Awakening just went live on NetGalley.
If you are not a reviewer, but would still like an ARC please email me at Sydney@SydneyHolmes.com
ONCE YOU STEP OVER THE EDGE THERE'S NO TURNING BACK
Ever feel like everyone else has figured out this thing called life but you’re just watching it fly by, not really living?
Nora Young still believes she has time to figure it all out. She can still go to law school and take on the Supreme Court, make love in the sun, or even share her dreams with her boyfriend. Maybe that explains her morose mood when she realizes she’s moving up the corporate ladder at work as an Event Specialist—not a party planner thank you very much! It might also explain the horror when her emotionally distant boyfriend tosses out the words “marriage” and “kids” as if they’re the inevitable next steps in their benumbed, stifling relationship.
Nora realizes she needs to take control and create a life filled with passion, purpose and adventure.
Ryan Cole walks into her office and seems to offer everything Nora is looking for: passion, adventure—exhibitionism? But just when Nora starts to open up to Ryan and his crazy adventures, his ex girlfriend warns her that Ryan’s real tastes are dangerously extreme. Intrigued, Nora pushes Ryan to reveal his secrets but will Nora be able to handle it when he comes clean? Does setting boundaries with Ryan mean saying goodbye to the most passionate, sexy man she’s ever met?
Jack London’s is crowded and we all squeeze into a table near the back. We’re far from the bar, but close to the bathroom, so I guess it works out.
Carrie, Joanne, Willow, and I are here with Sophia to celebrate her 24th birthday. We all met at Stanford; Joanne, Sophia, and I were starry-eyed freshmen and Carrie and Willow were sophomore roommates giving us the lowdown on college life. Even back then, Sophia was a cute, whip smart, blonde with an athletic body. Not much has changed over the years.
"Okay, girlfriend. What's next? Wine, more champagne, mixed drinks? What's your pleasure, birthday girl?" Carrie stands to make her way back to the bar. Even for Carrie, tall, dark haired babe that she is, it will take a while to get more drinks.
"Um—How about some food? I gotta drive home soon. I need to sober up a bit." Sophia yells her response across the table.
"Whatever! Fine. I'll order some appetizers, too." Carrie marches off into the depths of the bar in search of sobering appetizers and more booze.
Of all of us, Carrie is the most successful and the most confident. She knew going into college that she was destined to be a rich corporate lawyer working her 80 hours a week, partying like a madwoman on weekends, as well as the occasional weeknight.
Willow slides in next to Sophia, taking Carrie's seat. Bags and wrapping paper litter the table and floor. I move the presents over to a corner.
"How's life? How goes the job?" Willow almost has to scream in Sophia's ear. Maybe this wasn't the best place to celebrate.
"Oh, my God. David is a nightmare! You can't even believe it." Sophia's delicate features look exaggerated as she speaks of the horror of her job.
"Yep. I so could have called that one." Willow downs the rest of her drink. She has long flowing hair to her waist and, as her name suggests, she was raised a flower child in Northern California. She had hopes of becoming a lawyer to help the poor and advocate for change, however, she soon learned that often the poor can't pay retainers and the banks holding her student loans didn't care, she still had to make her payments. Begrudgingly, she now works at the same firm that Carrie does as a junior associate. She hates it, but she is paying off her loans and saving money. Looks like her new coping strategy is drinking. Heavily.
"Okay, you two. We’re not going to get into a 'who has the worst job’ competition." I reach over to slide my drink back away from Willow's sticky hands.
"So, Nora. Checked out any law schools lately?" Joanne smirks at me across the table. I narrow my eyes at her.
"No, but thanks for asking. How's the novel?" She bursts out laughing. Back in college, Joanne and I used to stay up late talking about our hopes and dreams. She wanted to write the next great American novel, and I wanted to take on the Supreme Court, changing laws for the betterment of womankind.
Joanne now works as a staff writer for a fashion magazine and I work in corporate events. We often joke that we jinxed ourselves with those late night talks. Yeesh, what a lot of hot air we wasted.
"How's it going, Nora? Is Darren still as kooky as ever?" she asks.
"Yeah. Darren is still Darren." I sigh, reaching for my drink.
"When are you going to wake up and realize that guy doesn't hold a candle to you? He’s a freak, and you need to move on." Wow, Joanne is diving straight in tonight. We’ve had this conversation before and I really don't want to have it again. They just don’t understand what it’s like with him. What I’m like with him.
"Actually, he seems to be perking up. He almost got wild with me last weekend." I smirk at her.
Joanne's eyes shoot up in surprise. Before she can ask me anything else, Carrie is back with a pitcher of margaritas and some chips.
