Thursday, January 21, 2016

Excerpt: Falling to Pieces by Leddy Harper

How do you repair a broken life?
Home is a dark place of anguish and pain for seventeen-year-old Bree Jacobs, forced to endure emotional and physical torment daily at the hands of a violently unstable mother. Bree’s only escape is high school, particularly her history class taught by young, handsome, kind and caring Axel Taylor. Mr. Taylor becomes Bree’s dearest friend, a sympathetic ear and a shoulder to cry on, and soon their shared affection grows into something greater. But by reaching out to protect her—to mend her breaks and soothe her wounds—Axel has crossed a dangerous line, resulting in two shattered lives instead of just one. Six years later, they will meet again: Bree, still battling the demons that continue to possess her, and Axel, reduced to taking work as a substitute teacher wherever he can find it. Once again he will feel compelled to rescue her. But this time it will be different, because now the yearnings of a loving heart won’t be silenced by suspicious minds. And now there’s more than one life that desperately needs saving.  

4.5 Stars by Jen Skewes

I love the story of a forbidden romance between two characters and I love second chances at love even more.  So of course I was so excited to read Falling to Pieces.  This book was a bit different than what I had honestly expected but that is a really good thing.  I loved it!  It was beautiful, at times emotional and just an amazing story.  But it wasn’t the taboo relationship or even the second chance love story that I loved so much.  It was the two main characters.  It was the passion and love that they had for each other that I loved the most.  They were the reason that I did not want this story to end.

Bree is almost 17 years old and has no friends and basically no social life.  She lives with her mother who is abusive to her both physically and mentally.  She goes to school, comes home and takes care of the household duties.  She is so broken from her mother’s actions and the fact that her father left them when she was younger.  When she walks into her history class she meets her new teacher for the year, Mr. Taylor and there seems to be this connection that she feels towards him.  But as time goes on she realizes that this connection is not one sided at all.  Mr. Taylor feels it just as much as she does.

Axel Taylor is a 24 year old history teacher.  When he sees his student Bree, for the first time he sees that something is wrong.  He sees the sadness in her but he also wonders if there is more going on at home that he should know about. He wants to do everything that he can to protect her.  He wants to make sure that she is ok and has someone to talk to if needed.  But he also starts to feel something for this girl but he knows that if he crosses that line there will be consequences that can destroy the both of them.  But neither one of them can deny the feelings and the connection that they have.  As much as they try to stay away from each other they both realize that they don’t want to.  But when that line starts to blur, what happens when their world comes crashing down, leaving broken hearts behind?

As you can see from the blurb it is six years before they see each other again.  And when they do you feel the anger and the bitterness between them but you also feel the love and passion still burning.  I don’t think it ever went away.  The love they had for each other six years ago is still there but there is so much that these two have to work through to get to that happy place.  It is a struggle and not everything is perfect between them but Axel is determined to prove that everything that they felt when they were younger was real and it is just as strong today.

This is the reason why I loved this book so much.  I completely fell in love with these characters.  I know she was only 17 and he was 24 but I honestly never looked at it that way.  Never once did I think it was wrong because it just felt so right between the two of them.  I loved the passion they had, the friendship they built and the love that they had for each other.  They needed each other.  The love that they had for each other just felt so real, it never felt like teenage infatuation.  I hated what Bree went through at home, but I loved that she had Axel to comfort her and to confide in.  

I know some may say she is just a teenager and he is 7 years older than her and her teacher.  But he gave her something that no one else in her life ever did.  He loved her and wanted to care for her and protect her.  It never mattered that there was an age difference.  If she was 21 and he was 7 years older no one would have questioned it.  But Bree was not your typical 17 year old.  She was mature and wise beyond her years.  She had been through so much more than most people my age have been through.  What they had just worked.  

This book is told in the past from Bree’s point of view and then goes to the present in Axel’s point of view, which I loved.  I am one who loves more dialogue between the characters than inner monologue.  This book had both and at times yes there was more of inner thoughts from the characters but Leddy harper gave us their inner thoughts in a way where you are completely captivated by their words.  She had me from the very beginning until the very last word.  I did not want to put this book down.  Yes life got in the way and at times I was forced to put the book aside but all I wanted to do was ignore everyone and everything so that I could go back to Axel and Bree's world.  That is how much I loved and enjoyed this story.  It was beautiful, emotional, real and just simply amazing.  I cannot wait for Sarah’s book. 

