AFTER I FALL
Falling Series, Book 3
Her entire life has been a lie. Being with Eli is the only honest thing she's ever done.
Parker Hauser lives the perfect life and knows exactly where she's been and where she's going. Parker has to be perfect. Perfect grades, perfect body, perfect life.
Until she meets Eli Winter.
Eli is an agent of chaos. He dares her to not be perfect. She wants nothing to do with the former soldier but she can't get him out of her mind.
One chance encounter will make her question everything she's ever believed to be true.
People always look at me like I’ve got a dick growing out of my forehead when I tell them I miss the Army. Course, I suppose I have to consider my audience these days. I’m not bouncing at Ropers out in Harker Heights any more or dragging drunk GI’s out of that esteemed institution. No, my life at Fort Hood is long gone.
My clientele is a little more posh these days. The cars in the dirt parking lot at Ropers were F150s and Dodge Rams, complete with truck nuts and NRA stickers. Now the cars valet parked in a lot around the corner and out of sight are Mercedes and BMWs with the occasional McLaren thrown in.
It’s about as far from Fort Hood as I can possibly get, at least culturally. You wouldn’t think I was still even in the south with how different things are here.
I suppose there are worse problems to have than dealing with rich dicks who buy the top shelf liquor and run up five hundred dollar tabs in a few hours worth of drinking.
They keep my business in the black so I don’t really have any reason to complain.
I don’t talk about the Army much. Not with my customers. Every so often someone will notice the 82d AA tattoo on my bicep but most people don’t bother to look closely enough.
People see what they want to see.
And in a college town, they see a big guy with a beard and tattoos and, well, I fit right in to their schemas about bartenders and hipsters and a couple of other stereotypes.
But sometimes, sometimes I miss it.
Tonight is one of those nights. I’ve got inventories to run and paperwork to file that, if I want to keep this place open, I’ll get to sooner rather than later. But instead, I’m standing behind my bar, trying to chase away the memories. Trying to forget what tonight is.
Wishing that it wasn’t. Wishing that I could change everything.
I pour a double shot of tequila. In the quiet din of the corner of my bar, I raise it. Just a little. I don’t want to draw attention to my small tribute.
“Until we meet again, on the Fiddler’s Green.” My words are quiet. Meant only for me to hear.
I toss back the shot and close my eyes, trying not to see, trying to ignore it. Hoping to numb the dull ache in my chest that never seems to go away. It’s just some days, I’m busy enough to pretend it’s not there.
I can’t take a knee. I might not be in the Army any more but I can’t just leave.
I have to keep going. This is my place.
“What’s the Fiddler’s Green?”
I open my eyes to find that I am suddenly very much not alone in my own little world.
There is nothing stunning about the woman watching me. She looks like every other sorority girl in this damn town. Perfect golden hair, perfect lips in the perfect glossy pout, perfect body that’s tight enough to make a blind man weep.
She’s got trouble written in every curve attempting to break free of her clothing.
But there’s something in her eyes that catches my attention. It’s not curiosity, exactly. It’s something more. Something…different. At least a little bit.
Which is saying something.
There are thousand and one reasons why I shouldn’t answer her question.
I have a rule about fucking the customers, especially ones who look like trouble. Granted, it’s a recent rule but it’s still a rule.
My bartenders can do what they want. They’re grown ass adults and one of the perks of owning a bar is getting laid any time they want.
But lately…lately it’s just not fun any more.
And it’s not for lack of opportunity.
I study Trouble for a moment, weighing whether to answer her question or not. My cock is definitely interested in answering her question. He’s not really a fan of my new rule.
But my heart and my head have different ideas. Ones that start and end with oh hell no. She might be slumming in my bar tonight but she’s definitely not my type.
She turns her head to look over her shoulder and that’s when I see it. The shadows circling her left eye. She’s tried to hide the damage but she’s not doing a very good job. Or maybe she is and I just can’t miss these things.
I’m like a magnet for the walking fucking wounded.
“Where’d you get the shiner?”
I can’t help myself but I can’t turn away when someone is hurting. It’s been ingrained in my DNA since I was eighteen years old.
Even a complete stranger.
I’m going to regret this. That much I’m sure. But the question is already hanging in the air between us and I can see the surprise flicker in her eyes.
She shifts a little then, leaning against the bar. The motion pushes her breasts up against the scoop of her low cut blouse and I’d have to be a dead man to not react to that much perfection in a tiny little top.
“That’s a long story,” she says. Her voice is thick and low. Sultry. Perfect for a late night rendezvous in a bar. “I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours?”
I shake my head slowly. “Sorry. Some stories aren’t meant for telling.”
I’m not a eunuch and I’m damn sure not a warrior saint but it’s been a long time since someone at my bar caught my attention.
Her eyes flicker with disappointment then drop down to my beard, then down my arms and slowly, slowly back up, her gaze licking my senses as much as if she were actually touching me. Slowly. I’ve been mentally undressed before but there is something completely erotic in the way she’s eye fucking me.
And the more she watches me, the more I realize I am in just the right frame of mind to let her do what she wants.
Because tonight, I don’t want to remember my rules or my fucking honor or my purpose for being here. I want to get lost in sensation and touch and hot gasps and tight, wet bodies. Forget the hurt, forget the loss, forget every dark nightmare and twisted day dream.
What better way to forget then to lose myself in mindless sex for an hour or two?
Jessica Scott is an Iraq war veteran, an active duty army officer and the USA Today bestselling author of novels set in the heart of America’s Army. She is the mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs, and wife to a retired NCO.
She's also written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View Regarding War, and IAVA. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)/New Dawn and has had the honor of serving as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas twice.
She's holds phd in morality in Sociology with Duke University and she's been featured as one of Esquire Magazine's Americans of the Year for 2012.
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