"There's your damn food. Now drink up!" She sits down and takes a large swig of her drink. "Okay. What are we talking about?"
"Nora just told me that Darren had wild sex with her last weekend," Joanne yells. Everyone within earshot turns to look at us.
My jaw drops open for a second before I snap it shut self-consciously "Nice."
"Oh, really?" Sophia chimes in. "And when were you going tell me?”
Sophia and I work together and she knows way too much about my failings with Darren.
"No!" I say truly exasperated. "I did not have wild sex with Darren. I said I almost had wild sex. You know how he is.” My face is red and my hands are shaky. “I’m slowly pulling out his wild child. Very slowly.” I say when I have recovered enough.
"Wait a minute." Willow tunes in, drunkenly. "You had wild sex with wild child? Who?"
We all start laughing hysterically. Thank God for Willow.
“Excuse us.” A male voice interrupts our hysterics. We all pull it together and look up at the voice. A group of young, buff men stand near our table waiting for our attention. Three of the men look like they came from the office wearing slacks with collared shirts, but one has on tight jeans and a tight long sleeve shirt. He is sporting a day old beard that works well on him. My eyes linger on his pants.
“You’re excused!” Joanne says smartly, and then bursts into more laughter.
“We noticed that the birthday girl hasn’t had her birthday dance yet,” Mr. Nice Package says.
“Oh! Is that like a tradition?” Willow looks up at the men.
There are four of them, together they look as if they are posing for a Hot Guys calendar photo.
“Yeah!” Green shirt guy steps up from the back of the group. He sweeps his thick black hair back and flashes a sexy smile. “It’s a tradition. The birthday girl gets to have first choice, then the rest of you get the leftovers.”
“The leftovers? Ha! You guys are more like first course.” Carrie starts to stand up.
“Wait a minute!” Willow drags her back down. “It’s Sophia’s Birthday. She gets first pick.”
Sophia’s eyes are huge and she looks mortified when she glances at me. I smile and nod at her, encouraging. She hesitates and eyes all the men standing in front of her.
“Come on. It’s just a dance.” Mr. Nice Package says, looking as innocent as he can, offering her his hand.
Shaking her head and laughing, she stands up grabbing a clean cut man from the back and leading him to the dance floor. He’s dressed in black slacks and a white shirt with his sleeves rolled up. Not a bad choice at all. The rest of the guys all hoot and howl as they pass.
All at once the remaining men turn expectantly towards us. I watch in awe as Carrie gets up and pulls Green Shirt guy to the dance floor. That leaves Mr. Nice Package and a dark haired man with a cocky grin playing along his mouth. Joanne and Willow turn toward me.
“I’ll sit this one out. Go for it!” I shout to them, sitting back happy to watch my crazy friends.
Joanne and Willow slide out of the booth and pair up. I watch as they make their way through the crowd. What a night. Sipping my drink, I realize that I’m once again watching events unfold in front of me and not fully participating.
“Are you okay?” A deep, smooth voice asks behind me.
Turning, I see that a man with dark hair just long enough to create that messy-sexy look has slid into the booth next to me. A surge of adrenaline rushes into my body leaving me breathless. Oh, he’s gorgeous with a strong jaw and the most amazing eyes I have ever seen. Even in the dark light of the bar, they are glowing chestnut brown. I take him in and can’t stop myself from smiling.
“What? Yeah. We just ran out of men!” I say, laughing.
“And I am?” he says.
“Are you with them?”
“No. But I see that you’re sitting here alone. A beautiful woman should never sit alone while her friends are having all the fun.”
I pause and look at him. He doesn’t look like a creep, but still my eyes narrow as I look him up and down. He sits, watching me scrutinize him.
Finally he smiles and stands up. “Do I pass?” He asks, lifting my hand from the table and pulling me out of the booth.
Swept up in the moment, I abandon caution and join him. He guides me to the dance floor as his hand slips onto my back, just at the base of my spine, his thumb rubbing back and forth across my back. A chill starts low and climbs up my body.
When we get to the dance floor, I expect him to let me go so we can start dancing, only he doesn’t. He spins me into his arms and holds me against his body. I almost gasp when his hard chest presses into mine. His arm wraps tightly around my waist while he holds our joined hands high. For a second it feels like we are going to Tango, but thankfully we don’t. He pulls my pelvis into his and grinds his hips erotically into mine.
