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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

NOW LIVE!! Walk Through Fire (Chaos #4) by Kristen Ashley


MATURE READERS 18+

Millie Cross knows what it’s like to burn for someone. She was young and wild and he was fierce and even wilder – a Chaos biker who made her heart pound. They fell in love at first sight and life was good, until she learned she couldn’t be the woman he needed and she made it so he had no choice but to walk away. But after spending twenty years apart, a chance run-in sparks a desire she just can’t ignore…

Bad boy Logan “High” Judd has seen his share of troubles with the law. Yet it was one woman who broke him. After ending a loveless marriage, High is shocked when the love of his life walks back into his life. Millie is still gorgeous but she’s just a ghost of her former self. High’s intrigued at the change, but her betrayal cut him deep, and High doesn’t want to get burned again. As High sinks into meting out vengeance for Millie’s betrayal, he’ll break yet again when he realizes just how Millie walked through fire for her man.

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Walk Through Fire
Kristen Ashley
Chapter One
I Never Would
Millie
I should get a salad.
I should have gone to Whole Foods and hit their salad bar (and thus been able to get a cookie
from their bakery, a treat for being so good about getting a salad).
I didn’t go to Whole Foods.
I went to Chipotle.
So, since I was at Chipotle, I should get a bowl, not a burrito.
I had no intention of getting a bowl.
I was going to get a burrito.
Therefore, I was standing in line at Chipotle, trying to decide on pinto or black beans for my
burrito, telling myself I was going to have salad for dinner (this would not happen but I was
telling myself that it would, something I did a lot).
And in the coming weeks, I would wish with all my heart that I’d gone to Whole Foods for
the salad (and the cookie).
It was lunchtime. It was busy. There was noise.
But I heard it.
The deep, manly voice coming from ahead of me.
A voice that had matured. It was coarser, near to abrasive, but I knew that voice.
I’d never forget that voice.
“Yeah, I signed the papers. Sent ’em. Not a problem. That’s done,” the voice said.
I stood in line having trouble breathing, my body wanting to move, lean to the side, look
forward, see the man attached to the voice, needing that, but I couldn’t seem to make my body
do what it was told.
“Not set up yet with a place, don’t matter,” the voice went on. “Got a condo in the mountains
for the weekend. Takin’ the girls up there. So I’ll come get ’em like I said, four o’clock, Friday.
I’ll have ’em at school on Monday. I’ll sort a place soon’s I can.”
I still couldn’t move and now there was an even bigger reason why.
Takin’ the girls up there.
I’ll have ’em at school on Monday.
He had children.
Logan had kids.
Plural.
I felt a prickle in my nose as my breaths went unsteady, my heart hammering, my fingers
tingling in a painful way, like they’d gone to sleep and were just now waking up.
The voice kept going.
“Right. You’d do that, it’d be cool. Tell ’em their dad loves ’em. I’ll call ’em tonight and see
them Friday.” Pause, then, “Okay. Thanks. Later.”
Walk Through Fire Teaser Chapters, ©Kristen Ashley Page 2
Not to be reproduced or distributed without permission.
The line moved and I forced myself to move with it, and just then, Logan turned and became
visible in front of the food counter at Chipotle.
I saw him and my world imploded.
“Burrito. Beef,” he grated out. “Pinto. To go.”
I stared, unmoving.
He looked good.
God, God, he looked so damned good.
I knew it. I knew he’d mature like that. Go from the cute but rough young man with that
edge—that dangerous edge that drew you to him no matter how badly you wanted to pull
away—but you couldn’t stop it, that pull was too strong.
I knew he’d go from that to the man who was standing in front of the tortilla lady at Chipotle
wearing his leather Chaos jacket.
Tall. His dark hair silvered, too long and unkempt. Shoulders broad. Jaw squared. I could see
even in profile the skin of his face was no longer smooth but craggy in a way that every line told
a story that you knew was interesting. Strong nose. High cheekbones. Whiskers (also silvered)
that said he hadn’t shaved in days, or perhaps weeks.
Beautiful.
So beautiful.
And he once was mine.
Then I’d let him go.
No, I’d pushed him away.
I turned and moved swiftly back through the line, not making a sound, not saying a word.
I didn’t want him to hear me.
Out, I needed out.
I got out. Practically ran to my car. Got in and slammed the door.
