Monday, June 25, 2018

When An Author Loses Her Mojo

By the grace of God, we live in an era where we can stalk our favorite authors on a plethora of platforms.  We know what Author A is writing next, what Author B is plotting, what Author C is surprising her kids with over summer break ... we get to see inside the lives of the women who work tirelessly to change our lives. 

With all that being said, there's something you don't get to see when seeking out the wordsmiths who inspire us to bigger, brighter and better ... the struggle.

Sure, we see the "OMG I have writer's block and need a change of location" posts or the "these kids are driving me mad and I need to get away" status updates ... or even the "can we get a writing retreat to reboot my creative juices" notifications.  That's not the struggle I'm talking about, friends.  And I'm going to share a little personal with you guys, if you're even reading, because a good friend told me when I can't write to save my life, start by writing whatever is in your heart just to get it out.  It might be shit, it might not be, but the end game is still the same ... just keep writing.

Here's the struggle I'm facing ... and the struggle of some of my very amazing friends who, again by the Grace of God, I can commiserate with ... but I think the readers need this insight too.  As an avid reader myself (and hella fan girl), I know how waiting on a book in a series you love can drive one insane.  How a pushed release date can push you to the brink of insanity.  How the need for the words that resonate so much in your soul overpowers your desire to appear "normal" ... whatever normal is anymore.  

Before I dive all the way in, let me preface the rest of this long winded story with this ... I'm not editing this ... I probably won't read it all the way through a 2nd time before hitting publish.  This isn't for you to judge my writing skill or technique ... this is for me to "Just keep writing" and to show you the darker, painful, emotionally damaging side to being a creative mind in a world where authors are only a click away ... I love you nonetheless, though.  Bear with me ... I promise you'll understand soon ...

And here we go ...

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, lived a mediocre mother who had a dream far bigger than her anxiety riddled mind would allow her to travel.  Until, that is, one day a group of women she found in a reader's group for one of our favorite authors, encouraged this Average Ashley to step outside the box and give it a shot.

She wrote a book.  Nearly 70,000 words that consisted of sleepless nights, carpal tunnel, hunger strikes, binge eating, headaches, backaches and a high she'd never felt before.  Outside of being a mother and wife, she found an identity that was only about her, and it was fantastic.

Yes, friends, that Average Ashley is really just me ... Ashley Suzanne.  The day I published Mirage (August 25, 2013), I was working at a small real estate brokerage, making $12 an hour and just going through the motions.  I had nothing outside of my family life that was my own.  I had no true identity.  Ashley Suzanne (yes, it's my real name LOL) was born and I had something that was all mine.  Like most mothers I know, I don't do things for me ... I can't.  Literally cannot.  Everything I have ... every. single. thing ... is for my kids and husband.  But, right then, the day that book went live, Ashley Suzanne was a little alter ego that I had where I could just be me ... and I loved every second of it.

I loved it so damn much, I spent the next 12 months doing nothing but writing and publishing ... writing and publishing ... writing and publishing.  In a period of 1 year (nearly to the day), I wrote and published 7 different books.  5 in the series that started with Mirage and 2 stand alone novels (Raven and Calling Card).  I was on fire.  My bank account was on fire.  My anxiety was down.  My self esteem was skyrocketing.  Everyone was happy and I had virtually no worries in this world.  I got an agent, made amazing friends, traveled around the country signing books in places I never thought I'd go.  My kids were proud.  So was my mom, which, y'all already know ... is what made it all worth it.  In 12 months, I went from the pregnant high school senior drop out with absolutely no future (in society's eyes, not my mama.  Never my mama) to someone who was driven, successful, powerful, sometimes wealthy and ... happy.  Happy in a way I'd never been happy before.  

I decided to slow down a bit, not wanting to get burnt out.  The fall of 2014, I decided instead of publishing 3 novels like I initially planned, I'd do 3 novellas and tie them all together, since that seemed like all the rage at the time.  I plotted out Claimed and found the perfect spots to break them down to get 3 stories to release 30 days apart.  It was perfect, especially when I decided to sit and write the entire, full length novel first and plan publishing for the future.  I was going to have my holiday season for just me and my family without the pressure of having to write to beat deadlines.  I had it all figured out ...

Until Claim Volume 1 didn't do so hot.  Not has good as I thought it would, being an already established author.  It was okay.  I'd have Claim Volume 2 income ... only, I didn't.  It did worse than the 1st.  And Claim Volume 3 ... I sometimes forget it exists at all, so I can't expect y'all to know about it.  

I licked my wounds, chalked it up to a crappy market at the holidays.  If I'm wanting to escape the book world and spend quality time with my family, everyone else must want to do the same.  I kept my chin up, smiled on, started playing with my next project and celebrated the holidays.  January 2015, I combined the serials into a box set and released it as a whole novel.  Nada.  No dice.  Which was weird to me ... those who read it and promoted it like crazy (yes, friends, through all this, I had one helluva support system ... still do <3) loved this book in a way they didn't love my other stuff.  I was progressing as a writer.  They could see it and so could I.  I was only getting better, so why wasn't I selling better?  I refused to dwell on it, and just kept writing ...

