Surrender to Me: Chapter 1 (Excerpt Reveal)
Southern California was supposed to be the promised land for my artistic career, a chance for me to find a mentor, maybe even an internship, but the only call back I had was for a part-time job as a gift store cashier at the Orange County Museum of Art. My stint as a waitress at Chez Tonton would’ve given me more prestige than selling keychains that read OCMA! But the free entry to the museum was a perk I was willing to indulge in, and more than anything else, I needed something to distract me, because if I sat still for even one minute, my mind drifted to Owen—the way he gripped my hair and held my lower back before he kissed me, his broad chest feathered in soft hair, the scent of his heat lingering over the cedar on his skin, his green eyes that knew everything, even if I was hiding it.
And that is how I ended up at a bar two hours away, because that irritatingly beautiful, stubbornly guarded man had mentioned it in passing. The Devil’s Dream, how cliché. If I had heard any woman say that she was at a bar because her ex-boyfriend (or whatever you want to call him) had mentioned this bar in conversation, then I would have pitied her, knowing how lovesick she truly was. But now? Now I was that woman. I told myself every night that I had moved to Orange County to protect Regina from her own demise, but the truth was that Regina didn’t need me anymore; she had stopped drinking entirely since Grayson died. I ran away from Owen and his ex-fiance, and like an idiot, I still had feelings for him.
“Moping in a bar, huh?” the bartender said. I looked up at him slowly, keeping my face long. His blue eyes peered down at me like a vulture looking at fresh roadkill, and that accurately depicted how my heart felt. Screw it, I thought. This was it—my chance to flirt for free drinks and waste the night away until I felt nothingness. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It wasn’t worth the energy when I knew nothing, absolutely nothing would be able to get those green eyes out of my head.
“Just thinking about how moving down here was a mistake,” I mumbled. The bartender handed me another vodka cran. I stared at it, wondering whether I should down it in one gulp or wash it down the drain.
“You from up North?” he asked.
I rested my head in my palm, leaning my elbow on the bar. “Is it that obvious?”
“Not from any place you would know.”
“Sacramento or closer to San Francisco?” he asked. Ah, a true Southern Californian, I thought, knowing only the two biggest cities in the area.
“Sure,” I said dryly.
“I’ve been to San Francisco a few times,” he said. “Got a friend who lives there. You might know him,” he said.
“It’s a big place,” I said.
He poured two shots of Jack Daniels. “On me,” he said, pushing one towards me. “It looks like you need it.”
I was grateful for the gesture even if I knew I should lay off of the alcohol for a while. I decided I would order delivery and wait if I needed to. I could find a Chinese place that would deliver to a bar. It would be cheaper than paying for a rideshare or a hotel room.
“So what is it? Lost a job? Heartbreak? Best friend betray you? Drugs?” He drummed his fingers on the counter in time with each guess. I wrinkled my nose.
“My alcoholic mother moved down here and I followed her like a sheep,” I said.
“Mhm,” he said. He started polishing a glass. “Your face looks like you almost believe that yourself. Someone broke your heart.” I shook my head, sighing unintentionally as I did so. I was a cliché. Heartbroken in a bar, drinking my woes away, so pathetic that even the bartender was calling me out. I didn’t even want to think about how I was becoming my mother.
“Let’s talk about you,” I said, wanting to change the subject. “What did you do in San Francisco?”
He looked up at the ceiling wistfully, like he could see into the window of his memories. “My friend took me to these parties where crazy shit happened. Like you wouldn’t believe me, straight out of pornos and dirty books. But I’m sworn to secrecy.”
He winked and I practically gagged. Like you’ve seen something crazy, I thought, judging his manufactured, perfect Hollywood smile. Keep walking with your generic blond hair and blue eyes. “Whatever,” I mumbled.
The door creaked open, but I stayed still, disinterested in whoever had walked in that I didn’t even want to glance. But when the bartender said, “Speak of the devil,” my stomach tightened and the hair on the back of my neck pricked up. I watched from the side as the bartender shook hands with a dark-haired man with delicate hair covering his fair arms. The smell of burning pine crept over the smell of the stale beer, sneaking into my nose and making my brain flood with lust. Even in the darkness of the bar, without even looking, I knew it was him. “What’s up, my man?” the bartender said.
