she celebrates the release of her new book Grounded, which released on February 10th!
R.K is giving away an ebook copy of Grounded today, please leave a comment on this post or on our Facebook page as to why you are looking forward to reading this book in the series! Winner will be selected tonight! Good luck!
James and Bianca’s story draws to a close in the explosive conclusion to the Up In The Air Trilogy.
After a short but earnest courtship, Bianca can no longer deny her feelings for James, and though she’s tried her hardest, she can’t help but see that he cares deeply for her, as well. In a completely uncharacteristic move, she has put aside her misgivings and agreed to live with the enigmatic billionaire. Is her leap of faith the beginning of something wonderful, or is it too much, too fast?
As James and Bianca feel a growing need for each other that neither can deny, circumstances beyond their control intervene, trying to tear them apart. Amidst the ever mounting threat of a monster who wants Bianca dead, and the constant pitfalls of an indiscreet past that James can’t seem to escape, can these two passionate lovers manage to find their happily ever after?
I rushed into the apartment the second the elevator opened, moving towards the room the guys had been staying in. James was a silent presence keeping pace at my back.
I only knew I was heading in the right direction by the raised voice echoing down the long hallway. I broke into a run.
Javier was yelling, his voice harsh and angry. It was so uncharacteristic for him that I stopped in the open doorway to their room.
“We will talk about it now,” Javier was saying in an awful voice.
He was standing directly in front of Stephan, close enough to shout into his face. His tone and his demeanor instantly sparked my rare temper, but he wasn’t what made me lose it.
Stephan stood with his arms crossed in front of him, looking at the floor, his posture defeated. He had withdrawn from the confrontation, gone into that dark place in his mind where his family abused him and deserted him without looking back. I knew it at a glance. Something horrible had happened between the two men, something so bad that Stephan had checked out, and everything that Javier was doing was just making him go further into that dark place. That was what made me lose it.
I was moving to Stephan before my brain fully processed what was even going on, as though my body knew what to do before my brain did. I moved between the two men, and into Stephan, burying my face in his chest, my arms sliding under his arms and wrapping tight around his ribs.
He gasped as though he’d been holding his breath, hugging me back. Those were his only reactions. His face and posture didn’t change other than that. I knew it was a bad sign.
I turned my face just enough to glare at Javier. “You need to give him some space. Now.”
Javier pointed at me, growing visibly more furious. “This is the problem with you two. How the fuck is anyone supposed to get close to either you of, to have any kind of a relationship with you, when you only care about each other?! Only trust each other?!”
Javier had a rare but memorable temper. He was a clear-headed, sweet guy ninety-nine percent of the time. He was sweet, gentle, and amiable, if a touch cool for my taste. But that other one percent was an emotional typhoon. I knew from their past breakup that when he got like this he said awful things, threw out ultimatums, and burned bridges. I got it. I understood that dysfunction all too well, but it had wounded Stephan once again, and I had a real serious problem with that.
I pointed right back at him. “I said give him space.”
His upper lip quivered. He gripped both hands into his hair as though he wanted to pull it all out. I couldn’t tell if it was anger or pain that moved him, but I frankly didn’t care at that moment. Priority one was Stephan, always.
“He doesn’t need space! He needs to talk to me, instead of running to you every time he’s upset!”
I started to move towards Javier, to do what, I wasn’t quite sure. Push him from the room? Get in his face? I honestly couldn’t say, but it didn’t matter. Stephan stopped me, clutching me close.
“Leave her out of it, Javier,” Stephan said, his voice toneless and quiet. I hated that tone, because I knew it hid a deep pain.
“No, you leave her out of it-“ Javier shouted back.
“Go, Javier. I have nothing to say to you right now, and I’ve heard what you have to say. Now leave us alone,” Stephan said, still in that alarmingly dead tone.
Javier visibly deflated. He turned and walked away. Distractedly I noted that James followed him out, closing the door softly on his way out.
Stephan pulled me to a low couch, hugging me to him. I clutched him just as tightly as he did me. If he needed comfort, I needed just as badly to give it to him. He was hurting, and I hurt with him. We had never been able to maintain any level of detachment from each other’s suffering, and we didn’t now.
I stroked my hands through his soft wavy hair over and over, not speaking, just comforting and waiting. If he needed to tell me, he would tell me. I wouldn’t pry.
We hugged like that for a long time, my face buried in his neck, his in my hair, before he spoke in a whisper into my ear. “I told him that I loved him yesterday,” he said finally.
I tried not to tense, tried to stay comforting, relaxing, waiting for him to go on, but I didn’t imagine he’d have good news after that. The I love you obviously hadn’t been met with a positive response.
“He told me that he needed more time to know his feelings, that I was moving too fast. He said he wasn’t sure he could trust me yet, with our history and all. I tried not to be hurt by that, even though it felt like a rejection.”
He didn’t speak for a while. I stroked his hair, rubbed his back.
