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Before We Fall
The Beautifully Broken Series: Book 3
Read by Shannon Gunn
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Sometimes before we fall . . . we fly.
One dark moment was all it took to turn twenty-four-year-old Dominic Kinkaide’s world black. On the night of his high school graduation, a single incident changed him forever, and he became a hardened man-famous in the eyes of the world, but tortured inside. Now all he cares about is losing himself in the roles that he plays.
At twenty-three years old, Jacey Vincent doesn’t realize how much her father’s indifference has affected her. She is proof that sometimes it isn’t one specific moment that wrecks a person, but an absence of moments. She tries to find acceptance in the arms of men to fill the void-a plan that has worked just fine for her, until she meets Dominic.
When jaded Dominic and strong-willed Jacey are thrown together, the combination of his secrets and her issues turns their attraction into the perfect storm. It could change their lives for good-if it doesn’t tear them both apart . . .
Table of Contents
A Preview of If You Stay
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The slap can be heard all the way down the beach.
The sound of flesh meeting flesh, sharp and loud, is unmistakable, and my head snaps up to find a skinny girl in a red swimsuit standing in front of the biggest bully of the beach, a sixth grader named Heather.
The summer sun is blistering hot, but my cheeks flush even hotter when I see the ugly expression on Heather's face as she towers over the smaller girl. A girl who can't be more than nine or ten and who is even now cradling her cheek with her hand.
I look around, but there are no adults in the vicinity, and Heather knows it. Her leer gets even wider as she leans down into the younger girl's face, intent on doing even more damage than a handprint on a cheek.
That's all it takes to send me rocketing up from my towel and down the beach toward them, my heels flipping sand in the air as I run. I reach them just in time to see Heather snatch some money from the girl's small hand.
A tear slips down the girl's cheek, which causes Heather to grin. "Go cry to your mommy, little girl," she sneers, in the ugly way only a middle-school bully can.
The sheer sight of it makes me see red and I forget all logic as I rush toward the pair. I forget that Heather has tormented me every day of every summer and I forget that I can't be any older than the skinny girl in the red swimsuit.
In this moment, it doesn't matter.
"What the hell, Heather?" I demand as I skid to a stop in front of them. The other girl, the skinny one, sucks in her breath at my bad language. It's a groundable offense, but my gran is all the way down the beach, sitting in the shade. "Give her the money back."
Heather stares down at me and sweat glistens on her plump chin. "Or what, shrimp? What will you do if I don't?"
I lift my chin and look her in the eye.
"I'll tell everyone, including your friends, what you were doing with Jamie Rawlins under the pier a while back. I saw you. I saw what you did. And if you don't give her the money back, I'll tell everyone."
Heather's eyes widen, then narrow. "You wouldn't."
I nod, calmer now than I probably should be. "I would."
Heather looks out over the lake and thinks about it for a minute before she tosses the crumpled-up bills at my feet.
"I hope it was worth it," she tells me hotly. "Because I'm going to make your life hell."
"Whatever." I sniff, trying to appear unconcerned. "It's not like you don't try already."
Heather glares at me and walks off, and I bend to pick up the money, handing it to the skinny girl. I smile at her.
"Here you go. I'm sorry she's so mean. I think someone pees in her cornflakes every day."
The girl seems speechless and she stares at me for a minute with wide blue eyes before shyly handing me a white shell.
"Thank you for getting my ice cream money back," she says so softly that I have to strain to hear her. "I collect these. The big nice ones are hard to find in the lake."
I smile again. "You're right, it's hard to find them. Thank you! I'm going to swim out to the buoy line. Wanna come?"
The girl stares out at the battered line of buoys that bob up and down in the current a hundred yards out. She looks a little uncertain, a little scared.
"I can't," she finally answers. "My mom would kill me. The current's too bad."
I nod as if I understand what it's like to have a mother that cares. My own doesn't even know that I can swim.
"Okay," I tell the girl. "I'll see you around."
