If You Stay (Beautifully Broken #1)
By Courtney Cole
Release Date: April 8, 2014Twenty-four-year-old Pax Tate is an asshole. Seriously. He's a tattooed, rock-hard bad boy with a tough attitude to match. His mother died when Pax was seven, leaving a hole in his heart filled with an intense guilt that he doesn't understand. What he does know is that he and his dad were left alone, and they have never been close. Now, he uses drugs and women to cope with the black void in his soul. He pretends that the emptiness isn't there and this has always worked . . . until he meets Mila.
Sweet, beautiful Mila Hill is the fresh air that Pax has never known in his life. He doesn't know how to not hurt her-but he quickly realizes that he'd better figure it out because he needs her to breathe. When the memories of his mother's death resurface to haunt Pax, Mila is there to save him from his overwhelming guilt. Mila restores his broken heart, even as she evokes his powerful, sexual desires. Now for Pax to keep Mila, he needs to work on his issues-and stop being an asshole. But is that enough to make her stay?
I toss the note in the trashcan, but it bounces off the rim and lands on the floor. Shit.
I consider the notion of trying to get up and get it, but decide against it. I’m too sore and it’s just not that important. Housekeeping can pick it up later.
However, before I can think any more on it, the tip of a shoe appears next to it. My gaze flickers upward and finds a girl standing there. She’s staring at me with clear, green eyes and she’s holding a vase of flowers.
And she’s fucking beautiful.
My gut immediately tightens in response. Holy shit.
She’s small, with long dark hair draped over one shoulder and clear green eyes framed in thick black lashes. Her skin is bright and glowing. And why am I noticing her skin when she’s got such a great rack? I fight to keep my eyes away from her full, perky tits and focused on her face.
She smiles a wide, white smile. A gorgeous kind of smile.
“Hi,” she says softly. “I didn’t know you’d be awake.”
There is gentle familiarity in her voice, as if she knows me.
I’m confused. How fucked up had I been? Do I know this girl? My instincts say no. She’s not the kind of girl I tend to hang around. I usually keep the needy ones around, the ones who are willing to do whatever I want, just because I can give them what they need.
This girl is not one of them. That much is blatantly apparent. She reeks of sunshine and wholesomeness. It’s foreign to me. And fascinating.
I cock my head.
“I’m sorry. Do I know you?”
The beautiful girl blushes now, a faint pink tint along the delicate curve of her cheek. I immediately have the urge to run my fingers along the color, although I don’t know why.
“No,” she answers and she seems embarrassed. “I know that this is probably weird. But I’m the one who found you on the beach. I came the other day to make sure that you were okay. And then I wanted to bring you some flowers because your room seemed a little bare. I’m an artist, so I love color. And now I seem like a stalker, don’t I?”
She’s rambling. And it’s cute as hell. I smile. And as I do, I feel like the Big Bad Wolf and she’s little Red Riding Hood. My, what big teeth I have.
I smile wider, especially when I realize that she’s even wearing a dark red shirt. And it’s stretched tightly across her perfect rack.
“It’s okay,” I assure her. “I like stalkers.”
Her head snaps up and her eyes meet mine, her gaze startled. I have to laugh again. Something about her seems so innocent. She’d truly be startled if she could hear my thoughts about her smoking hot body.
“Thank you for the flowers,” I tell her, chuckling. “They’re nice. You’re right. The room can definitely use some color. You can set them over there if you’d like.”
I motion toward my empty dresser. She moves in that direction, stopping to pick up the crumpled note from my father.
“Is this trash?” she asks innocently. I nod and she drops it in the wastebasket.
“Thanks,” I tell her. “That’s just where it belongs.”
She looks puzzled, but she doesn’t question my words. Instead, she places the flowers on the dresser, then sits in the chair next to me. And stares at me.
I stare back.
“What?” I ask her. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
She smiles. “I’m just happy to see your eyes open. I know this is going to sound stupid, but you were in a bad way on Goose Beach. And I haven’t been able to get those images out of my head. So it’s nice to see you wide awake and perfectly fine. I’ll have something to replace those bad images with now.”
Well, the idea that I’m perfectly fine is debatable. But I’m a little puzzled. She seems genuinely concerned, truly troubled. And she doesn’t even know me, so why should she care?
So I ask her that.
And she’s the one who’s puzzled now.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” she asks, and then she pulls on her full lip with her teeth. My gut clenches again as I catch a glimpse of her pink tongue. “Anyone would be concerned. And it was the first time that I’d ever tried CPR. I don’t even know if I did it right. And it was the first time I’d ever seen someone overdose. I wasn’t sure exactly what was wrong when I first found you. But you didn’t seem like you were just drunk. I’m glad I called the ambulance.”
I stare at her now.
“You called the ambulance?” Interesting. I wonder what the hell happened to Jill? She probably left me to die, the fucking whore. You get what you pay for, I guess. A few snorts of coke apparently don’t buy much.
Beautiful Girl nods. “Yes, I did. The girl who you were with wasn’t too happy about that. But I thought you needed it. And it turns out that you did.”
Ah, so Jill was there.
“There was a girl with me?” I raise an eyebrow, probing to find out what happened with Jill.
Beautiful Girl shakes her head. “Not at first. She came while I was trying to decide what to do. She was mad at you for something-until she saw the condition you were in. And then she got hysterical. She left when the paramedics arrived.”
That sounds about right.
“Well, thank you for calling help,” I tell her slowly, eyeing her, taking her all in. “I’m Pax, by the way.”
She smiles. “I know. Stalker, remember?”
I smile back. “Well, you have me at a disadvantage. Because I don’t know you.”
And that’s a damn shame.
She holds out her hand and I take it. Hers is small and soft, almost fragile.
“My name is Mila Hill. It’s very nice to meet you.”
And it is.
I know I should tell her to run far, far from me, but of course I don’t. She’s like a ray of sunshine in this bleak hospital room and I soak her up. She’s got good, healthy energy and I like the way it feels to talk with her.
She’s like a breath of fresh air.
I may be the Big Bad Wolf, but even wolves need to breathe.
About the AuthorCourtney Cole is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who lives near Lake Michigan with her family. She's always working on her next project... or staring dreamily out her office window. To learn more about her, please visit http://www.courtneycoleauthor.com/
Grand Prize: NA Prizepack feat. IF YOU STAY by Courtney Cole, FAÇADE by Nyrae Dawn, THE SECRET OF ELLA AND MICHA by Jessica Sorensen, and BEST KIND OF BROKEN by Chelsea Fine, plus 10 winners will get a copy of IF YOU STAY. Runs through April 15, open to US/Canada only.