That April, I went to a book signing in LONDON!!!!  I couldn't believe it ... little old me.  I'm not really from a small town, but it sure does feel like it.  We don't travel.  We don't leave the country.  We don't have anything even remotely famous.  We were just ... us.  But here I was, walking the same roads as some of the greatest minds in the world.  Standing only feet from places that held some of the most powerful people in the world.  Breathing the same air as actual, literal royalty.  Feeling a sense of history and nostalgia I'd never known.  All because of this crazy dream I had ... this is where it had taken me.  

So, excuse the language friends ... fuck the shitty sales.  Fuck the lack of reviews.  Fuck the near empty bank account ... I was with my FRIENDS, with my DREAM ... in FUCKING LONDON!!!! 

Then, shit hit the entire fan.  2 of my blogger friends and I were asked by one of our favorite authors (and at the time very good friend) to help with the planning, inviting of authors, talking with the readers ... all the fun stuff!  She knew London.  We knew readers and authors.  We were going to make this one of the best events the world had ever seen.  And in return for our help, she was going to pay for our flights and we'd get 1 big hotel room for all of us, since the 3 of us couldn't really afford a trip, especially without our families, of that magnitude.  Of course we jumped at the chance.

Then came London.  I told you the good before I told you the bad for a reason, friends.  Because for a very long time, I couldn't think back on this 10 days of pure hell without feeling a sense of despair I'd never felt.  I couldn't remember the amazing because it was clouded with a crippling fear caused by someone I trusted with everything I had.  For almost 3 whole years, I was held captive by the ugly and couldn't see the beautiful.  I can now, thank God, but I needed to tell you how grateful and honored and humbled I was to be where I was before I get to where my struggle really began.

Somehow, someway ... our event did not come together the way we dreamed.  It was a mess of the worst kind.  Money was missing.  Promised items were not delivered.  Half the time, the woman behind the curtain was nowhere to be found, leaving the face of the event (me and my blogger buddies, since we had all the communication with everyone) to bear the brunt of the frustration and anger from the readers and authors, rightfully so.  It hurt.  Bad.  Everyone assumed we all took part in the shitastic clusterfuck ... eventually we were able to tell our story, but for a week, we weren't able to do that ...

Why, you ask, could we not immediately clear our names?!?  Because all 3 of our flights were booked under our friend's credit card and she decided to leave us in a foreign country alone while she went home to go into hiding in the States.  We were terrified she would cancel our tickets and we'd be stranded.  She did hold up that end of the bargain, though.  Our flights were paid for, but our hotel ... we were calling home to scrounge up money from relatives to pay the tab that wasn't paid but promised.  And even still, that's nowhere near as bad as how she did the readers who put food on our table or the authors who have become like family ... she screwed everyone, and then disappeared.  

When I finally got home and was able to process everything that happened, I spent what felt like the rest of 2015 clearing my name.  Wanna know what I wasn't doing?!  Writing.  I couldn't.  

2015 came and went, and I only published 2 books.  One of which was finished in 2014 when my dear friend Missy Johnson and I signed a traditional deal with Penguin Random House, and they published our first co-written work in May of that year.  Only 1 indie novel was published.  Both of which flopped.  

My heart was broken.

I decided January 1, 2016, I was going to do better and get back to what I loved most ... but I didn't.  The market was shifting rapidly and I felt like I was falling through the cracks.  I wasn't publishing enough to stay relevant, and those thoughts only cripple creativity.  2 more books released in 2016.

Cutter released, as a follow up to Raven, the book that put the most money in my bank account.  It was published through Penguin Random House as well ... it should have done amazing.  I wrote it quickly and was in love ... my publisher wasn't happy with it.  Scrapped the whole thing.  I had to rewrite a story I wasn't feeling.  It wasn't their fault, it wasn't mine.  Their idea of the novel wasn't what I had in mind, but I made them a promise and I did fulfill that promise.  The book flopped, though.  Badly.  Still, to this day, it's had the lowest number of sales.  

Missy and I tried our hand at writing under a pen name.  We published Slow Grind under the name Eva Spencer.  It flopped too.  But, hey, it didn't flop as bad as when we pulled it from Eva and published as us two.  Great story, terrible market.

I thought my heart was broken before ... clearly, I didn't know what a broken heart felt like until this moment.  

There comes a moment when every author has to ask herself if it's all worth it.  At any time before when I'd ask myself exactly this, it always was.  The market would rebound.  The reader's tastes would switch.  I'd find the next big thing.  And then you realize, it's not the market.  It's not the readers.  It's not anything other than ... you.  You're the problem.  

I was the problem.  

I was throwing in the towel.  

I was done.  

I got 3 years in an industry I never imagined I'd have ... it was worth it then, not anymore.

Don't worry, this isn't where my story ends.  I should have mentioned that in 2016, I was experiencing a lot of health problems.  Between an insanely heavy menstrual cycle that landed me in the emergency room at least 6 times that year and a knee that decided to not work anymore, I had too much on my plate.  I had such little space in my head to accomplish things.  So, the important stuff came first and writing came in dead last ... 

