on February 16, 2015
From New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo comes a twisted and passionate love story that pushes the boundaries of loyalty.
Maybe we shouldn’t have fallen so fast and so willingly.
Maybe we shouldn’t have moved in together before we went on our first date.
Maybe we should have given our wounds time to heal before we tore each other to shreds.
Maybe we should have never been together.
Houston has kept a devastating secret from Rory since the day he took her into his home. But the tragic circumstances that brought them together left wounds too deep to heal.
Five years after the breakup, Houston and Rory are thrust together by forces beyond their control. And all the resentments and passion return with more intensity than ever.
Once again, Houston is left with a choice between the truth and the only girl he’s ever loved.
The Way We Fall is the first book in The Story of Us Series, which follows the tumultuous love story of Rory and Houston. The sequel, The Way We Break, will be released Spring 2015.
My head twitches to the left, but it takes me a moment to realize what’s happening. There’s something on my face. I let out a piercing shriek as I try to bat away whatever spider or fly is perched on my eyebrow, then I freeze when I hear soft laughter.
I open my eyes and Houston breaks into a full cackle. “Was that you?”
“Sorry,” he says, trying to keep a straight face. “I was just brushing your eyebrow with my finger to wake you up.”
“You jerk. What time is it?”
“It’s 6:30.” He holds his arms out and beckons me to come closer. “Come here. You don’t have to get ready for class for another hour.”
I scoot in next to him and drape my arm across his solid chest. “Is it really 6:30?”
“Yep. Are you still tired?”
“I haven’t slept that well in… months.”
I trace my finger down the center of his chest, smiling as goosebumps sprout over his skin.
“I’m glad you slept,” he says, kissing the top of my head.
“I’m sorry about the things I said yesterday. I didn’t mean it.”
“No need to apologize… Sometimes… Sometimes I get angry with her, too.”
“She doesn’t deserve that.”
“No, she doesn’t.”
I trace a heart shape over his firm abs and smile when I see his erection rising beneath the sheet. I lightly rake my fingers over his ribs and back up to his chest. Then I trace the letters of the tattoo that stretches from one side of his chest to the other: LOYALTY. His other tattoo is on the inside of his left forearm: Remember. Followed by the date Hallie died. He got both tattoos within the last six months.
Though he almost always avoids talking about Hallie, I know he hasn’t forgotten her. And I know he’s dealing with this in his own way. I shouldn’t have accused him of avoiding the issue. But I do hope he’ll open up to me at some point. I don’t know if it’s realistic to hope for something like that.
“Remember that time Hallie got an iPod for Christmas.”
He lets out a soft puff of laughter. “Yeah, and she gave it to your grandma.”
“I didn’t even notice until the day after Christmas. My grandma was wearing headphones when I went to hug her goodbye.”
“She was always way too mature for her age.”
He laughs again, squeezing my shoulder as he plants a kiss on my forehead. “Remember when we used to go to the public pool and I had to discipline that fucking eight-year-old kid for staring at her.”
“She was thirteen and too pretty for her own good, but she loved the attention. I, on the other hand, hated the pool. All I wanted to do while I was there was watch you, but you never paid me any attention. No matter what bikini I wore.”
“Maybe that was the problem. I would have noticed you if you weren’t wearing a bikini.”
I shake my head as I slide my hand under the sheet and wrap my fingers around his erection. A grin spreads across my face as I realize I finally got all I ever wished for during those summers at the pool. But the smile quickly disappears when I realize it was at the expense of my best friend’s life.
I slide my fist down the length of his erection and his breathing quickens, but he reaches down and pulls my hand up.
He lifts my chin so I’m looking up at him. “I’m sorry.”
“For never noticing you. If I had known… maybe everything would have turned out differently.”
“Different isn’t always better.”
By the time Houston pulls his truck into the lot of the sports bar, I’m ready to tell him to turn around and take me home, but I hold my tongue. It’s been four nights since our blowout fight over Hallie and I’ve been trying to keep the peace. I kept my cool when he got drunk last night and asked me, in front of all his friends, if I wanted to fuck him in the bathroom. And I kept quiet when we slid into bed a couple of hours later and he accused me of flirting with his best friend, Troy. I’ll just promise to give him a really long blowjob if he agrees to be the designated driver tonight.
God, sometimes I hate the person I’ve become.
“What’s tonight’s forecast?” Houston asks as he kills the engine.
“Rainy with a ninety-percent chance of beer,” Troy replies from the backseat.
“Just another night of grueling research,” Houston replies and all I can do is roll my eyes.
As soon as we’re seated at a table in the bar, I lay my hand on top of Houston’s thigh and lean in to whisper my proposition in his ear. He grins broadly and Troy just shakes his head.
“Is that a yes?” I say, taking a sip from my glass of water.
He turns to me and his smile is gone. “If you don’t want to watch me drink, you can take the truck home. I’ll call a taxi.”
He slides his car key across the table and bile rises in my throat as I stare at it. He’s lost all perspective.