A jolt of electricity hits me so hard I would have stumbled if he hadn’t been holding me so tightly. The music is fast and loud and everyone around us is spinning and rocking out, but not us. Slowly, he moves our hips together as if he is listening to his own music. I look around self-consciously. Feeling his breath on my neck, he whispers something into my ear, but I have no idea what he said. He drops my hand and moves my hair behind my ear, caressing my neck. Shivers run through me. This man is all sex, and he knows it. Loosening his grip from my waist, both of his hands land on my hips, holding me in place while he rubs his pelvis into mine. Heat races across my skin followed by shivers.
Good God, I am so turned on right now. The alcohol is not helping me hold it together. I feel his hard cock dig into my pelvis, right where I want it. I need to get the hell out of here. This man is too good at this.
“Shit. I’m sorry.” He says after I pull away from him.
“It’s okay.” I say shaking my head. I look around, stunned at myself. I can see my friends all dancing with these strange men. None of them seem to have even noticed that I’m on the dance floor. The alcohol seems to be at full power, coursing through my blood. Glancing back over my shoulder at my dance partner, I see that he is watching me, his pelvis back to undulating against mine.
He pulls me close again and slides down my body, his hands trailing a sinfully hot trail along the sides of my breasts to my hips. Looking down, I see his head is just at my hip line. His big brown eyes stare into mine while he dances back up, his hands running along my stomach and again across my breasts. Never lingering long, just gliding across my heated skin.
“Jesus,” he breathes in my ear, “Where have you been all my life?”
As if the cord has been yanked from the wall socket, my brain shuts off. Letting the music guide my hips we move in unison, hip-to-hip, hands trailing over each other. Hot muscle moves under my hands as he dances. Becoming bolder, my hands grip his hips, forcing them into mine. He leans back laughing, encouraging me. In my wild abandon, I fling my hands over my head, shaking my head side to side, all while continuing to grind my hips into this sexy stranger.
How or why he chose me, I’ll never know. But he did choose me. He thinks I’m sexy. His arousal makes me actually believe him. I know this is crazy, but sometimes getting a little crazy is good for the soul.
When the beat changes with the next song, I turn around and rub my ass into his crotch, pumping my hips back and forth, side to side. He stays with me, never letting our bodies lose contact. Leaning back against his hard chest, his hands slide down my sides, fingertips racing across my thin shirt. My skirt inches higher as I sink lower, dancing down his hard body.
I feel his hands on my skin under my shirt. The direct skin-to-skin contact boils my blood instantly. My head falls back onto his shoulder, giving him full access to my stomach and chest. I feel him bumping into me, keeping the beat for us. There is nothing but the music and his touch. We are one, moving together, creating a sexual frenzy around us. Closing my eyes, my hands thread through his hair, my head leans on his shoulder, while his hands grab my hips, squeezing and tilting my ass into him.
All too soon the music stops and the beat changes again. But the pause has popped our bubble. I look around and see that all of my friends are back at the table, watching us. Turning back around, I face my smiling dance partner.
“You’re amazing. So sexy,” he says, making me blush.
“Um.” I stutter in his ear. “Thank you for the dance.”
He walks me back to my table, his hand possessively on my lower back again. Carrie, Joanne, and Sophia are all staring at me with their mouths hanging open. Willow’s eyes are closed, and she is swaying in her seat.
“Ladies,” he says to the table then turns and disappears into the crowd.
I sit, grabbing the nearest drink, downing it like a shot.
“Holy fucking shit,” Joanne says.
Willow’s eyes snap open. “Oh! You’re back. Thought maybe you found a new home for the night!”
“Wow!” I manage to say. “I have never. Never.” The words evaporate before I can form a complete thought. Never in my life have I ever felt anything like that. I’ve had guys tell me I’m attractive, but I have never felt it like that. For the first time in my life I felt sexy, really sexy.
“You were amazing out there. When did you learn to dance like that?” Carrie asks, still in awe.
“I didn’t.” I say back to her, just as awed as she is.
“Well, it looks like Darren had better step up his game!” Sophia says.
Everyone erupts into laughter.
“Speaking of Darren. Did someone here say you guys finally had wild sex? ” Willow asks again after we recover.
"Sadly no, I was saying that Darren and I ALMOST had wild sex last weekend," I correct her, still breathless.
"I kinda thought you guys broke up because he wouldn't marry you, or move in with you or something like that." Willow trails off, thoughts muddled in her intoxicated state.
"Condoms!" Carrie shouts to the table.
"What?” Nora says.
"You need to carry condoms with you all the time. That way when you and Limp Dick have the opportunity to do the nasty you can. They’re so much less hassle than dealing with, ya know. On the fly.” Carry explains.
“Really? You think buying condoms are the answer to my sex life’s problems.” Nora snorts at her.