2017 I had every intention on not doing this anymore until an old friend came back into my life and demanded I give it another go round.  I fought her at first and finally gave in ... I didn't even have the energy to argue ... she was invited to participate in a charity anthology and asked me to co-write with her.  I figured this would be easier than trying to do it on my own, so I agreed.

I wrote our story in a matter of 6 hours.  I emailed it to her, she added her own special brand of phenomenal and transformed our story from bare bones to perfection in a weekend.  I felt inspired again.  I had the itch again.  My fingers needed to pound the keys.  I was alive.  She sparked the fire.

I pulled out a manuscript I'd put away because it was too hard to write.  It hurt my entire soul to think of finishing this story, but it was the only thing I could think of ... so I grabbed it and started playing with it.  In between, I was penning other short stories for other anthologies ... just to keep writing and when the anthology was done, I'd publish those stories separately.  None did fantastic, but I never expected them to do anything at all ... it was cool ... I honestly didn't give an entire shit.  They made the anthology money which went to charity and that was all that mattered.  

Finally, after a few months, First of Many was finished.  To date, I believe this is my best written novel ... it has everything I'd want in a book.  Beginning to end, it's exactly what I wanted it to be.  I purchased the most beautiful cover and held my breath as I published ... 

It didn't flop.  It didn't do amazing, but I actually paid some bills with that royalty check.  I wasn't over the dreadful feelings, but I thought I was on the right track.  So much so, that I dove into my next story ...

Once Bitten ... the concept, the characters, the setting ... it was new adult heaven and writing it was the most fun I'd had in ... well ... years.  I was flying through, even had to buy a new computer because I broke the keyboard on my other ... I pulled out 20,000 words in 2 days.  I didn't sleep, shower or eat.  I think my kids ate leftover spaghetti for breakfast lunch and dinner ... I WAS ME AGAIN!!!!  

2018 started and I couldn't wait ... I was stoked ... February 20, I hit publish ... and there were sales ... I couldn't believe it.  That first day, I was so excited I couldn't stand it ...

Then the sales stopped ... and the rank plumeted ... and I couldn't figure it out ... 

Until I did ... it was the name ... "Once Bitten" screamed PNR ... at the time, when planning the series and titles, I was so geeked ... "Once Bitten" ... "Twice Shy" ... "Third Time Lucky" ... and the series was about 3 wealthy brothers and their quests for love ... and all the titles played into the backstory ... only, that information was in my head and not out there for everyone ... and when playing to the new adult readers, throwing a PNR title at them isn't the way to make some sales ... and now, because I threw everything into the market, I'm too damn broke to rebrand ...

And here we are friends ... I can't pen a novel to save my life.  I've tried ... I've begged my brain to work ... I've tried every trick in the book.  This isn't writer's block ... this is the case of the missing mojo ... and I have no idea how to get it back.  I can't think of a good, original story.  I can't imagine writing another sex scene.  I don't want to look at stock covers.  Since February 20, when I published Once Bitten, I've written a total of 500 words.  I started a new story, not even Wes's story which I promised my readers ... and I love those 500 words, and I Can't think for the life of me how to get those 500 words to turn into a story readers will read ...

I can't talk to my author friends about anything because it always comes back to writing and I find myself getting uncomfortably angry when they talk about their books, their mojo or their paychecks... don't get me wrong, I want them to have all these things, I just want to have all those things too and it breaks my heart when the thing I loved for so long (my whole life, really ... writing!!) is the thing that causes me the most stress and heartache.  I don't want to hate my passion, but I don't know how not to ...

So, I'm taking the advice of my very good friend and I'm going to just keep writing ... no matter what, every single day, I'm going to demand a certain number of words from myself ... they might be great, or they might be utterly horrible ... but they'll be mine.  I'm going to find new music and watch new TV shows ... I'm going to try and read new books (yeah, that's the other shitty part about this horrible writing depression I find myself in ... I can't read, especially anything by my friends ... because it makes me jealous and I do not look good in green ... I try so hard to read their books, they've sent me ARC copies ... Friends ... please know, if you're reading this, I didn't read it and hate it ... I just can't right now, but I promise I will the second my brain says I can stop being a douche ... I love you and you're all fantastic).  I'm going to come back to the world who gave me life again.  Who gave me meaning outside of "what's for dinner" and "can you help with my algebra" ... I'm coming back.  Maybe as me, Ashley Suzanne ... maybe I'll test a pen name ... maybe I'll co-write ... maybe I'll switch genres ... maybe I'll touch up some old favorites in my downtime ... maybe I'll have the next big deal ... or maybe it'll flop ... 

But more than anything ... I've been working on me.  I'm finding me again.  And I can't wait to see you all.  

Hugs and Love ...