I know Houston took the brunt of the impact from Hallie’s death. He was her older brother. He was supposed to protect her. He wasn’t supposed to find her dead body in our dorm. He’s probably suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, but he refuses to see a therapist. He thinks this obsession with creating and consuming craft beer is a healthy alternative to therapy.
I don’t know how much longer I can pretend everything’s okay.
I take the key from the table and smile as I tuck it into my pocket. “I’ll drive us both home… later.”
“How about me?” Troy asks, leaning back in his chair so he can check out the waitress serving beers at the table next to us.
Troy is Houston’s oldest and best friend. They met in ninth grade around the same time Hallie and I met in sixth grade. Hallie had a crush on Troy for about two minutes when she was fourteen, before she decided he was too young for her. Hallie always had a thing for older men.
“Maybe you can get her to drive you home,” I remark and the waitress turns around.
Her glossy lips curl into a seductive smile as she catches Troy staring at her ass. Troy nods at her and she shakes her head as she walks off with her empty tray. His eyes are locked on her as she leans over the bar, flirting with the bartender while stealing the occasional glance in Troy’s direction.
He stands up and pushes up the sleeves of his hoodie to expose his muscular arms. “I’ll be back.”
“You’d better come back with a pint,” Houston calls out as Troy walks away.
He turns to me and the corner of his mouth turns up in that signature crooked smile. He leans forward and plants a soft kiss on my cheekbone. His lips hover over mine and suddenly I’m grinning like an idiot.
“You look beautiful tonight.” He lays a tender kiss on my lips and I wish we were home so I could make out with him for hours. “I’ll drive us home. You can be my beer taster and I’ll be your designated driver.”
He kisses me again and there’s no way I can resist him when he’s laying on the charm like this.
Another waitress arrives with the two pints we ordered earlier and Houston pushes the one she placed in front of him over to me. The waitress smiles and apologizes for mixing up the order.
“No worries. My wife is planning on pounding about a dozen of these tonight, so keep ’em comin’.”
I shove Houston and the waitress just smiles as she walks away. “Way to make me look like a lush.”
“You’re not even going to mention the fact that I called you my wife.”
I don’t know how to respond to this. I didn’t mention it because I assumed it was just part of the joke; it’s funnier if you say wife than girlfriend. But now that he’s calling attention to it, I don’t know what to think.
I shrug as I lean in to take a sip of the farmhouse ale. “It was part of the joke.”
He waits for me to swallow my ale, then he grabs my hand. “One day, we’re going to get married. You know that, right?”
I chuckle and roll my eyes. “Yeah, of course.”
“Did you just roll your eyes?”
“I’m just think it’s a bit early to be making those kinds of proclamations. It’s probably best not to make any promises we can’t keep.”
His gaze falls to the table and he nods. “You’re right.” For a moment, I think this is it. The topic has been closed to further discussion. Then he sits up a little straighter and looks me in the eye. “No, you and I are going to be together forever. Even if we break up, we’ll always make it back to each other; mark my words.”
I nod as I reach for the beer again. “Do you want to know what I think?”
He can tell I’m not going to engage in this conversation any further, so he nods. “Shoot.”
“It’s too citrusy. You can taste a hint of honey, maybe even caramel, but the top notes are definitely orange and bitter lemon. The hops deliver a bite and they’re lingering.”
“IBU?” he asks.
IBU is an acronym for International Bittering Units, a measurement of the amount of bitterness or “hoppy-ness” in a beer.
“IBU is probably fifty to sixty.”
He shakes his head. “I’m in love with a beer snob.”
“Does that turn you on?”
“Put your hand under the table and you’ll feel my beer-ection.”
I almost spit out my beer, but I manage to swallow it down. Houston laughs as I grab the cocktail napkin to wipe the dribble from my chin. Then he rubs my back as I cough out the small bit of farmhouse ale I inhaled.
“That’s what you get for killing Mufasa,” he says.
I shake my head as I take another long sip of ale to cool my throat, then an idea comes to me. “Did you decide what you’re doing next week?”
“For Spring Break?”
“No, for Christmas,” I reply sarcastically. “Of course for Spring Break.”
He looks uncomfortable with this question. “Troy and I made plans.”
“What kind of plans?” I immediately regret the question as soon as it comes out. I don’t want to be the nosy, clingy girlfriend. That’s not me.
“Troy and I are gonna try out some new formulas.”
“But… you guys do that every weekend.”
The muscle in his jaw twitches and that’s my signal to let it go. I want to say, So that whole thing about us being together forever is only true if we never get too close?, but I hold my tongue… again. Then I down four more beers and give my detailed analysis of each one. Houston drives us home and fucks me over the bathroom sink. And when we wake the next morning, with the rain tapping on our bedroom window, Houston’s head is lying on my abdomen, facing the foot of the bed.
I can’t see his face so I reach down and run my fingers through his hair to wake him gently. At first, I think he’s still sleeping. Then I hear a small sniff and I feel the wetness on my skin. This is the second time I’ve seen Houston cry and, somehow, this time is worse than the day Hallie died. Because today I don’t know why, and I don’t know if I ever will.
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