“Good to see you, Josh,” that deep voice said. Dark fitted jeans hugged his muscular, thick legs, and a green v-neck shirt showed off his shoulders. Dressed like this, it was hard to remember that he was a multi-millionaire. He was just Owen, wasn’t he? And that made him more alluring. He slid into the seat next to me. I was instantly flushed, but that didn’t mean I would let him waltz into my life and whisk me away. But if he absolutely had to waltz into this bar and sit next to me, then so be it. I wasn’t going to cave. “I’ll handle her tab,” he said.
I put my head in my hands, unable to protest. My stomach was full of nerves that made me feel like I was a car battery being jolted to life. Fine, I thought, Take my tab, Owen. I am too tired to deal with your bullshit.
“This one’s heartbroken,” the bartender said. “Says she moved here for her mom, but look at her! Some guy ripped her heart out.”
Owen straightened up. “Is that right?”
“I said no such thing,” I hissed.
“You didn’t have to,” the bartender said.
I glared at him. “Stop making assumptions about shit you have no idea about.”
“Whoa! Down kitty,” the bartender said.
“Josh,” Owen said sternly. The bartender raised his arms in defense. “Kamikazes, please,” Owen added. The bartender poured vodka into a shaker and Owen turned to me. Before he even spoke, I put up my hand to stop him.
“I don’t want you back,” I said before my heart would word-vomit anything else. Better to rip the bandaid, get it out of my system, make sure we were not on that path. “You mean nothing to me,” I lied.
His silence was eerie. Each second that ticked by made my skin crawl, knowing that he could see through me. I rolled my eyes, trying to stay strong, and faced forward, avoiding his gaze.
“And that’s why your lips parted and your back muscles tensed as soon as I walked into the room,” he murmured. Anger flared in my cheeks. He was mocking me, making me feel like a moldable piece of Play-Doh. Owen leaned in, his lips almost scratching my ear. My skin felt like a magnet, wanting desperately to be against him. “You are one to talk about assumptions, Miss Glass, as if winning you back is the only reason I’m here,” he said, his voice low. My insides felt like they were churning molten lava, waiting for my demise. And yet I hung onto those words: the only reason. He did come to get me back.
But what was the other reason, exactly?
“Mr. Lowell, how presumptuous of me,” I said, my voice soaked in annoyance. My face was on fire with rage and lust, knowing how badly I wanted him and how terribly I wanted to run away screaming that I deserved someone I could trust. “What do you want, Owen?” I barked. Owen stared at me, his lips open slightly. He was trying to find the right words.
“You two know each other?” the bartender asked. We both nodded. I faced forward, intent on ignoring Owen. I could see his body in my periphery, still turned towards me. “I told you you’d know him,” the bartender said. I scoffed.
“This is Riley,” Owen said.
“Holy shit. You mean the Riley Glass? That sculptor you’re always talking about?” The bartender wiped his hands on his pants and held out a hand. “I’m Josh. Owen and I go way back.” I sighed. Of course they did. I sneered but shook his hand anyway. “He’s a good friend. And apparently, you’re an amazing artist,” he said, “And as gorgeous as Owen said you were.” I blushed at the thought that Owen had told his friend about me, not only that I was an artist, but that I was pretty too. I didn’t expect that from him. I turned even redder, annoyed at myself for being flattered by something Owen had said about me. I was supposed to be mad at him. The bartender looked between my irritated, red expression and Owen’s stare, still trying to lock me in his grip. “F-u-ck,” he said, somehow making the word three syllables. “Do you mean to tell me that you were the one who broke her heart?”
“According to Miss Glass, I mean nothing.” Owen continued to glare at me as he said his response. He finally faced the bartender. His elbow nudged mine, and it was like every nerve ending in my body shot right to that touch. He knew exactly what he meant to me, the opposite of nothing, and he knew repeating my words to me would show me what a terrible liar I was. He knew it would get to me.
“What do you want, Owen?” I repeated.
“We need to talk,” he said. “It’s regarding your acceptance at the Foundation.”
Surrender to Me, book two in the Dreams of Glass series coming soon to Kindle!