She watches me as I jog back and drop the shell on my towel before I dive into the current, swimming over and under the frigid waves like a seal. When I finally reach the buoys, I grab on to one, clinging tightly as it bobs, while I push my hair out of my face with cold fingers.
Glancing back toward the beach, I hunt for the girl in the red swimsuit, but I don't see her anywhere. She's gone, and I realize something.
I didn't even ask her name.
I like to watch.
I know that I shouldn't, but I don't really give a shit. I like the flash of skin, the sweaty limbs, the sex smells, the fucking…
Watching makes me feel something. It's one of the only things that does.
"Some things never change, Dominic," Kira murmurs as her hand splays across my open shirt, her long brown hair moving in the breeze, tickling my chest as she watches with me. "You're just the same… a freak. I love that."
I don't answer because she's right. I'm a fucking freak. She knows it and I know it, and neither of us cares. If anything, Kira likes it. She must, because she's stuck by me for a long time. She knows me better than anyone… and she definitely knows what I like.
Even though she's beautiful and familiar, I ignore her fingers as they trace across my skin, graze the tips of my nipples, and trail down to my crotch. My dick is resistant to her touch tonight and remains soft inside my pants. Not because she's not hot or sexy, because she is.
But because familiar and normal don't stir my blood. I've seen pretty much everything once and have done it twice. Normal doesn't do it for me anymore.
Forbidden things are what lift my dick. Dark things, bad things.
I stare down from the balcony, looking past the shimmering pool below, past the rippling water that sheds blue light on everything around it, at the images that waver in the night. The images of two people fucking.
Knowing that I shouldn't watch is what excites me about it, and so I don't take my eyes from the couple having sex next to my brother's pool.
I take another drink of whiskey, letting the fiery liquid sit in my mouth before I swallow it, letting it curl its fingers around my stomach, warming my gut.
Watching the couple, I lean against the railing, half-hidden by the shadows, enveloped by the night. It's just how I like it.
In front of me, the scene turns rough.
And my dick turns hard.
The girl's teeth sink into the guy's neck, then she whispers something unintelligible into his ear, words that hiss as she drags her teeth across his skin. Hard, aggressive, rough. I can see the red trail of pain she leaves behind from here.
"Did she just bite him?" Kira asks in amusement, her hand frozen at my waistband.
I nod. She did. And it made me hard as a rock. I love watching pain. It distracts me from my own.
The guy smiles, liking it, too. He lifts her legs onto his shoulders as he thrusts into her. Hard. Then he frees one hand to grab her neck. Hard. His fingers dig into the delicate skin there, cutting into the flesh, leaving red marks that just might turn purple by morning.
But she likes it.
I can tell by the way she scratches his back and moans for more. I can tell by the way she draws him even farther into herself, bucking her hips to take him even deeper. I can tell by the way she doesn't even try to take his hand away from her throat.
It always fascinates me when I see women that like getting debased, the ones who like it rough, the ones who want to be dominated or humiliated.
It doesn't make any sense, but I see it all the time, more and more, especially here at my brother's place at one of his endless parties. Around his pool, in his hot tub, on his lawn. People seem to lose their inhibitions when they pass through these gates, which doesn't make any sense, either. Most of them don't know him, not really. But it doesn't stop them from making themselves very at home here.
Suffice it to say I'm always entertained when I come to visit.
"Do you think they know we're watching?" Kira leans up on her tiptoes, murmuring with hot breath into my ear as she strokes my balls.
I glance back down at the couple, watching the guy's face contort and twist, and watching the girl moan and writhe beneath him. They have no clue we're here, but I have a feeling they wouldn't care even if they did.
"I think that girl served me champagne earlier!" Kira exclaims, leaning closer to look.
"You're probably right," I answer, staring at the girl's skimpy server's uniform. I briefly wonder where her boss thinks she is. Surely he has no idea that she's fucking a party guest next to the pool.
But that's not my problem.
The bulge between my legs is my problem now. It's grown thicker and heavier and I shift, easing the pressure of my jeans away from my dick. I brush my hand against the denim covering my crotch, stroking myself. Just a little. Quickly and efficiently.