I sat there, hands hovering over the steering wheel, shaking.
Takin’ the girls up there.
I’ll have ’em at school on Monday.
He had kids.
Plural.
Girls.
That made me happy. Ecstatic. Beside myself with glee.
I signed the papers. Sent ’em.
What did that mean?
So I’ll come get ’em…I’ll sort a place soon’s I can.
Come and get them?
He didn’t have them.
Signed the papers.
Oh God, he was getting a divorce.
No. Maybe he’d just gotten one.
I’ll come and get ’em…
He was a father.
But was he free?
I shook out my hands, taking a deep breath.
Walk Through Fire Teaser Chapters, ©Kristen Ashley Page 3
Not to be reproduced or distributed without permission.
It didn’t matter. It wasn’t my business. Logan Judd was no longer my business. He’d stopped
being my business twenty years ago. My choice. I’d let him go.
And clearly it didn’t happen—where he was heading, where that Club was heading, what I
expected would happen didn’t.
He was in line at Chipotle, not incarcerated.
I didn’t see him top to toe from all sides but from what I saw, he didn’t have any scars. He
had that scratchy voice, so obviously he hadn’t quit smoking when he should have (or not at all).
But he seemed strong, tall, fit.
Maybe he had a beer gut.
But with what he’d been getting into then, what Chaos was into back in the day, I expected
twenty years later Logan would be a lot different and not just having-a-scratchy-voice, having-acraggy-but-still-immensely-attractive-face,
maybe-having-a-beer-gut different.
Worst case, I expected he’d be dead.
Almost as worst case, I expected he’d be in prison.
Still almost as worst case, I expected him to be committing felonies that would eventually
land him either of those two. Not in a Chipotle getting a burrito, talking on the phone with
someone about picking up his kids, taking them to a condo in the mountains and getting them to
school on Monday.
What I’d expected was one thing.
What I saw was what I’d hoped.
I’d hoped he’d find his way to happiness.
It struck me on that thought that he’d said his order was to go.
Oh God, I needed to get out of there. It wouldn’t do for me to escape him inside only for him
to see me outside in my car, freaked out so bad I was shaking.
I pushed the button to start my car, carefully looked in all mirrors and checked my blind spots,
reversed out, and headed home.
I had no food at home except for a bin of wilting baby spinach and some shredded carrots.
This was because I thought grocery shopping was akin to torture. I did it only when absolutely
necessary, which was infrequently considering the number of options available for food in my
neighborhood.
Conversely, I loved to cook.
I just didn’t do it frequently because I hated to shop for food, and anyway, cooking for one
always reminded me I was just that.
One.
Singular.
I had good intentions. Practically daily I thought I’d change in a variety of ways.
Say, go to the grocery store. Be one of those women who concocted delicious meals (even if
they were only for me), doing this sipping wine in my fabulous kitchen while listening to
Beethoven or something. There would be candles burning, of course. And I’d serve my meal on
gorgeous china, treating myself like a princess (since there was no one else to do it).
After, I’d sip some fancy herbal tea, tucked up in my cuddle chair (candles still burning)
reading Dostoyevsky. Or, if I was in the mood, watching something classy on TV, like Downton
Abbey.
Not what I normally did, got fast food or nuked a ready-made meal, my expensive candles
gathering dust because they’d been unlit for months and not bothering even to dirty a plate. I’d
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do this while I sat eating in front of Sister Wives or True Tori or some such, immersing myself in
someone else’s life because they were all a hell of a lot more interesting than mine.
Then I’d go to bed.
Alone.
To wake up the next morning.
Alone.
And spend the day thinking of all the ways I would change.
Like I’d start taking those walks I told myself I would take. Going to those Pilates classes at
that studio just down the street that looked really cool and opened up two years ago (and yet, I
had not stepped foot in it once). Driving up to the mountains and hiking a trail. Hitting the trendy
shops on Broadway or in Highlands Square and spending a day roaming. Using that foot tub I
bought but never took out of the box and giving myself a luxurious pedicure. Calling my friends
to set up a girls’ night out and putting on a little black dress (after I bought one, of course) and
hitting the town to drink martinis or cosmopolitans or mojitos or whatever the cool drink was
now.
Seeing a man looking at me and instead of looking away, smiling at him. Perhaps talking to
him. Definitely speaking back if he spoke to me. Accepting a date if he asked. Going on that
date.