The blood in my veins turned ice-cold as Bree recounted the harsh, volatile abuse she’d endured by the hands of her mother. It was hard to hear, especially as I stood behind her, cleaning and bandaging her wounds. I wanted to kill her mom, bury her so she’d never be able to do this again. But I couldn’t. I had to be smart about it. Go after her like no one had been able to before. And with the evidence in front of my face, beneath my fingertips, I knew there was no way she’d get out of it this time.
“You can’t stay there, Bree.”
She sniffled and said, “I don’t have a choice.”
I hated that she felt that way. That her mother had warped her mind so much that she honestly believed she didn’t have a choice. I slowly spun her around with my hands on her hips, not wanting to inflict any more pain on her than had already been done. I took in her red-rimmed eyes, the way the yellow at the center of her green orbs shone bright like the sun. Looking at her right then, I could see the fighter, the wolf, the survivor inside. And I refused to allow that light to dim by the callousness and hatred of her mother.
“Give me this week. Give me time to figure this out. I don’t care if you have to move four hours away to your dad’s house, but I won’t let you stay there any longer. I can’t wait around for a year with the fear I have inside me right now.” The truth was, I didn’t want her to move hours away, but I couldn’t be selfish. I knew in the long run, we’d never be apart, no matter how many miles separated us. So I had to push aside my own greedy desires and do what was best for Bree.
With her hands still holding her shirt over her breasts, she dropped her forehead to my chest. I didn’t want her to hide from me, so I lifted her by her hips, and set her down gently on the kitchen countertop. I needed to see her eyes, to see her face as we talked. I couldn’t stand to watch her hide—from me or anyone else.
I moved to stand between her parted legs and held her face in my hand, forcing her eyes to meet mine. “I will get you out of there, Bree. If it’s the last thing I do, I will keep you safe. Nothing will ever happen to you again.”
Her voice hitched as she said, “I love you.” But I felt it clear down to my toes. I knew that what she felt for me was real, because I felt the same thing. No matter how hard I’d tried to deny it or push it away, it was in me. Bone deep. Complete and utter love. Devastating love.
At that moment, I couldn’t say anything. My lips went to hers like they were water and I’d been trapped in the desert for my entire life. My fingers dug into her hips like I’d plummet to my death if I let go. I needed her, probably more than she needed me in that moment, and I couldn’t stop myself. I kissed her as my body responded to her lips. Blood ran south and her effect on me began to show behind the zipper of my pants.
Before I could allow anything to go further, I pulled away. We weren’t ready for that…and even if we had been, it wasn’t the time nor place. I needed her to know how I felt with words instead of my body, so I said, “I protect the ones I love most. You, Bree, are the one I love most.”
Her fingers twisted in my shirt, and she used her hold on me to pull me closer. Her legs wrapped around my waist just as her lips melded with mine. I briefly thought to pull away before she felt my erection, but before I could, her hips rolled against me on the counter and a desperate moan slipped past her lips into my mouth. I used my grip on her hips to pull her even closer, pushing my hard-on against her. I wanted to be strong for her, to be the stand-up guy that put an end to things, because no matter how right it felt…it was wrong. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop myself from showing her what she did to me, from showing her how affected I was by her.
But then she gasped and arched her back. It wasn’t the pleasurable kind of arch or gasp, but the kind caused by pain. I immediately broke our connection and took a step back. The muscle between my brows burned with strain as I studied her, worry burning deep inside over her level of discomfort.
“I’m fine, Axel. Don’t stop.”
I shook my head, finally waking from my lust-filled stupor. “No. We shouldn’t be doing this. You’re hurt.”
Tears leaked from the inner corners of her eyes and trailed to her quivering chin. She dropped her head before a shuddering hiccup broke free and shook her shoulders with each silent cry. I couldn’t stand there and watch her break down in front of me, so I went to her, moving between her legs once more and cradled her face in my hands. I didn’t say anything as I pressed a kiss to the top of her head, and waited for her to say something.
“I need you, Axel. I need you more than I’ve ever needed anyone in my entire life. I need you now more than I’ve ever needed anything.”
I shushed her and lowered my lips to her ear. “I’m here, baby. I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere. You have me.”
She lifted her head and locked her bright gaze with mine. “No. Like…I need you. In that way. Just me and you. I need you to love me.”
I shook my head, unable to give her what she’d asked for. “I do love you.”
“Make love to me…”
“You’re in pain. I won’t do that to you.”
She sniffled and dropped her arms, letting her shirt fall away from her bare chest. I desperately fought with myself to keep my focus on her eyes and to not let my gaze fall below her neck. But then she took my hand and moved it to her chest, placing my palm over her breast. Her heat burned my skin until I couldn’t hold back. I squeezed my hand around the pliable flesh and then ran the pad of my thumb over her hardening nipple. Yet my eyes remained on hers.
“What my mom did to me will always be with me. I’ll forever carry it around on my back, in scars, in my memory. But you can do something to make this easier for me. I don’t want to look back on this day, or this time and remember her hatred. I don’t want this to haunt me. You can change that. You can give me something else to remember. Something happy and loving to look back on when I see my scars. Please, Axel…do this for me.”
“This is wrong.”