Not So Average Ashley Anymore <3

Monday, February 26, 2018

*** NOW IN KINDLE UNLIMITED ***

HAPPY MONDAY!!!!  As of last night, Once Bitten has been enrolled in Kindle Unlimited!!!  Are YOU a KU member?!  It's basically a subscription that allows you to read UNLIMITED (provided the author enrolls the book) for the entire month!!!


I’m in love with my boyfriend’s brother.
But before you judge me, you need to know the whole story. I’ve been in love with Walker Weisman for as long as I can remember. And when our summer romance turned out to be a short-lived fling, I was left destroyed.
I fought hard, picked myself up by my boot-straps, and started to heal; tape and glue holding my heart together. I leaned on my friends, started dating again and felt almost human … when Walker wanted a second chance.
With my head and heart at war, a decision was needed—my boyfriend or his brother …
ONE CLICK ONCE BITTEN HERE

What are reviewers saying?!?!

This novel is one of those that I need to buy in paperback. It was so good, that I need to drool and gush over it in person. - My Slanted Bookish Ramblings
If you're looking for a steamy, angsty, second chance romance, then you need to one-click Once Bitten by Ashley Suzanne today! - Reading Past My Bedtime
From the very beginning I was hooked. It's super quick paced, yet character build up is wonderful. I've read every book Ashley has published, and I have to say that this one is my FAVORITE by far. It's a great second chance love read. There is a love triangle, but it's not super dramatic. - Amazon Reviewer
DON'T HAVE KU ... CLICK HERE!!!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

***ONCE BITTEN UPDATE***



On MONDAY I'll be enlisting ONCE BITTEN into Kindle Unlimited!!!  While this is very exciting for me ... to catch the attention of new and old readers alike ... it also means I'll have to remove ONCE BITTEN from all other outlets ...

This is NOT an easy decision, but I want to be able to offer as many books to as many readers as possible ... So, if you're a Kobo, Nook or iBooks reader, you'll want to grab ONCE BITTEN this weekend!!  

To my AMAZON readers ... if you'd like to grab ONCE BITTEN at the introductory price of $2.99, grab it THIS WEEKEND.  Along with KU, the price will raise to $3.99 on Monday!!!

Here's all the links and I can't wait to hear what you all think!!!



Wednesday, February 21, 2018

ONCE BITTEN (A New Adult Romance) is LIVE!!!!!



I’m in love with my boyfriend’s brother.


But before you judge me, you need to know the whole story. I’ve been in love with Walker Weisman for as long as I can remember. And when our summer romance turned out to be a short-lived fling, I was left destroyed.


I fought hard, picked myself up by my boot-straps, and started to heal; tape and glue holding my heart together. I leaned on my friends, started dating again and felt almost human … when Walker wanted a second chance.


With my head and heart at war, a decision was needed—my boyfriend or his brother …


Grab Once Bitten NOW on Amazon!!!  (Other retailer links to follow)


QUICK PEEK INTO THE WORLD OF WALKER WEISMAN

Over the last week, I’ve gotten to know Walker in a way I didn’t before. It could be all the time we’ve spent together and the pressure of getting physical off the table. Whatever the reason, it only makes me want him this way even more.
“Baby, this is real nice. Not complaining one bit, but you’re playin’ with fire … fuck.”
“Fire … what?” I sit up, glaring down at him. I’m cool with pet-names, but … “Did you just call me a fire truck?”
What? No,” Walker laughs, but I’m not seeing what’s so funny. “I said, ‘You’re playing with fire,’ and followed that up with, ‘fuck.’”
“You need to enunciate better,” I sneer and climb off his lap. Just like that, moment ruined. Probably for the best. Still scowling at Walker, I pull a hoodie over my head and starting heading toward his kitchen.
I’m so damn bothered, if there’s only one slice of pizza left, I’m eating it … by myself … and not offering him any … not even a nibble.
“Oh, come on, Fire Truck … it was just getting good.” Walker’s chuckle follows me down the hall.
“Fuck you, and I’m not sharing,” I return. A moment later, the sound of his bare feet slapping heavy and quick on the hardwood floors coming toward me puts a little pep in my step. “Go back to bed, Walker.”
Now, see, had we been at my apartment, I could have been to the kitchen and eaten the pizza before he could catch me. But no, we just had to come to his place when we realized there was no hot water at mine. I bet he had that planned all along. That’s not taking into consideration my vertically challenged ass.
“Just trying to not starve to death, Max. If you move a little faster, you might have a fighting chance.”
At the end of the hall, I bust a quick left and elect to cut through the formal dining room to sneak around the back way. I guess Walker has the same idea and is gaining on me quicker than I can get away. Thinking on my feet, and recalling every ridiculous police chase on TV, I pull out one of the chairs to block his path. When that doesn’t slow him any, I take the next chair and shove it to the ground. That one works.
“You little shit.” Walker laughs and easily hurdles the next one I toss in his way, anticipating my moves before I make them.
“The pizza’s mine, dude. You need a plan b.” 

READ MORE ON AMAZON

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

***COVER REVEAL*** Once Bitten by Ashley Suzanne (Releasing 2/22)

Are you ready to see the cover for Once Bitten, the 1st book in the Three Weisman series?!?  Well, wait no more!!!!