Maybe not going to bed alone.
Every day I thought about it. I even journaled about it (on days when I’d talked myself into
making a change and was together enough to journal).
But I never did it.
None of it.
I thought all this as I drove home, then into my driveway, down the side of my house, parked
in the courtyard at the back, got out and went inside, stopping in my kitchen, realizing from all
these thoughts something frightening in the extreme.
I was stuck in a rut.
Stuck in a rut that began twenty years ago on the front stoop of the row house I shared with
Logan, watching him walk away because I’d sent him away.
Walk through fire.
The words assaulted me and the pain was too intense to bear. I had to move to my marble
countertop, bend to it to rest my elbows on it and hold my head in my hands.
Then it all came and blasted through me in a way it felt my head was going to explode.
You love a man, Millie, you believe in him, you take him as he is. You go on his journey with
him no matter what happens, even if that means you have to walk through fire.
His voice was not coarse back then. No abrasion to it. It was deep. It was manly. But it was
smooth.
Except when he said those words to me. When he said them, they were rough. They were
incredulous. They were infuriated.
They were hurt.
Walk through fire.
The tears came and dammit, dammit, they should have stopped years ago.
They didn’t.
They came and came and came until I was choking on them.
Walk Through Fire Teaser Chapters, ©Kristen Ashley Page 5
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I didn’t make a salad with wilting spinach and the dregs of shredded carrots. I didn’t hit my
desk and get back to work.
I pulled my phone out of my bag, struggled to my couch, collapsed on it, and called my sister.
I couldn’t even speak when she picked up.
But she heard the sobs.
“Millie, what on earth is happening?” she asked, sounding frantic.
“Dah-dah-Dottie,” I stuttered between blubbers. “I sah-sah-sah-saw Logan at fu-fu-fucking
Chipotle.”
Not even a second elapsed before she replied, “I’ll be over. Ten minutes.”
Then she was over in ten minutes.
She took care of me, Dottie did.
Then again, my big sister always took care of me in a way I knew she always would.
The bad part about that was that I never did any of those things I said I was going to do.
I never pulled myself out of my rut.
I never fought my way to strong.
When I lost Logan, I lost any strength I might have had.
That being him.
He was my foundation. He was my backbone. He made me safe. He made life right.
Hell, he made life worth living.
Then he was gone, so I really had no life and commenced living half of one.
Or maybe a third.
Possibly a quarter.
Likely an eighth.
In other words, I was the kind of sister who would always need to be taken care of.
I knew I should wake up one day and change that.
I knew that just as I knew I never would.
At a party, in a house, twenty-three years earlier…
“Hey.”
“Hey.”
He started it. He’d been checking me out since he got there ten minutes ago and not hiding it.
Then he’d come right to me and started it.
I liked that.
I also liked that he’d approached, not wasting a lot of time.
But mostly, I liked how incredibly cute he was.
Cute and edgy.
Holding my cup of beer in hand, I stared up at him.
God yes, he was cute. So cute.
But cute in a way that my mother would not curl up at night, safe in the knowledge her
daughter had excellent taste in men. In other words, I wasn’t talking to a well-dressed guy who I
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would soon learn had a life mission he’d decided on when he was a boy, this being astronaut or
curer of cancer.
He was cute in a way my mother would despair, pray, live in terror and my father would
consider committing murder (one of the various reasons my mother would be living in terror).
But looking into his warm, brown eyes, for once in my life, I didn’t care what my mother and
father thought.
I just cared about the fact that he was standing close to me at Kellie’s party, he’d come right
up to me and he’d said, “Hey.”
“Name’s Logan,” he told me.
God, he even had a cool name.
“Millie,” I replied.
I watched his eyes widen a bit before he burst out laughing.
That wasn’t very nice.
I swayed a little away from him, feeling hurt.
He kept chuckling but he noticed my movement and focused intently on me, asking, “Where
you goin’?”
“I need a fresh beer,” I lied.
He looked into my full cup.
Then he looked at me, smiling.
Oh God, yes. He was so cute.
But he was kinda mean.
I mean, my name wasn’t funny. It was old-fashioned but it was my great-grandmother’s
name. My mother had adored her and Granny had lived long enough for me to adore her too.
I liked my name.
“You got Millie written all over you,” he stated.
What a weird thing to say.
And more weird, it was like he knew what I was thinking.
“What?” I asked.