“No. What you really need is that guy’s phone number.” Willow drunkenly tells the table.
“Holy shit, that was really fucking hot out there!” Joanne says again.
“Yes, that was really fucking hot!" I say reaching for my drink again.
Everyone at the table erupts. It’s obvious we’ve all had a lot to drink tonight! Still stunned from my dance, I sit back and take a deep breath. Joanne is right. I have never been that turned on by anyone on a dance floor. If that’s what he’s like dancing, imagine what that man is like in the bedroom! A wave of heat crashes over my body thinking about it.
“Okay, my friends. This has been a fantastic birthday. But I really need to leave.” Sophia starts to gather her gifts.
We all pile out of the booth, picking up presents, bags, purses, and coats. As we make our way toward the door, I glance around the room. My sexy stranger is nowhere to be seen. He’s starting to feel like an illusion. Did that really happen? Or was that some alcohol induced fantasy?
Sophia hugs everyone and we all say goodbye. We finally start to head in different directions and Joanne takes Willow by the hand and leads her to the car. Willow slurs something to Joanne and hands over her keys. Good call on that one.
I turn to Sophia. “Happy Birthday, you!”
“Oh, my God! That was crazy. Those guys made the whole party! And that one guy you danced with. Holy cow!” She gushes as she fans herself.
“I know, right! So that actually happened. I didn’t just make that up?” I ask, only somewhat in jest.
“I saw you! Nora Young, you were hot! Hot like, I’d take you home and do you hot!” She is laughing at her own jokes.
Shaking my head at her, I give her one last hug.
“You need to go home and go to bed, girl! See you on Monday!”
I watch her walk to her car before I turn and head off to find mine. I can’t stop thinking about that dance. We were hot together out there. That kind of passion is something I thought only existed in movies or books. But I felt it, boy did I feel it. It was so sudden, and then he just left. I loved that it was so flammable and then he was just gone. No expectation for more, no requests for anything other than just one hot dance. My creep radar wasn’t screaming like it usually does in those situations. Something about the sexy undertone of his voice maybe. Or most likely that third drink!
That man had passion like I have never seen before. That’s what’s missing from my entire life. I want that; need that! Carrie’s right, I need to be more aggressive with Darren. I’m starting this weekend, I’ve got some shopping to do and then I’m going to knock Darren’s socks off!
The parking lot is full when I get back to my apartment, so I park around the corner. That is one of the biggest problems here, no assigned spots. I make my way up the stairs and as soon as I’m through the door I start stripping off clothes. Collapsing in bed semi-naked, without brushing my teeth, I think about what my life would be like if I lived with that kind of passion.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book a while back that introduced us all to the concept of 10,000 hours. He said that to get really good at something or become an expert in your field you need to do it for 10,000 hours. The book became pretty well known and 10,000 hours is now thrown around like some kind of magic number.
Just the other day a friend of mine quoted it back to me - only she had a new twist. Lamenting that she hadn’t made it big yet, she said that she just needed her 10,000 hours of writing time in and then she would become a best seller. Wait what?
Look, I love Malcolm Gladwell! I’ve read all of his books, but I can tell you that I have been doing several things for well over 10,000 hours that I’m still really bad at. I’ve been a parent for over 10,000 hours and there are days that I suck at it. Just ask my kids, they’ll tell you loud and clear with a written list of all the things I’ve done wrong over the years. Cleaning the house, do I even need to say it? I’ve also been breathing for over 10,000 hours but that hasn’t stopped my yoga teacher from telling me I need to work on that too.
Oh! And I’ve been cooking for over 10,000 hours. Now let’s talk about my culinary skills for a second. A second is all it will take - they are non-existent. I’m talking bad bad bad. The first meal I made my husband broke out in flames under the broiler – who knew those coils would get so hot so quickly! And things have only gone downhill from there. My kids would rather cook themselves than eat my food, because as they have said repeatedly, “Mom, I just don’t like the taste of charcoal.”
I think what Malcolm was saying is that if SOME people do the RIGHT thing long enough, they will get better at it and if they get better at it, one day they might be an expert in their field. But these days there are some people out there running around thinking that something magical is going to happen at their 9,999th hour. Like what - a party, a plaque, an award?
I have been parenting for approximately 118,272 hours. A lot of that time I even had two of the darn things. My god! I should be a parenting God. No, a parenting Guru. Ha! I can’t even get my boys to flush the toilet regularly! (Is that a boy thing?)
I know Malcolm is a great writer and crafted a great argument, but I do think there are inherent flaws to it’s application in everyday life because just looking at the clock I have blown past 10,000 hours on several important life skills and well, no luck so far.