By Carian Cole
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- ebook (Digital original) $9.99 $12.99 CAD
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around July 11, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
"Well-written tension and forbidden longing. The angst in this was incredible!"
—Penelope Douglas, New York Times bestselling author of Birthday Girl
When I was five years old I told Toren Grace we were going to get married someday. He’d been my best friend, my protector, and my rock since the day I was born. He was my world. In fact, his name was my very first word.
He wasn’t just my favorite person, though.
He was also my dad’s best friend, and my pseudo uncle.
But during my senior year of high school, our relationship slowly changed. Innocent friendship turned to stolen glances. Silly conversations morphed into serious heart-to-hearts. And then one day, an unexpected smoldering kiss changed everything.
While that kiss was everything I’d ever dreamed of, it knocked Tor clear off his axis. He’s one of the good guys—loving and devoted with a strong moral compass . . . which makes it impossible for him to accept our feelings for each other. Because not only are we both the one person the other should never, ever want, I’m eighteen, and Tor is fifteen years older than me.
Despite that, the heart wants what the heart wants, and ours have decided we’re meant to be together no matter what.
But neither one of us can stand to betray or hurt my father, who trusts Tor with everything precious to him. We can’t be in a secret relationship forever, so what will happen when my father finds out his best friend is in love with his daughter?
Will there be a way for us to find our happily ever after? Or we will all be torn apart?
Kenzi ~ one day old
Toren ~ fifteen years old
"We want you to be her Godfather," Asher says as he gently lays his newborn baby into my arms. I have to tear my gaze away from her spellbinding eyes to look up at him from the chair I'm cradling the baby in.
"Me?" I repeat, glancing over at Ember in the hospital bed, who beams back at me with a tired, yet genuine smile.
"Yes, you," they both say at the same time. "If it wasn't for you, we probably never would've met," Ember adds, grabbing Asher's hand. "And we wouldn't have this beautiful little baby. We know you'll always protect her."
"That's right, man. You're Uncle Tor now."
I'm an uncle. And my two best friends are parents. And we're all fuckin' under sixteen.
But Kenzi Allyster Valentine would change us all forever. She needed us.
"Wow. I'm honored, guys. No doubt, I'll always be here for her."
I kick back the pang that hits my stomach. I didn't get the girl...but I got something better that I never expected. A gift in the form of a little tiny hand wrapped tightly around my finger, huge eyes like gems staring up into mine like I was the most amazing person in the friggin' world, and the first glimpse of what I could already tell was going to be a heart-stopping smile.
At that moment, a connection was born.
That was it.
She owned me.
The love of my life.
* * *
I hop off the back of the motorcycle and run my fingers through my shoulder-length hair, trying to detangle the mess. The wind is brutal on my hair and turns it into a tumbleweed in less than five minutes of being on the bike. Grabbing my hips, he pulls me against him and plants a dry kiss on my lips that tastes like dirt from the road.
"Kenzi!" A deep male voice bellows from the top of my driveway, making us both jump. "If I see your ass on the back of that bike again, we're gonna have some fuckin' issues."
Jason quickly pulls away his hands that had inched their way down to my ass. "Holy shit, is that your father?" he asks under his breath.
I let out a sigh and shake my head. My father is not one to raise his voice. Unless he's singing on stage, of course. But never out in the driveway. And never at me. "No, it's just my uncle."
Jason squints at Toren before his eyes dart back to mine. "Isn't that the guy who owns the motorcycle place in town? I think I bought my bike from him."
"Yeah...we're not really related, though. He's my dad's best friend."
Tor is coming farther down the driveway toward us, his black leather boots thumping heavily along the stone, his eyes riveted on the boy that just had his hands on me. "You hear me?" He points a finger at Jason, his inked arm muscles bulging menacingly. "I don't want her on that fuckin' bike again."
"Yes, sir," Jason calls back, visibly paling.
"I better go inside before he starts foaming at the mouth." I throw my purse strap over my shoulder. "Have fun tonight at the party."
"You could come to the party with me." The teasing glint in his eye and his slightly raised eyebrow hints at more than just a party, and while I should be jumping up and down at the chance since he's one of the hottest guys in my class, he seemed way more interesting from afar. Before he proved he can't kiss and has zero conversation skills. I'd much rather stay home and read a book or hang out with my father's friends who are coming over tonight for a bonfire.
"I really can't, Jase. I'm sorry." Not sorry. "I'll call you."
Before Jason has a chance to reply I head up the long cobblestone driveway, glaring daggers at Toren as I walk by him.
"Hey, listen to me." He turns and catches up to me as Jason speeds off down the street. "That kid just got his motorcycle license. You don't get on a bike with someone who barely knows how to ride. He's way too squirrely. You could get killed. You can ride with me or your dad or your uncles, but not some fucking kid."
"I was only on it for like six miles to get home from school. Stop yelling at me. You're not my father," I throw back.
"I'm close enough. I mean it, stay off that bike."
"Fine, Uncle Tor. Don't get all rabid."