“Darlin’, all that hair that doesn’t know whether it wants to be red or blonde. Those big brown
eyes.” His smooth, deep voice dipped in a way that I felt in my belly. “That.” He lifted his beer
cup with one finger extended and pointed close to my mouth so I knew he was indicating the
little mole that was just in from the right corner of my top lip. “Cute. Sweet. No better name for a
girl that’s all that but Millie.”
Okay, that was nice.
“Well, thanks, I think,” I mumbled.
“Trust me, it’s a compliment,” he assured.
I nodded.
“What’re you doin’ tomorrow night?”
I felt my head give a small jerk.
Holy crap, was he asking me out on a date?
“I…nothing,” I answered.
“Good, then we’re goin’ out. You got a number?”
He was!
He was asking me out on a date!
My heartbeat quickened and my legs started to feel all tingly.
Walk Through Fire Teaser Chapters, ©Kristen Ashley Page 7
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“I…yes,” I replied, then went on stupidly, “I have a number.”
“Give it to me.”
I stared at him, then looked down his wide chest to his trim waist, then to his hands. One hand
was holding his beer, the other one had the thumb hooked in his cool-as-heck, beaten up, black
leather belt.
I looked back to his face. “Do you have something to write it down?”
He gave a slight shake of his head and an even slighter (but definitely hot) lip twitch before he
stated, “Millie, you give me your number, do you think I’m gonna forget a single digit?”
Okay, wow. That was really nice.
I gave him my number.
He repeated it instantly and accurately.
“That’s it,” I confirmed.
He didn’t reply.
I started to feel uncomfortable.
And nervous.
I’d just made a date with a guy I didn’t know at all except I knew my parents wouldn’t
approve of him and then I gave him my number.
Now what did we do?
“You come with someone?” he asked.
It was weird that he asked that now, after he’d asked me out.
After I thought it was weird, I thought that maybe he thought I was on a date and then made a
date with him while I was on a date and then he’d think I was a bitch!
“No, just some girlfriends,” I told him quickly.
He gave me another smile. “That’s comin’ with someone, darlin’.”
Oh.
Right.
I bit my lip.
“Who?” he asked.
“Justine,” I answered, tipping my head toward the kitchen table where there were four guys
and two girls sitting. When he turned his head to look, I expanded my answer, “The brunette.”
And right then, Justine, my friend the pretty brunette, drunkenly bounced a quarter on the
table toward a shot glass, missed, and grinned. Two of the guys and one of the girls immediately
shouted, “Shot!” Thus, she unsteadily grabbed the glass and threw it back, some of the vodka in
it dribbling down her chin.
She finished this still grinning.
“You ain’t ridin’ back with her,” Logan growled, and my gaze shot back to him. “Fact, she
ain’t drivin’ anywhere.”
Oh man, I could love this guy.
Oh man!
That was crazy!
How could I possibly think I could love this guy just from him saying that?
“She isn’t and I’m not,” I shared. “We’re staying the night here.”
“Good,” he muttered right before he got bumped by someone precariously making their way
to the keg.
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“You wanna get out of here?” I found myself asking, and got his swift attention. “I don’t
know. Sit out on the back deck or something?” I finished quickly so he didn’t get any ideas.
“Fuck yeah,” he whispered, his brown eyes locked to mine, and the way he said that, the way
he was looking at me, I felt a shiver trail down my spine.
“Okay,” I whispered back.
He leaned in and grabbed my hand. His was big and rough and felt warm and strong wrapped
around mine.
Okay.
Oh God.
Seriously.
Seriously.
It was true. It was crazy and totally freaking true.
I could fall in love with this guy.
And I knew that just from him wanting me to be safe and the feel of his hand around mine.
Oh man.
He led me out to the deck, straight to the steps that led to the yard and we sat on the top one.
I was nervous in a way I’d never felt before but it felt good as I stared out into Kellie’s
parents’ dark yard.
“So, Millie, tell me what we’re doin’ tomorrow night,” he ordered.
I turned my head to look at him. “What?”
“Whatever you wanna do, we’re doin’ it,” he stated. “So tell me what you wanna do.”
I tipped my head to the side, intrigued with this offer.
“How about we fly to Paris?” I suggested on an attempt at a joke.
“You got a passport?” he asked immediately, not smiling, sounding serious.
My heart skipped a beat.