I'm not going to get off right out here in the open. Because of how I make my living, I've learned not to do anything out in the open. The press would have a fucking field day if pictures of me jacking off leaked out.
Kira takes care of the situation for me, just as she always does when I'm in town. She pushes me backward into the shadows, where she steps out of her shorts in front of me. She's not wearing underwear.
She's right. Some things never change.
"Fuck me with your hand while you watch them," she instructs me softly, her green eyes gleaming. "Do it, Dom. And then I'll let you come on my face, the way you like to."
I reach for her. She stands limply in front of me, her head resting on my shoulder as I slide two of my fingers in and out of her. I know exactly where to touch her. She sucks in a breath and I have to smile. I know every inch of her. There are some things to be said for familiarity.
She's soaking wet, as though she's been waiting for this since I'd seen her last. She hasn't, of course. Kira and I have an arrangement of convenience. It's convenient because we know each other, we trust each other. And there are no feelings involved. She and I are the same in that way.
I can hear the girl by the pool moaning loudly and it makes my fingers move faster, working Kira harder, in time to the guy's sweaty thrusts. Kira moans with the girl by the pool and I close my eyes, listening to the fucking sounds. With my hand buried in Kira's crotch, the sounds are all I need now.
If I were decent, I'd back away from the balcony and give the couple some privacy and I'd give Kira more coverage from the shadows… just in case someone happens upon us.
But fuck that. I'm not decent. Not anymore.
After a few more minutes of rough fucking, the guy pulls out of the waitress and grasps her hard, yanking her off the chaise and forcing her down in front of him, onto her knees. I can see her skin graze the bricks, just as I can read his lips.
I pause as the girl shakes her head, trying to scramble away, but he holds her fast by her hair, making her take him into her mouth. Making her suck her own taste off of him.
She's definitely not into it now. She swings her arms at him frantically, but he holds her hair tightly, wrapping it around his hands, refusing to let her go.
I watch the fear wash over her face and my gut tightens in reaction.
Kira lifts her head as my hand stills. "What?"
Her eyes are glazed as she stares at me. I nod toward the pool, at the struggle going on down there, at the girl trying desperately to get away from the asshole's grip.
"Hell." Kira sighs. "Ignore it, Dom. It's not your problem. We're not done here."
I sigh, too, because I know I can't ignore it.
This has been happening way too much. People come here and get wasted and out of control. It's not worth the trouble, but Sin keeps having the parties anyway. He says it keeps him relevant, whatever the fuck that means. I don't seem to have a problem with being relevant, and I don't host a single party.
I shake Kira's grip off of my wrist, gulp down the rest of my drink, and head down the stairs, ignoring her calls of protest.
It takes a minute to weave discreetly through the masses of people scattered through the house and to make my way across the lawn and onto the stones leading to the pool. But I reach the couple within two minutes, and without even pausing I grab the guy from behind, ripping him backward. He hisses as the girl's teeth scrape his dick.
It serves him right. The fucker interrupted me.
He yelps and I toss him on the ground, watching in satisfaction as he scrapes his face on the stone bricks before he rolls into the lawn.
"Get the fuck out," I snap at him. "No one gets forced against their will here."
"That bitch wanted it," he protests as he climbs to his feet. "She was asking for it."
I shake my head. "The last time I checked, no means no. It's not a new way of asking for it. Get the fuck out of here."
The guy looks at me again, recognizes who I am, and then stalks away without another word. I grab a pool towel and wrap it around the girl's shoulders.
Her skimpy uniform, which was barely there in the first place, is hanging around her waist now, apparently ripped in their scuffle. She seems self-conscious, but honestly, I barely notice. She's young and has perky tits, but so do thousands of other women. She doesn't do much for me. Mostly because I know she'd offer herself on a platter if I wanted her to. I briefly consider inviting her to join Kira and me, but don't. She's drunk, and even if she's too drunk to remember it, she's just been almost violated.