Her small fingers trembled as they trailed down the front of my shirt to the button on my pants. I stilled and waited to see what she’d do. I knew her intentions, but I didn’t know if she had what it’d take to follow through. But then she surprised me when my button was freed, and then the zipper lowered. My breath stilled in my chest as she stared carefully into my eyes, and softly grazed my hard shaft through the thin material of my boxers.
I grabbed her wrist, but didn’t move away. “You don’t have to do this, Bree. We could just sit and talk. I can show you my love in other ways. I can give you many things to remember about this time other than that.”
“It’s my virginity. I haven’t had much choice in anything I do in my life…let me make this decision. Let me decide when and where I want to give this to you.”
“It’s not going to be pleasant for you.”
“It’ll be with you…that’s all I need.”
I wanted to keep arguing with her and convince her it was a bad idea, but then I realized that if I truly wanted to stop it, I could’ve. Arguing about it only proved that I did want it, but was too scared to follow through. Then she said something else that made me lose my restraint.
“If I bleed, I want it to be because of you…because of something we’re sharing together. Not because of her hatred. If I scream, I want it to be your name on my lips…not screams of pain and begging words falling on the ears of a hateful woman. If I cry, I want it to be because I’ve chosen to give you something, not because she chose to take something away from me.” She wrapped her legs around my waist again, pulling me impossibly closer to her heat. “I want to feel your love everywhere, not the pain inflicted by the person who’s supposed to love me.”
I picked her up, holding her bottom as she wrapped herself around me. I wanted to take her to my bed, but I knew if I’d laid her out on her back, it’d only cause her more discomfort. So I took the few steps around the kitchen to the living room. I set her down on her feet, and we made quick work of removing our clothes. I’d thought about her many times at night, imagining the day I’d be able to strip her bare. But that didn’t happen. Instead of lovingly removing her jeans, I kicked off my shoes and watched her do it. Instead of tearing off her underwear with my teeth—like I’d pictured doing so many times while stroking myself in the shower—I stepped out of my pants and boxers and watched her hook her thumbs in the waistband and letting them fall to the ground.
It wasn’t sexy.
It wasn’t hot.
It was desperate like we were teenagers about to have sex for the first time.
As she stood stark naked in front of me, I reached to the floor and grabbed my wallet to pull out a condom. Bree’s hands shook as I held them and gently pulled her a few steps to me. I fell to the couch cushion, and helped her settle over my lap. By the time we were both situated, her entire body convulsed with nerves and probably fear.
“We don’t have to do this, Bree,” I warned again.
She nodded, her eyes locked with mine. “I know we don’t have to. I want to, Axel.”
“I’ve never done this before.” As soon as the words were out, her eyes grew large and her breathing slowed. I let out a short laugh and buried my face in her neck. “No…I mean I’ve never been with a virgin before. I don’t know how much pain you’ll be in.”
“Stop,” she said and pulled my face away. “I won’t be in any pain. What happened the other night with my mom…that was pain. This isn’t the same thing. Anything that happens between us right now is not pain.”
She took the foil packet from my hand and fumbled with it as she attempted to get it open. But her fingers were far too shaky to do it, so I took it back and pressed a kiss to her soft lips. She watched silently as I opened the condom and then rolled it over my erection.
“I need you to listen to me, Bree. All control is in your hands. You go as slow as you need. Stop if you need to. Move however feels right to you.”
“I don’t know what I’m doing, Axel.”
“Your body will. Trust me. I can help guide you if you need me to, but this has to be you. I won’t push. You have to be the one directing us, okay?” And then my voice turned into a whisper as I said, “I don’t want to hurt you.”
Everything after that felt like a dream. Her body quivered over mine as she slowly lowered herself on me. Her face scrunched briefly before she hid it in the crook of my neck, her hot breaths fanning over my shoulder. Her fingernails dug into my arms as I held my breath, never knowing sex could feel like this. Once I was fully inside her, she began to loosen up and started to move. It was jerky at first, rigid, but once I gripped her hips and helped lead her, she became fluid in her movements. Her fingers found my hair and she fisted it, pulling hard until I feared I’d come too soon. My mouth fell to her shoulder, and I couldn’t stop myself from gently biting down. Moans, pants, and airy gasps mingled between us as she moved on top of me, bringing me to the edge of my orgasm faster than any other time since I’d lost my own virginity.
I knew she more than likely wouldn’t get off, but that didn’t stop me from trying. I pressed the pad of my thumb against her hardened clit and began to circle it, hoping it would offer her some pleasure.
“I love you, Axel. I love you so much,” she said in a tight voice as I felt her insides clench around my dick. She pressed her forehead to mine and panted heavily against my face as I whispered, “I love you” repeatedly. I needed her to know that, and to hear it as she found her release.
She didn’t scream out in ecstasy or moan as she let go. Instead, she grew even more rigid, tightening around me like a vice, and shuddered as tiny goose bumps broke out on her clammy skin. I couldn’t hold back any longer and fisted the back of her hair, pulling her face away so I could look into her eyes as I found my own release. Her hands moved to my shoulders and then farther to my back. Just as my climax began to take hold of me, she dug her fingernails into my skin, and it pushed me over the edge.
“I love you,” she panted against my lips.

“I love you so much.”

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