Monday, September 23, 2013

Be My Downfall...

Toby Wright has always prided himself on being one of the most normal guys at Whitman University. He loves his parents, has a great job lined up after graduation, and with the exception of attempting to cross the unbalanced Sebastian Blair sophomore year, has kept his nose pretty clean.

But the rich never have empty closets, and memories long stashed away come spilling free when notorious party girl Kennedy Gilbert almost dies in his bathroom.

Nobody really knows how Kennedy manages to stay in good standing at Whitman–she never goes to class, doesn’t pretend to care about her future, and as far as people can tell, is never sober. This isn’t her first meeting with a stomach pump, but it is the first time she’s woken up to Toby’s concerned brown eyes. Despite the fact that she prefers life without friends, he gets under her skin with his insistence on playing her guardian angel.

No one knows better than Toby that people can only be saved if they want to be, but the realization that she has no one else draws him back into the shadows of Kennedy’s life–and eventually into her bed. But she long ago came to terms with a truth that Toby refuses to accept: she doesn’t want to be rescued, she only wants to forget.

Unwilling to give up on her, Toby’s dragged under by this broken girl and her dark, twisted Whitman University he never guessed existed. If he struggles to the surface, he’ll abandon someone he loves for the second time in his life. If he doesn’t, it won’t be long until they both drown.


“Hey.” Kennedy’s eyes looked blue today under her knitted cap. A matching scarf ringed her neck and her cheeks and lips were rosy.

The sight of her, with the fresh snow drifting down around us, looked like something off a postcard and caught me off guard. She looked so damn normal—prettier than most girls, but normal. “Hey. Enjoying your final runs?”

“Yeah. Headed up top for a few more. You?”

Her change in attitude from the other night left me feeling a little unmoored, but my default setting of polite kicked into gear. “Me, too. Shall we?”

Kennedy hesitated for the briefest of seconds, a flicker of indecision in her eyes, before nodding and giving me a smile that could have lit half of St. Moritz. “Let’s do it.”

We poled over to the lift and waited our turn, then settled onto the cold metal chair together and got situated for the fifteen-minute ride. The higher we went, the more astounding the view. The sun dipped toward the horizon, coloring Switzerland with her own personal halo.

“I’m sorry about the other night. When I was rude to you at the bar. And for showing you my ass.”

I snorted. “I have to tell you, I didn’t mind the latter. And it’s fine.”

She scooted almost imperceptibly closer, then scooted again, until the heat from her body founds its way inside my ski clothes. She smelled like shampoo and snow, fresh like the world around us and I breathed deep. It doused my brain like some kind of drug.

When she reached out and slid her arm through mine, though, it snapped me to attention. The about-face was too much. “What are you doing?”

“Boys belong in boxes, Wright. Anyone ever tell you that?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Are you nuts?”

She shot me a conspiratorial smile and leaned closer, lowering her voice to a whisper even though no one could possible overhear. “I’ve seen you at Dr. Porter’s. Are you nuts?”

Embarrassment flooded my cheeks with heat, stinging in the face of the chilly wind, and I fought the instinct to pull away from her. So I saw a psychologist. So did eighty percent of Whitman.

“Not most of the time,” I replied, keeping my chin up.

“I’m fucking bats,” she said, cheerfulness oozing from every pore.

The other morning, Kennedy had seemed…not depressed, exactly, but not happy. Not like this. It made me wonder if she was bi-polar, but the real reason probably had more to do with her state of sobriety. Or maybe how honest she felt like being.

Those things might even be connected.

“Anyway, boxes. Boys fit in them so nicely—in a ‘too nice’ box, or one labeled ‘good fuck’ or maybe ‘run for the hills he has no idea what to do with his penis’.” She cocked her head. “I suppose there are teeny, tiny boxes for the ones that girls might actually be able to stand for more than a night at a time, but I’ve never used them.”

I didn’t tell her that I’d never found a use for the last box, either. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because I want to put you in one, but I can’t decide which.”

Heat spilled down into my groin as she looked up into my face, pure suggestion burning in her bright eyes. Her hand snuck over and rested between my legs, and even through ski pants there was no way she missed what she’d set to life with the simplest of comments.

Through the foggy desire gumming up my brain, I tried to remember this was Kennedy Gilbert. Whitman’s resident hot mess. I was pretty sure whatever she’d smoked or drank for breakfast was rubbing my crotch right now, not her.

Get a grip, Wright. And for Christ sakes get laid when you get home.

It took every ounce of willpower to reach down and slide her hand away, back into her own lap. “Not that one.”

“Which one? The ‘likes to get off in public’ box? Noted. We’ll throw that one away. Bunch of fucking weirdos.”

“You really are odd.”

She nodded, settling back on her side of the chair and pulling her poles loose. Our lift neared the top of the mountain and I did the same, still struggling to shake loose the lust. When she looked at me again, the proposition had disappeared from her gaze, leaving cool detachment in its place. Her stare left me feeling abandoned, cast away, which was silly but still true.

“You have to get in a box, Wright.” She swallowed hard. “I can’t deal if you don’t.”

My skis hit the packed snow at the top and training took over, propelling me off the seat and out of the way of the people coming behind us. Kennedy was graceful on her skis, gliding at my side until we reached the summit and looked down at the run waiting for us. I wondered what she meant, or why it mattered to her if she couldn’t figure me out.

“Wanna race?” She tipped her chin my direction, her whole body radiating mischievousness, the moment of desperate vulnerability I’d glimpsed on the chair lift long gone. 

“If you’re into losing,” I shrugged, puffing out my chest like an idiot.

Without warning she switched both of her poles to one hand, grabbed the front of my jacket, and planted a kiss on my mouth. Her soft lips tasted like strawberries and lingered, her tongue flicking over my bottom lip for the briefest of seconds before she pulled away.

I couldn’t come up with one single response before she turned and headed down the slope.


I’ve long had a love of stories. A few years ago decided to put them down on the page, and even though I have a degree in film and television, novels were the creative outlet where I found a home. I’ve published Young Adult under a different name, but when I got the idea for Broken at Love (my first New Adult title), I couldn’t wait to try something new – and I’m hooked.  In my spare time I watch a ton of tennis (no surprise, there), play a ton of tennis, and dedicate a good portion of brain power to dreaming up the next fictitious bad boy we’d all love to meet in real life.

Twitter: @lyla_payne

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