"You okay?" I ask gruffly. She nods, sniveling, just as another girl, a gorgeous blonde in a matching uniform, rushes up.
"Holy shit, Kaylie. What the hell happened?"
The blonde is obviously alarmed, concerned, and while Kaylie explains about the asshole, I turn to disappear back into the shadows. Regardless of my profession, I try to stay out of the spotlight when the cameras aren't rolling. Unfortunately, I only make it partway before Kaylie grabs my arm, then wraps herself around my waist.
"Thank you," she tells me shakily, her arms like thin bands, not giving me room to even squirm. I stare down at her, looking past her tear-smeared eyeliner and into her panicky eyes.
"It's not a problem. But you need to stay out of situations like that. There won't always be someone to step in and save you."
From her shocked expression, I decide that I might've been a little too hard on her. But shit. Women have to be more careful. She can't parade around in barely any clothes, have rough sex with a stranger, and just expect him to be a gentleman. Men, by and large, aren't gentlemen. We're assholes.
Kaylie stares at me, too drunk or high to even respond. But her friend isn't so silent.
Big brown eyes snap at me angrily. "Why are you lecturing her? She was just assaulted, in case you didn't notice."
I roll my eyes.
"Is that what you call it? She was having rough sex with that asshole right out in the open. When she was supposed to be working, I might add. It looked to me like it was an incident that just got out of control. I stopped it for her. You're welcome."
Gorgeous Blonde stares at me dumbfounded. "Are you trying to insinuate that she's not a victim, that it was her fault this happened?"
I sigh. "Of course not. I'm saying that she shouldn't have been encouraging a drunk stranger to be rough with her in the first place. Good night."
I start to walk away, but apparently she's not done.
"Who the fuck do you think you are?" she demands. "You might not have heard, but you really shouldn't blame the victim."
"I'm not blaming—" I begin, but I'm interrupted by her gasp as I step fully into the light and she sees my face.
"Holy shit." She breathes. "You're Dominic fucking Kinkaide."
I can't help but smile, just a little, just enough to pull the corners of my mouth up. "Dominic will do. I tend to drop the 'fucking.' Unless of course, I'm actually fucking."
She smiles a breathtaking smile that should affect me. The girl is stacked, has legs that go on for miles, and she's wearing next to nothing. She should affect me. But she doesn't. Because nothing affects me anymore. I'm jaded as fuck.
"I've heard you're trouble," she announces matter-of-factly, eyeing me up and down with a slow gaze and fire in her eyes. "That's lucky, because I happen to like trouble."
"I bet you do," I answer back, trying to ignore the way she's acting now that she knows who I am. They all act like this. Every one of them. It gets monotonous. Just once, can't someone surprise me? "Nice to meet you."
I turn around and walk back toward the house, but she takes two steps and grabs my arm. I pause.
"But you didn't," she says hesitantly, a bit unsure now. "You didn't meet me. My name's Jacey."
I sigh. "Your name doesn't matter."
I keep walking, ignoring the way she sucks her breath in, the way she calls after me in agitation, the way she gives up and stops in defeat.
I might be an asshole, but I don't lie.
Her name doesn't matter.
Not to me.
I leave the entire situation behind, out of my sight and out of my mind. Within a few minutes, I'm standing in front of Kira again.
"All taken care of?" she purrs, reaching for me. I nod, burying my face between her heavy, naked tits as she unbuckles my belt. "Bind my hands with this, and come on my face."
She doesn't have to ask me twice.
"You're such a dirty girl," I whisper in her ear as I push her onto the couch and bind her hands above her head, just tight enough for the leather to bite into her flesh. Just the way she likes it.
And then I grasp my dick in my hand and fuck my fist, just the way I like it.
For just a second, for some strange reason, the blond chick's face pops into my mind, her eyes wide and brown. I have no idea why, but I shake my head to clear it. I focus instead on the matter at hand.