A HUGE round of applause to Melissa Gill with MGBookCovers for this AMAZING cover!!!


I'm soooo very excited to share this story with y'all.  It was an idea that popped in my head around Christmas.  I sent a sample to a few friends who all but demanded (okay, they did demand) MORE!!!  I'm a proud book mama, today!!!  February 22nd, I can't wait.

I’m in love with my boyfriend’s brother.But before you judge me, you need to know the whole story. I’ve been in love with Walker Weisman for as long as I can remember. And when our summer romance turned out to be a short-lived fling, I was left destroyed.I fought hard, picked myself up by my bootstraps, and started to heal; tape and glue holding my heart together.  I leaned on my friends, started dating again and felt almost human … when Walker wanted a second chance.With my head and heart at war, a decision was needed—my boyfriend or his brother … 
Wanna read a sneak peek?!?!  HERE YA GO!!!!

CHAPTER 1 Max“Are y’all ready for the best damn Three Weisman New Year’s Bash ever?” Wes, the middle Weisman son screams from his perch atop the Steinway in the foyer.  If only his mother could see him now—shoes scuffing the top of her eighty-thousand-dollar piano, beer sloshing over the brim of his red, plastic cup …Logically, I know not every single partygoer hears his question, yet they all—roughly a hundred of his closest friends—hoot and holler in a chorus of contagious excitement.
I’ve known Wes—the Weisman family—my entire life and his antics aren’t anything new, or anything exciting, at least for me, anymore.  Unwilling to be as obnoxious as he’d like—yelling out like everyone else—I take a sip my half-full flute of champagne and tilt my glass toward him when I finish with a tight-lipped, phony smile.  A few of our mutual friends loudly sigh when Wes sends a wink my way and licks his lips suggestively.  I, however, fight the desire to roll my eyes.As the drunken fool fist pumps to the house music blaring through the speakers, the soles of his shoes definitely scuffing the top of the piano, I ignore his obnoxious behavior and turn to walk into the kitchen.  Then, and only then, when my back’s turned, my eyes roll so hard they just might stick that way, just like my mother warned during my wicked teen years.
Who, exactly, thought driving the hour from Tysdale to Cape Lane Shores was a good idea?  Noelle and Jade, my best lady friends … or at least who I thought were my best friends … who like signing me up for parties where my boyfriend’s so trashed he wouldn’t know if I was here or not.
I can’t be mad at them, though.  Well, not completely anyway.  When the Weisman brothers throw a party, it’s a ritual, one I’m a part of, so showing up isn’t truly an option.  The story of my entanglement with Walker, Wes and Wren Weisman goes back as far as I can remember.Since I was born, we all knew I’d marry into this family.  It wasn’t a secret.  Like most families, my mother and the matriarch of the Weisman Web started a plan to join our two clans.  Similar to when teenage girls doodle their names with the surname of their crush on a notebook … that kind of thing.Unlike the other mothers out there plotting against their children to create a super-dynasty, ours weren’t teasing; the china pattern was already on reserve along with a June slot at the club.  I wouldn’t be surprised if a marriage license application was already prepared, just waiting for which of the Weisman boys I’d choose … or would choose me.
I used to go out of my way to date boys as far from the ideal Weismans as I could find.  Then, I shocked even myself when one hot, summer night, being betrothed to this family seemed like the best possible outcome.  I wasn’t looking and there he was; a Weisman caught my eye and stole my heart. With my soul, I’d picked for myself a man I’d want to be with, forever not out of the question.  I didn’t need any prompting or corrosion from the House of Gilmore or House of Weisman.  I’d fallen in love, all by myself, with a Weisman.Just not Wes.  Never Wes.Years of longing and wanting became my reality Fourth of July weekend at a different, yet equally as infamous Three Weisman bash.  I could see myself waking up every morning, rolling over and kissing my Weisman husband …
“It’s a party, Max.  Loosen up a bit, let your hair down.  I know you have it in you.” His whisper, hot and heavy on my neck, sends a quiver through my knees just like it’s always done, and I bet always will.“Walker,” I breathe, barely audible.  Thank God for excessively loud, terrible music.  The last thing I want is for Walker to notice the hitch in my breath, pebbling of my nipples, the slight sway in my gait, the quake in my damn knees—but here he is, doing exactly that … noticing.  Trying desperately to mask the automatic, regardless-if-I-want-it reaction to his proximity, I correct my posture, square my shoulders and hold my head high.  Barely turning to face Walker, there he is, nearly on top of me.  So unbearably close, if I were to wet my lips, I’d be licking his.
“My hair’s just fine, thank you,” I quip, not giving him an ounce room to work the typical Weisman charm.  “Holy fuck you smell amazing!” I scream in my head.