"I'm not even close to rabid. Yet." He rushes ahead as we approach the house and climb the stairs of the back deck to open the french doors for me that lead into the kitchen. Inside, bags of groceries are lined up on the granite-topped center island. Twice a month my father likes to have his friends and the members of his band over to hang out in the back yard, eat, have a few drinks, take a dip in the pool, and jam a little. Toren usually brings over the food and alcohol and sets everything up.
I should help him put the food away, but I'm not in the best of moods. I just want to be alone so I disappear down the hall and up the stairs to my bedroom, closing the door behind me. After kicking off my shoes, I collapse onto the bed and stare up at the vaulted ceiling. Just one more month 'til my high school graduation and then I can get away from the drama, fake friends, drunken parties, and groping boys who don't know how to kiss.
What will I do then? Not a freakin' clue. I just know I want to get away from school and the people in it.
I don't fit in with them. I never have. My parents were only fifteen years old when they had me. Still in high school themselves, attending the very same school I'm graduating from, in fact. Some of my teachers were also their teachers, and of course, the entire faculty knows this. It's a bit bizarre to think that my mother was pregnant with me, sitting in the same exact classrooms I sit in now. Maybe that's why I'm so smart—I was in high school in utero.
I was born into a family of rather famous people. My grandfather is a popular singer and songwriter, and my grandmother is a best-selling romance author who has written over one hundred books, twenty of them turned into television movies. My parents started a rock band when they were seventeen, and both went on to become well-known musicians. My father's band, Ashes & Embers, now consists of his three brothers and two cousins. I grew up right in the middle of all of this. By the time I was ten years old, I was certainly no stranger to tour buses, loud concerts, drugs, and drama. But despite all that, I was loved and adored. I was everyone's baby, really. Everyone took care of me. I wasn't hidden from much that went on, and that wasn't because my parents were negligent or irresponsible. They just wanted me to be a part of everything they were doing. They exposed me to things in life way before I could truly understand them, but in time it all caught up and sunk in. I think that made me older and wiser earlier than I should be, which has made me feel out of step with everyone else my age.
It didn't take me long to figure out there were people who only wanted to be around me because of who I was related to. Kids pretended to be my friend to get concert tickets, T-shirts, an autograph, or to try to see the inside of our house—which might be big and have a small recording studio downstairs, but there's nothing overly exciting going on here. Boys pretended to like me to get me to slip demo tapes to my father, or to meet the sexy women of my mom's band, Sugar Kiss. And the high school girls hoped they could meet my hot rock star uncles, or even worse, my dad. I never know who I can trust, or who wants to be friends with me just for me. So other than spending time with my best friend Chloe and my dad's younger sister, Rayne, I mostly stay home and hang out with my family, the band, and their friends. They're the only ones I feel comfortable with.
My pocket vibrates and I pull out my phone to read a text message.
I don't know what the heck fark is and why Chloe can't just text the word fuck. But whatever. I accept her because I love her. We initially attached ourselves to each other in third grade, when she was dropped off on the first day of school by her two moms and I was dropped off by my father who was already covered in tattoos and had hair almost to his waist. And he still does. Chloe and I bonded in our mutual outsiderness while the other kids avoided us like we were circus freaks.
I have zero interest in joining the race to lose my virginity before graduation and I definitely don't want to be a notch on some guy's belt before he goes off to college, either. So far, Jason's kisses haven't made me feel any feels. For now, I'm happy enough living through the romance books my grandmother sends to my e-reader. It's pretty sad that the kisses in the books are way more exciting than the ones in real life. At least for me.
* * *
Music, laughter, and voices rouse me from the nap I slipped into after I texted with Chloe—almost four hours ago. I'm surprised my father didn't wake me when he came out of the studio, but I guess he's finally learning to respect my closed door.
Sitting up, I glance at my phone and see I have another text message that came through an hour ago.
I type a quick reply:
I'm not sure why I'm going out of my way to avoid him and can't just attempt to have fun with him. He's cute and mostly nice. He's popular. Everyone likes him. I don't think he's using me for concert tickets, which is a big plus. Whether he's trying to make me a notch or really likes me is still a mystery to me. His kisses are hella boring, but he could get better at that in time I suppose. Maybe he's just nervous?
Or maybe it's me.
After slipping my sneakers on, I head downstairs, through the kitchen, and out the french doors to the deck leading to our back yard. The sun has set, but the yard is lit up with various lights hidden in the landscaping, scattered tiki torches, the fire pit that's blazing, and the cool blue glow from the in-ground pool.
It's no secret my father has a lot of money because his band is super successful, and it's well deserved. I've never once been embarrassed by my father or how he acts on stage. He doesn't drink, do drugs, or screw around. My uncles in the band have had their moments of crazy over the years, but not my dad. He's all business.