“I shook it off pretty good, I thought. I could give him time. We have time, yanno? Maybe I was rushing. But then we went out tonight. To Melvin’s bar. Not my idea, but I didn’t figure there’d be a problem. And there wasn’t. At least not on Melvin’s end. Melvin was completely civil, friendly even. Javier took exception to the friendly. He asked me if I’d gone out with Melvin. I said yeah, briefly. He went into a jealous tantrum. I went to the bathroom. When I came back out I found Javier pinned to the wall, being kissed by Vance. He wasn’t exactly putting up a fight. I left. Javier followed me here.”
“He was mad at me. He had the nerve to turn it around on me, said I was overreacting. I hate this. I just can’t take this kind of stuff, the jealousy and the disloyalty. I’d rather be alone than deal with all of that.”
“I can’t make him love me,” he continued, an awful quaver in his voice. My tear ducts responded accordingly, producing a dreaded tear like a button had been pushed. “I’ve been down that road. Before I met you, that was all I knew. I did everything I could think of to make my family love me, but in the end, they said that I was toxic, and un-savable, and they thought that I was scum. I won’t do that again, won’t be that pathetic kid who can’t make someone love them, not even for Javier.”
“Oh, Stephan,” I whispered, crying like a baby now, because he was crying, and because there was no distance between his pain and my heart. “You are the most beautiful person I’ve ever met. There is nothing ugly inside of you, nothing bad. If he can’t love you, if he doesn’t already, it can only be because he’s not worthy of your love. You don’t need to try to make anyone love you ever again. You’re the most lovable person I know.”
“I’m not, Bee. My own family threw me away. There has to be something wrong with me. They didn’t throw the other kids away, it was only me, and I tried my hardest-“ he was crying too hard to finish. I was right there with him. We held each other and cried like babies. The tears seemed to be flowing more freely these days. The stoic, hard-eyed street kids we’d once been would have been ashamed.
“I love you so much,” I said quietly into his ear when the tears had passed. “I wouldn’t have survived without you. You saved me in so many ways. You still do, every day. I’m not sure I’d even be capable of loving another person if you hadn’t come along when you did. I was so numb inside, so resigned to just watching my life play out in one horrible episode after another, until one of those episodes finally ended me for good.”
He squeezed me almost painfully tight.
“We met in the gutter,” I continued, ”but even there, you shone like a light in the dark for me. You were the only good thing in my life, but you were so good that I knew it had all evened out. All of the bad was balanced because I got you out of it. Even jaded and abused and dead inside, I saw that clearly. If Javier can’t see it, trust me, he’s not worthy of your love.”
He kissed my forehead.
We didn’t talk about this stuff often, so once I started it was hard to stop. “I never met your family,” I continued, “but I can tell you that you were the best of them, not the worst. They did throw you away,” I said, and he made the faintest whimper of a noise. It killed me to hear that, to know that it still hurt him so badly, still affected him that much. “They did throw you away, but that says nothing about you, and everything about them. You would never throw someone away, never turn on someone that needed you.”
I had said my piece, and so fell silent. He hugged me to him for a long time, burrowing his face into my hair.
“I love you, Buttercup. You’re my rock. Best thing that ever happened to me,” he whispered.
I closed my eyes, feeling unworthy of those words, but relishing them all the same.
I didn’t realize I had drifted off until quiet voices woke me up. Stephan’s chest was my pillow. He spoke in a low voice to someone behind me as he stroked my hair.
“You have to understand how proud she is, if you’re going to keep her with you. It’s a resilient kind of pride. She had exactly one pair of pants and three tops in our junior year of high school, but no one ever would have suspected that it was because she was homeless, just because of the way she held herself. And that was just a taste of it, just a tiny piece of the superficial part of it. It goes so much deeper than that. It’s the kind of pride that would keep a person from ever saying how they feel, at the risk of being rejected. Do you understand?”
I heard a deep hum of noise behind me and knew that it was James.
Oh Stephan, I thought.
He was matchmaking, trying to bring two stubborn souls closer, two people who he was afraid were incapable of doing it themselves.
I felt a weight settle onto the couch beside us, a hand resting on my hip with a soft touch.
“I understand,” James said quietly. I couldn’t begin to read his tone. “Are you okay, Stephan?” he asked.
I felt Stephan nod. “I’m better. I vented, got it all out, and it actually helped.”
“Are you up to talking to Javier tonight? I set him up in another room, but he’s asked to speak to you at your earliest convenience. He swears he’s done yelling. Swears he’ll be civil.”
I felt Stephan nod again. “Yeah. I’m ready to talk. Are you going to wake her?”
“I’ll carry her to our room.”
I felt Stephan kiss my head and then James was shifting me into his arms. I let him take a few steps before I rubbed my cheek against his chest. “I can walk,” I told him, my voice sleepy.
“And I can carry you,” he said, just gripping me tighter.
And he did, carrying me upstairs and laying me on our bed. I let him strip me down to nothing without a word, just watching him. I couldn’t begin to read his mood. Was he upset? The evening couldn’t have gone how he’d been planning.
He shrugged out of his own clothes, laying on the bed beside me. I was flat on my back, and he perched himself at my side, one hand propping his head up, the other moving to my belly with a light touch.
It was a peaceful kind of standoff. We lay and watched and waited for the other to speak. I thought I was well suited to the contest. James broke first.