Apparently, an inch isn’t needed for Walker to take a mile.  I hoped he would back away, if for no other reason than to keep me from climbing his body and losing any sense of sanity I possess.  He steps into me, bringing our bodies flush, his wandering hand skimming my waist until it finds purchase at the small of my back.  His voice doesn’t rise to compensate for the blasting music, but I don’t miss a word he says.  “Didn’t think you guys would be here.  My father invited you two lovebirds down to Cancun for the holidays, right?”“He did and I declined.  Spending a Christmas away from my own family?  You should know me better than that, Walker.”“Christmas was almost a week ago.  Why didn’t you go down after?”I don’t think my own parents question me this much.  Who the hell does Walker think he is?“I’m so sorry I didn’t run my plans past you before I made them.  Please accept my deepest apologies.  Also, should I be checking in with you for a draw on my trust, or keep going to my father?  Not sure based on your very parental inquisition.”  In typical Maxine Gilmore fashion, I use sarcasm and wit to hide my true feelings.
Walker Weisman, my heart capturing boyfriend turned soul-crushing ex, was my once upon a time, in a land far, far away, and they lived happily ever after.  Our breakup nearly destroyed me, and I didn’t think I would ever feel that kind of hurt again, yet here I am, balling my fists, digging my fingernails into my palms to distract from the tears that want to fall.  Clearly, the tape and glue I used to fix myself once is no match for weathering the storm a second go around.
On the outside, I purse my lips and make a move flee his orbit, but Walker has no intentions of letting me go, his gravity—and the hand splayed across my back—drawing me in closer in the most un-parental display of dominance I’ve ever seen.“It’s not you I don’t want to see.  Though, it would be nice if it wasn’t in the company of my brother,” he seethes, his fingers digging into my flesh.  Opposed to melting into his touch, I fight the urge and opt for a well-executed eye roll—my new favorite form of expression.
Like my mother always said, “Any woman of wealth knows when to keep her mouth shut and let her face do the talking.”  She’d be proud tonight.“Well Walker, if you didn’t want to see me with your brother, you should have done something about it.  You’re the one who killed from whatever we could have been.  I don’t know if it was fear … duty … you weren’t feeling it … you just wanted to get laid … it doesn’t really matter, but let’s be clear about one thing.  It was your choice.”  Okay, maybe my mother wouldn’t be beaming with pride.  I tried.  That counts, right?“So, somewhere in that brilliant, sexy mind you think that after we break up, it’d be a good idea to jump in bed with my brother?  That it wouldn’t ruffle any feathers?”  Walker’s anger rolls off his shoulders in waves and his words pack a punch … straight to my gut.  “And if you want to get technical, Max, I’m not the one who ended shit.  Last I remember, you ran when shit hit the fan.”We weren’t supposed to be like this.  Sure, we fought hard, but we loved harder.  We didn’t do petty or passive aggressive.  Yet, here I am, thinking of a comeback that’ll knock the wind out of him.  How’d we get to this point?I knew what I was getting into the moment Walker slid my panties down my legs as fireworks blazed through the sky last summer.  I knew exactly who he was and what he wasn’t capable of offering as he thrust into me, making me his, if only for that one night.  I’m the idiot who let her heart get caught up in a summer fling, I get it.  Which is exactly why I vowed not to let things get weird, though sometimes it gets harder than others.
He, however, isn’t supposed to act like a jealous, entitled brat when I get the fuck over it and move on … or at least pretend.  A little pissed I start dating Wes?  Sure, I can go along with that.  But all this?  Questioning my character, demanding answers, seething, white-hot anger … Unnecessary and to be honest, pretty damn confusing.“You know what Walker, you’re right.  I’m a whore; a brother hopping, bed jumping whore.  If you’ll excuse me.”  Pushing off his chest, I’m able to confirm his suspicions before I can’t speak past the lump in my throat or see past the tears in my eyes.  No way in hell he’s getting the gratification of watching what his words do to me.Walking across the room to where I can breathe a little easier, I risk a glance over my shoulder and find Walker standing in the same spot I left him, balled fists clenched at his side, wild eyes debating between chasing me across the room to give me another tongue lashing or carting me off to the nearest confined space … to give me another kind of lashing with his skilled tongue.  I have to turn back quickly and remind myself, before I return a crazed look of my own, all but inviting him to show me what he’s thinking, my heart isn’t completely healed and can’t take another emotional hurricane. 
“Baby, what are you doing?” Wes asks, sneaking up behind me and wrapping his arms around my middle, catching me completely off guard.  His lips brush sloppily against my neck, the scent of whiskey singeing my nostrils as his words float through the air.
In any other social situation, I’d smile sweetly and bat my eyelashes while kindly, discretely moving away from his public display of affection.  Tonight, though, with Walker’s stare burning my skin I play into Wes’ embrace, hopefully to show Walker I’m not interested in taking a trip down memory’s lane.
“Going to grab another drink.  You having a good time?”“Hell yeah.  Find me at midnight, okay?”“Absolutely.”Wes isn’t a bad guy; he’s really great, actually.  One of the best I know.  Platonically, we click.  Romantically, it’s not right.  We don’t fit.