Am I spoiled? Not really. My father won't even buy me a car until after I graduate—if I maintain my good grades until graduation and work to pay for my own gas and insurance. I have a gold card with a limit that would probably allow me to buy a small island, but I don't abuse it. I respect my dad and the trust he puts in me to not go crazy at the mall and buy five thousand dollars worth of makeup and shoes. I believe trust is a gift from someone, just like love is. Trusting and loving someone says I have faith in you. And I appreciate the depth of that way more than I do material things. I'll take faith over shoes any day of the week.
There are about twenty people mingling around our yard—some by the bonfire, others at the tables on the deck, some sitting in the gazebo playing acoustic instruments and singing. I find my dad standing at the monstrous grill built into the stone patio, turning steaks and hamburgers.
"Hey, kiddo, you hungry?" he asks when he sees me.
"Nah, maybe later."
"There's salad." He gestures over to the table where assorted fruits and salads are spread out in serving bowls.
"I'll grab some later. I'm not really hungry."
He blinks at me for a few seconds. "You feel okay?" His face takes on that I have no idea what to do with a female teenager who might not feel good or might be in a mood expression.
Smiling, I touch his arm and lean close to kiss his cheek. "I'm fine, Daddy. I had ice cream on the way home from school."
He backs away from the heat of the grill and pushes his long wavy brown hair out of his face. "With that kid, Jason? On a motorcycle?"
Damn Toren and his big mouth. "Yeah. It was just from school, though. It's not that far. And what the hell? Tor has to tell you every thing I do?"
"No, only the dumb things." He grins at me. "He's right, though. Stay off the bike. We don't want anything to happen to you."
We. I'm being raised by everyone and no one.
My dad's not with Toren. He's one million percent committed and in love with his wife. My mother—his teen sweetheart. But she's gone now, and my father is a thirty-two-year-old rock star with a seventeen-year-old daughter trying to act like he's not broken and lost and on the verge of losing the very definition of his shit. But I know better. He's afraid something's going to happen to me, too. That I'll be here one moment and gone the next. And I don't blame him for feeling that way at all because I feel it, too.
Once you've lost someone you love with no explanation, no closure, no end—you're stuck in a torturous limbo. You don't know if you should hang on to that ray of hope that they might come back, or give in to your grief and accept that they're gone. So you teeter between both until you slowly go insane.
I let out a breath. I can't think or talk about my mom much without having a meltdown myself, so I put myself in denial and don't face any of it. She's just away. Like a long vacation with no mobile phone access. It's easier that way.
"Okay. No more bikes, Dad. I promise." I don't mind calming his over-protectiveness because he doesn't deserve to have any more stress in his life.
His broad shoulders relax again and he gives me a smile that lights up his face and softens his eyes. It's the smile that's reserved for me and my mother, and it makes my heart melt. My father is an incredibly beautiful man, possessing the kind of good looks where women will actually stop and stare at him, eyes wide, mouth parted, heart pitter-pattering. Some even ask to touch his long hair, or his tattooed arms, while others just want him to look at them so they can catch a glimpse of his soulful eyes. You don't just see his beauty; you can feel it, like a warm breeze that caresses your soul. At least that's how a journalist described him after doing an interview with him.
I fill a small dish with fruit to make him happy and then spy Tor sitting on the edge of the pool by himself. I cross the yard, stopping at one of the coolers to grab a beer on the way. One of the guitarists from another local band is sitting on a lawn chair right next to the cooler. Probably so he doesn't have to get up to get another drink.
"What's up, Finn?" I shake the ice off the bottle.
He tips his drink at me in reply. "Kensington."
"Are you guarding the beer?" I tease.
"I might be. You're not drinking that, are ya?" He eyes me suspiciously. "Last time I checked you weren't twenty-one, little girl."
"No, it's for Toren."
A smirk crosses his lips. "Well, if you're playing waitress, I'll take a steak, rare, with some fries."
"Nice try, Finn."
He laughs and throws a potato chip at me as I walk away.
Toren is still sitting on the ground staring into the pool when I sit next to him, tucking my legs beneath me. The pool is heated, but no one's gone in yet. It's still early spring, so the air is a bit too cold for most people to want to swim. A few stray leaves are floating along the surface, and I like how peaceful they look, not going under the water, and not blowing away either. Just floating, weightless and effortless. I want to be a leaf.
I hand Tor the cold bottle and he takes it from me, using his keychain to pop the cap off.
"Well-written tension and forbidden longing. The angst in this was incredible! Loved every second!"—Penelope Douglas, New York Times bestselling author of Birthday Girl
"A captivating journey of forbidden romance. Torn is unputdownable and unforgettable."
—Meredith Wild, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"Soulmates tangled in a forbidden, twisted situation. TORN shattered me and put me back together again. It’s not a story—it’s a ride that I never wanted to end. It takes forbidden love and angst to an entirely new level."—Abbi Glines, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"Torn won my heart so fiercely."—Addicted to Romance
"Holy dark and delicious angst. Carian Cole did not hold back with this story. I dare you not to shed a tear." —L.J. Shen, USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling author, on TIED
- On Sale
- Jul 11, 2023
- Page Count
- 496 pages