“I listened to you and Stephan talking,” he said finally.
I was hardly surprised, so I didn’t react. “Why?” was all I asked.
“I led Javier to the furthest room down the hall from Stephan, and when I stepped out into the hall, I heard you sobbing. I couldn’t stay away. I couldn’t hear you crying like that and just let it go. You have to know that about me by now.”
I did know that. I just nodded for him to go on.
“I just sat outside the door and listened. I tried to give you space, but that was the best I could do. Let me start by saying that I’m grateful for Stephan. I feel like I owe him a debt, a debt that I can never repay, for taking care of you, for keeping you safe, body and soul, before we met. He’s a part of you. I see that. But Javier was right, in a way.”
I opened my mouth to speak.
He just covered it with his hand. “Let me finish. He was right in that, every time you get upset about something, you can’t only turn to each other. You can depend on other people. Letting someone other Stephan past your guard won’t diminish what you have with him, what you are to each other. Your love for each other is a beautiful thing, but it shouldn’t be such a selfish thing. You’ve turned that love into a wall that keeps everyone else out, and that’s unfortunate, because you have so much more to give than that.”
“As we’re finding out together, relationships can be rocky. This thing that we have can be hard. But if you turn me away, if you run to Stephan every time it gets hard, where will that leave us? Where will that leave Javier and Stephan? You need to make room in your heart for more than Stephan.”
I didn’t respond, didn’t know what to say, because he was so right and so wrong. Stephan and I did depend on each other to the exclusion of the rest of the world. It had served us so well for so long that it was hard to make myself want to break the habit. Impossible, really. But he was wrong about the rest of it. I had so clearly let more than just Stephan into my heart.
He lowered his head very slowly to my chest, placing one light kiss right over my heart. He looked up at me through the dark golden strands of his hair, keeping his head lowered. “You need to make room here for me,” he said quietly, placing another soft kiss there.
I gripped his hair in my fists, searching desperately for the words to say to him.
He pulled himself gently out of my grasp. “That’s all I wanted to say.”
I couldn’t speak past the lump in my throat.
Grounded, is book 3 in the Up in the Air series, please do not read this review of the book until you read book 1 – In Flight and book 2 – Mile High.
Grounded opens were book 2 left off with Bianca learning that her father likely killed his second wife. She continues to be plagued by the nightmares that took hold in the prior book and James fears of losing Bianca takes hold of him.
James is a man who never thought he could love, truly love someone and want to share his life. The fear of losing something he never thought he could have starts to control him. This felt so true to his character, a Dom who always has control struggling to deal with things he now can’t.
I have to say James honesty with Bianca throughout this book was something I truly enjoyed. He answered her questions about his past honestly, even when he knew the answers would hurt. This was smart play on his part as it allows Bianca to trust, something that is so very hard for her. James understood Bianca, and how wounded her past made her; his desire to get through to her was touching.
I adored Stephan, in the first two books. I knew he was wonderful but in this book you get to hear his voice, he was endeared to my heart. Ms. Lilley also allows you to watch him develop and move his life forward, his love for Stephan too!
James’ respect and deep understanding of the bond between Stephan and Bianca spoke volumes to his understanding of Bianca. He truly does love her and that makes me a Mr. Cavendish fan.
These two wounded souls open up to each other in this book; each at different points in the book share the pain of their past was powerful. The compassion they each showed each other truly felt like it could only come from another wounded soul. James is right, they do complete each other, and the author did a good job highlighting that with scenes like this.
This book provided deep character growth for Bianca, James pushes at her walls and as they crumble she allows herself to feel and see all the caring that surrounds her.
Grounded offers the readers a cast of secondary characters that make a true reading experience. You learn more about Frankie, the tattoo artist, you meet Tristan a friend of James and Lana who becomes a true friend to Bianca. Ms. Lilley also builds the other crew members into characters as well.
When James’ past appears before everyone’s eyes, it becomes a painful realization for Bianca. This sequence of events will have you riveted and ultimately make you so proud of the growth it reveals.
When Bianca’s past re-appears all those involved face a threat they never thought possible, surviving that may be hardest of all. You will have to read the book to find out the impact of her past on this cast of characters who at this point become endeared to your heart.
The end of this book was so well done, I thought I was at the end, it was a happy place, then I flipped the page and it was in an amazing place! Love it!!
Book 3 was well done; it is the best of the series and hope to continue to see Ms. Lilley’s writing develop.
The back of the book has a nice surprise and I am looking forward to what comes next from Ms. Lilley. No, I can’t tell you which character gets a story next; you have to read the book to find out!!
In Flight (Up In The Air, #1)
Mile High (Up In The Air, #2)
Grounded (Up In The Air, #3)
About the Author
R.K. Lilley has been a writer since she can remember, but has held down some interesting jobs to pay the bills. For several years she was a first class flight attendant, and she always swore that she just had to write a book about it. Mixing her love of romance and all things BDSM, the Up In the Air Trilogy is her debut into the world of contempary romance and erotica. She is currently working on the final installment in the series.
R.K. also writes urban fantasy under the pseudonym: Rebecca K. Lilley.