We’ve always been close, but I’ve never seen him as anything other than a friend.  Our first date should have been our last.  Actually, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.  This relationship has the capability to ruin what I’ve always considered an amazing friendship.  To further prove my point, as if my feelings aren’t enough, the reaction I have to him, to his proximity, isn’t what it should be when you’re in love.  When I walk in a room, he’s not the person I seek out … in a sea of people, much like tonight, his isn’t the first face I notice …  I don’t feel him before I see him. 
I can’t tell you if his feelings for me are genuine.  If when he sees his future, he sees me by his side.  I’m not sure if like me, he’s being a dutiful child, not wanting to disappoint his family.  I really hope that while he enjoys my company and spending time with me, if he looks in his heart he knows he’s only being a good son so when this façade implodes—because it absolutely will—our friendship won’t pay the price.
I just wish I had an inside track into the way the male brain works.  It’d sure up a lot of unanswered questions …Two of the three Weisman brothers I have down to a science.  Walker and Wren—the youngest of the trio and my very best friend—I can read like a book.  They’re predictable and reliable … for the most part.  Tonight with Walker has thrown me a little and I’m not sure what to make of it just yet.  Wes, however, he’s a tough nut to crack.  Where Walker and Wren have always made their intentions clear—no guessing to what they want—Wes is a little more calculated.  Maybe it’s the business side of his brain always at work, or he’s a little smarter, I don’t have that constant drop on him like I do his brothers.
Wren would tell me I’m pretty, and he’d mean I’m pretty.  Walker would tell me I’m brilliant, and he’d mean I’m brilliant.  Wes would pull my pigtail, and he’d mean to tell me he likes me.
Basically, Wes and straight-shooting are polar opposites.Right now, I’m just praying that Wes telling me to find him at midnight really means I can go crash in the guest room because he’s having so much fun, he won’t be upset if I’m not here to ring in the new year.  Probably not, but a girl can dream …Refusing to dwell in the land of maybes and what-ifs, I seek out Noelle and Jade and pretend like my brain isn’t running a mile a minute.  Thankfully they accept my invitation, or I’ll be surrounded by the snobs who usually show up to these things; the rich (because Daddy’s rich) and infamous (for getting trashed and acting trashy).  I swear, the best decision my parents made was allowing me to go to school in the city instead of private schools like the rest of these morons.
Trying for forget all my troubles, I throw my hands in the air, dancing without a care in the world.  My night’s starting to look up as I take to a tabletop, shaking my ass and grinding to the terrible music.
How’s this for letting my hair down and loosening up, Walker?“Yo, what time is it?” someone in the sitting-room-turned-dance-floor asks nobody in particular and nobody really answers.A few seconds later, the music’s muted, followed by some groans, until the TV comes on, the surround sound boasting the countdown.  “Twenty!” everyone yells, mirroring the numbers flashing across the screen.  “Nineteen!”Looking around, I don’t see Wes and exhale my relief.  As everyone gathers together, most coupling up, I jump off the table and slink into the dining room unnoticed.
Sixteen!”Moving further, just to hedge my bet, through the next set of double doors, I breathe a bit easier finding myself in the staff lounge.  The voices get farther away, the excitement dying down the more I get away and it feels amazing.
Nobody’ll think to look for me in here.  I may have just found the best hiding spot in the entire Weisman house.
Twelve!”“Where’s Maxine?”  Wes yells and gets a few responses, none giving up my location.“Shit,” I mutter to myself.  Of course, Wes would eventually realize I’m gone but I want a little longer.  As bad as I feel deserting Wes; him out there alone, I don’t budge.  I swallow the rest of my drink, leaving the cup on the table and jump on the countertop.  He may search, but he’s no super sleuth.  I’ll find a way to explain it later.  That is, if he remembers it tomorrow.Nine!”Closing my eyes, I lean my head against the bulletin board.  A few more seconds and clichés are tossed around like confetti; fresh starts and changes, diets and career paths. These people—most people—want to pretend life’s a storybook, as if like Cinderella, Midnight’s going to alter the course of their lives.
Auld Lang Syne, my ass.  Auld Lang Bullshit Babble’s more like it.  Maybe for them, certainly not for me.  These are my cards, and I have no choice but to play.  If they were honest with themselves, they’d realize the clock strikes twelve every single day, without fail, and if someone wants to make a significant change, they won’t need to mark it with a specific date; they’ll just do it.Six!”Surely, this will be the year the Weismans demand Wes proposes and my parents force me to accept.  There’ll be wedding planning and before I even graduate with my Bachelors, I’ll be having a bachelorette party, just in time for a June wedding … Those are the kind of changes I can look forward to …Three!”Someone pushes through the doors, their shoes smacking against the tile with purpose.  Assuming Wes found me, I keep my eyes closed, pretending to have passed out so his feelings won’t be hurt and I’ll skip the obligatory kiss.Two!”Wes doesn’t speak a word.  His hands come down on my knees, gently pushing them apart to fit his large frame between.