Within another two minutes, I come on Kira's face, spurting in a cream-colored arc that spatters onto her tanned skin. She licks a drop from her lips and grins at me.
"Welcome home, lover."
"Don't call me that." I shake my head as I pull my jeans back on and collapse next to her. She rolls her eyes.
"Why? It's what we are. You always come back to me, Dom. You know that."
I unbind the belt wordlessly, tossing it onto the floor. I might always come back to her whenever I come home, but I don't fuck her. Not really. I haven't actually fucked someone in years.
"Lover would indicate that I bury my dick in your sweet pussy." I glance at her, then reach out to run my finger over the swell of one of her tits, then trail it downward to her crotch. She arches toward my touch. "And you know I won't do that."
I pull my hand away abruptly and Kira scowls. "Yeah, I know that. What I don't know is why. Dominic, you've got needs, too. Watching other people fuck or jacking off and coming on my face can't be enough. Sex isn't just sex, Dom. You need all the good stuff that comes along with it."
"Oh, I do, do I?" I ask, amused now. "Like what? Like having women get attached and hoping that I'll marry them? Or worrying that I'll get some fucking disease or…"
"Just stop." Kira interrupts me with a glare. "I know you, Dom. I know why you do what you do. You don't want to get close to someone again. You don't want to give anyone that kind of power over you. But, Dom… it's time. It's time for you to finally get over her and come back to life."
"One, don't talk about her," I instruct Kira icily, staring at her hard. "You know better than that. And two, are you insinuating that I'm not living?"
Kira sighs as she pulls her shirt on, forgoing her bra. She stuffs it into her purse and glances up at me.
"You know damn well what I'm insinuating. You've been a shell for six years, Dom. Six fucking years. That's a long time. I've been patient. I've done everything you needed. But there comes a time when a girl needs to be fucked. I've got needs, Dominic."
I have to chuckle now at the idea that I'm the only one Kira's depending on for her "needs." "Oh, yeah. Because you don't have anyone else to fulfill your needs when I'm not here?"
She glares at me. "You're a dick sometimes. I've got to work early in the morning, so I've gotta go. Call me tomorrow, okay?"
I nod even though I know I won't. I bury my face into the couch cushions, realizing I'm suddenly exhausted and just want to sleep. I don't even hear Kira leave. But I do hear when someone else comes in a few minutes later, right when I'm ready to slip into sleep.
"Dom, what the fuck? You were supposed to pull me out of the game so that I didn't lose my shirt."
I reluctantly open one eye to stare at my brother and find that he actually lost his shirt. He's standing in front of me bare-chested. My eyes dip down and I cringe.
He lost his pants, too.
"What the hell, Sin? Put some fucking clothes on."
My brother grins—that cocky, rakish grin that his fans love so much—as he plops himself down onto the sofa next to me, buck-ass naked, crossing his feet at the ankle on the coffee table.
"You wouldn't have to worry about it if you'd pulled me out of the poker game like I asked you to." He shrugs, picking up my glass of whiskey and drinking it all. "Those drunk chicks know how to play poker. Or I just wanted to take my clothes off. One or the other."
I glare at him. "I couldn't bail you out because I was taking care of a situation for you. Fuck, man. You've got to stop having these parties. Someone's gonna get raped or killed and they're going to sue the shit out of you."
Sin only grins, unconcerned. "If they're dead, they can't sue me."
I can't argue with that logic. Instead, I tell him what he missed, not that it bothers him much. He sees it all the time.
"Thanks for fixing it," he tells me casually, as though near-rapes are normal. I roll my eyes.
"Anytime. Now can you get some fucking clothes on?"
He waggles his dark eyebrows. "Sure. If it makes you insecure to look at my package. Not only am I older, but I'm also bigger, and that's what counts."
He's also ridiculous. He's not a centimeter bigger than I am, but I don't waste my breath telling him that.
He yanks one of my shirts out of my suitcase and pulls it over his head. Then a pair of my pants. He decides to forgo underwear, which means I'll have to burn those jeans.