One!”“Happy New Year, Max.”  My eyes fly open to find mischief gleaming sexily in Walker’s.  Momentarily lost in his deep blue gaze, my breath falters and I don’t want to be anywhere but here.For the first time in forever, I’m unable to control myself.  Reaching up, I run my fingers through the barely-there scruff on his cheek, around the back of his neck and close the only space Walker hasn’t consumed, his predictable way of making me ask for what I want.  In this moment, I want him and he’s here, obviously wanting me, even if only for right now, it’s okay, seeing as I’m the one unable to offer more this time.  Oh, how the tables have turned.
“Happy New Year!!!” our friends cheer in the living room as the ball drops, signifying the start of new beginnings.  And here I am, kicking my fresh start off with a bang … in the arms of the only man to ever break my heart.  The only man with the capability of doing it again.  And I don’t care.Walker’s lips part, his tongue sliding against mine.  Moving his hands from my thighs, around to my ass and pulling me closer, if that’s possible, I keep mine firmly planted on the back of his head, holding him to me and relishing the feeling of control.  Our bodies meld together; his heart hammering against my chest, I completely give myself over to him, relinquishing my power and submitting to my wants. 
What feels like an eternity only lasts a few seconds, maybe a minute if I’m being generous.  By far, the best kiss of my life.  My greedy pants mix with Walker’s lustful groans, which only add fuel to the fire.  The only area we never had problems confirmed when I tighten my legs around his frame.
Walker’s the one who separates us—God knows it wasn’t going to be me—but lingers, not completely gone, his mouth hovering over mine.“Happy New Year,” he repeats, snaking out his tongue and licking his lips.“Right back at ya, Weisman.”  I recover and attempt to feign some indifference, but the effort’s futile … I’m not fooling anyone, especially Walker.  “God,” I whine, throwing my head against the bulletin board and shaking it slowly, irritated with my actions and inability to control myself in the one situation it should be easiest.
Instead of making fun of me, Walker takes the opportunity to graze his lips across my skin, starting at my collar bone and ending at the sensitive flesh just below my ear, where he leaves one quick kiss before whispering, “Don’t worry, Maxi I won’t tell baby brother I got you all hot and bothered, making damn sure it was me you were kissing at midnight, not him.”  The fucker winks and smirks—a deadly combination for any woman’s resolve.“What the hell’s wrong with you, Walker?  In case you missed the point earlier, you could have had me.  We didn’t have to be making out in the staff lounge, hiding from anyone or anything.  You decided that wasn’t what you wanted.  Not me.  That wasn’t my call.  You. Fucked.  It.  Up.”“If I made a mistake and want a do-over?”
“You don’t get it, do you?  You’re so used to money fixing everything, or those damn golf rules you and your dad used to joke about.  Listen, Walker, this isn’t a game.  There are no mulligans.  You’re shooting over par, Tiger.  Take the loss and deal.  It’s too damn late.  I’m not a fucking toy you want to rip out of your brother’s hand when he starts playing with it.  Act like a man and treat me like a goddamn lady.”
I hate him getting to me, and even more than that, giving him a reaction he doesn’t deserve.  Why wait until I’m kind of okay to start fucking with my head?  Who does that?“So, you’re saying I could take you?”  I can’t decide if the smug grin’s infuriating or endearing and I’m frustrated as hell trying to figure it out.
“No.  God.  What are you even talking about?” I yell, tossing a verbal flashbang into the air, directing any nearby attention to my hiding spot.
“I’m thinking if I tried to take you away from Wes, you’d come all too willing.  Am I wrong, Max?”“Yes, you’re wrong.  Dead fucking wrong.  Move.”“Not a chance in hell.  Not until you answer me, honestly.”  I hate him and his brilliant blue eyes.  I despise way his jaw ticks … his tell … knowing he’s going to get something he wants.  I loathe my inability to steer clear of him and his games.
“Come out tonight, it’ll be a blast,” they said.  All these theys … I wanna punch them all.“What?  Now, you want me?  Because you want me?  Or do you just wanna get at Wes?”When his answer’s not immediate, it hurts more than if he would have lied straight to my face.  I shove him hard enough he stumbles backward and I leap off the counter, running straight for the door.“Just don’t forget I had you first,” he says, his words loaded.As if I could forget …“And he’ll have me last,” I toss back, anger spewing off every syllable.  The first lesson they teach the pretty little rich girls who are bound to marry well … don’t just look like a bitch, be bitchy when the situation calls for it, and never let anyone think they have something to hold over your head; be the one with the leverage.Straightening my shirt and wiping the remnants of our kiss from my lips, I push open the door and run straight into a brick wall of muscle … otherwise known as my boyfriend.  “There you are, baby.  I’ve been lookin’ for you.”Before I can respond, Wes takes me in his arms and kisses me.  Stunned, I don’t kiss him back.  He’s too drunk to notice and completely misses the sharp intake of air, followed by the possessive growl from his brother.What a tangled web we weave …This is why girls should save their virginity until they’re married … not because society says so, but because it’s so much easier to not complicate life with an orgasm.  Especially when the boy you want to have sex with isn’t the same boy who you should be having sex with … see the dilemma?
Now how fast can I get out of the spider’s lair before my world implodes?  


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