"I forgot to ask how long you're staying," he says as he settles back into the seat, unconcerned that he just ruined my favorite jeans. "Long enough to catch a show, I hope. It's all I've heard about for months from Duncan… how you don't even come watch your poor little brothers play."
I roll my eyes. "Poor little brothers? I think both of you are doing just fine."
Sin snorts. "Only as well as you, big bro. But whatever. We have a show coming up in Chicago next month. If you want to fly back in, we'll get you backstage passes."
I shake my head. "I'll try. Filming starts in a couple of weeks. But I'll see what I can do. I don't want to upset baby Duncan."
"What about me?"
My youngest brother saunters into my room, dropping onto the sofa next to Sin. Neither of them have any personal space issues, that's for sure, because now we're all three crammed onto the one sofa. And we're too big for that shit.
"Nothing," I assure Duncan. "I just said I didn't want to offend your ovaries by not coming to your next show. I'll try like hell to be there."
"That's the furthest thing from my mind right now," Duncan announces, cracking open the can of beer in his hand. "You can see me bang on the drums any time. What I'd like to bang tonight are the half-naked women beyond these very doors. I fucking love your house, man," he tells Sin. "Oh, and there's a chick asking for you. Said she wants to make sure you know that your brother rescued her. Or some shit."
Sin rolls his eyes, but I elbow him. "It's probably the girl from the pool. You'd better talk to her and autograph her tits or something. You need to keep her happy so that she doesn't think to call the police. You don't want that kind of press, dude. Not after Amsterdam."
The mere mention of how the tabloids had ripped Sin's band up over a wild party in Amsterdam a month ago is enough to sober the two of them up. There had been some underage girls there, groupies who had lied about their age, and if it weren't for the more lax laws in Europe, my brothers would've been screwed.
Sin nods now.
"Fine. Take me to her," he tells Duncan. To me, he hands the bottle of whiskey and says, "Do you ever get tired of being right? Jesus Christ."
"Not yet," I tell him as I gulp down a few swigs, then slide down into the sofa again, closing my eyes. "It's a burden though."
My brothers chuckle as they walk out and I relax, enjoying the way the whiskey has loosened my muscles, the way the warmth has spread to every bit of me. It helps me stay numb… and numbness is a welcome fucking thing.
When I'm numb, I feel safe enough to slip my hand into my pocket. Not for my dick, although that's normal for me, too. No, I wrap my fingers around the cool stone of the pendant that is always there, encased in a white shell and resting against my leg.
The last thing that fills my mind before I sleep is a color.
When I open my eyes, almost two hours have passed. I know this by the fuzzy green light of the clock. I'm a little disoriented as I sit up and look around at furnishings that aren't mine, until I remember that I'm not home. I'm at my brother's house for the weekend.
"Morning, sunshine." A soft voice startles me.
Snapping my head around, I find the gorgeous blonde with the strange name from the pool.
She's sitting in the darkness now, scrolling through her phone. Has she been watching me sleep? Or was she just too polite to wake me up?
Either way, I fight back a growl that my privacy has been invaded.
"What are you doing in here?"
She's perched on the side of the bed, watching me. She's even hotter than I remember her being: long legs, full tits, tiny waist. I usually prefer taller women, but this girl is perfectly proportioned… and there's something excruciatingly sexy about her. Something about her just screams fuck me.
She shrugs now, unconcerned with my agitation, her long blond hair falling over the side of her shoulder.
"Your brother sent me up. My friend Kaylie is going to be staying the night here, apparently. With him."
"And?" I raise an eyebrow.
- "In If You Leave, we continue the wild ride Courtney Cole started us on in If You Stay. This raw story of heartbreak and hope solidifies Cole's standing as a rising star in hot contemporary romance."—New York Times bestselling author of Down to You, M. Leighton
- "Another raw, gritty masterpiece with a sexy-as-hell Army Ranger to swoon over."—K.A. Tucker, author of Ten Tiny Breaths
- On Sale
- Nov 4, 2014
- Hachette Audio