Though, he couldn’t be serious.
I mean, Paris?
“Do you?” I returned.
“Nope, but that’s what you wanna do, I’ll get one.”
I grinned at him. “Not sure you can get a passport in a day, Logan.”
“You wanna go to Paris, I’ll find a way.”
I shook my head, looking away.
He was good at this. A master at delivering lines.
I liked it. It showed confidence.
But they were still just lines.
“And he says all the right things,” I told the yard.
“Babe, I’m not jokin’.”
My eyes flew back to him because he still sounded serious.
And when they flew back to him, the lights from the house illuminating his handsome face, he
looked serious.
“I don’t wanna go to Paris,” I whispered. “Well, I do,” I hastened to add. “Just not tomorrow
night. I don’t think I have the right thing to wear on a date in Paris.”
He grinned at me. “Well, that’s a relief. Coulda swung it by the skin of my teeth but it’d set
me up for a fail on our second date. Not sure how I’d top Paris.”
He was already thinking of a second date.
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I liked that too.
But I liked his words better because it was cool to know he could be funny.
I couldn’t help it and didn’t know why I would try.
I laughed.
He kept grinning while I did it and scooted closer to me so our knees were touching.
“So tell me, Millie, what d’you wanna do?” he asked when I quit laughing.
“I wanna see what you wanna do,” I told him.
“Then that’s what we’ll do.”
I looked into his eyes through the dark and felt something strange. Not a bad strange. A happy
one.
Comfortable. Safe.
Yes, both of those just looking into his eyes.
“So, do you wanna go to Paris?” I asked. “I mean, one day.”
“Sure,” he told me. “Though, not top on my list.”
“What’s top on your list?”
“Ridin’ ’cross Australia.”
“Riding?” I asked.
“On my bike.”
I felt my eyes get big. “You mean, the motorcycle kind?”
He put pressure on my knee as he gave me another grin. “I’m the kinda guy, Millie, who
doesn’t acknowledge there is another kind of bike.”
Absolutely for sure, my parents would not approve of this guy.
And absolutely for sure, I so totally did.
“So you have a bike?” I pushed.
“Harley,” he told me.
“Do I get to ride on it tomorrow?” I went on, not bothering to filter the excitement out of my
question.
He stared into my eyes.
“Absolutely,” he answered.
I smiled at him and I knew it was big.
His gaze dropped to my mouth and when it did, my legs started tingling again. But this time,
the tingles emanated from the insides of my thighs, out.
I looked away and took a sip of beer.
“Millie,” he called.
I kept my gaze to the yard and replied with a, “Hmm?”
“Safe with me.”
My attention cut back to him.
“Never won’t be, babe,” he went on softly. “Not ever. Hear?”
Again, it was like he read my thoughts.
And he knew. He knew he was exactly what he was. That guy parents would freak if their
daughter ever said yes to a date with him.
But I knew something else, looking at him.
My parents were wrong.
“Hear?” he pushed when I just stared at him, not feeling tingly.
Feeling warm.
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“Yeah,” I answered.
He pressed his knee into mine again and looked to the yard.
“So, you wanna go to Paris,” he noted. “What else you wanna do?”
I looked to the yard, too, and told him.
We stayed out there, sitting on the steps of the deck, our knees brushing, for what felt like
minutes at the same time it felt like hours, talking about nothing that felt like everything before
the guy he came to the party with stuck his head out the back door and called, “Low, ridin’ out.”
To that, he told me he had to go and we both got up.
He didn’t kiss me.
He walked me into the house straight through to the front door.
There, he ordered somewhat severely, “Your girl is totally shitfaced, so you go nowhere with
her and you let her go nowhere. Hear?”
I nodded. “Staying here, Logan.”
He nodded.
Then he lifted a finger as his eyes dipped to my mouth and he touched my mole.
More thigh tingles.
He looked back at me. “Tomorrow, babe. Call you.”
“Okay, Logan.”
He grinned and walked away.
I watched him, feeling a crazy-giddy that had nothing to do with beer, strangely not
disappointed he didn’t kiss me.
He’d touched me in a way that felt way sweeter than a kiss.
And the next day, he called me.
Chapter Two
Every Breath He Took
Millie
Present day…
What I was about to do was ridiculous.
And possibly insane.
But there I was, about to do it.
It had been a week since I saw Logan at Chipotle.
I still had that bin of spinach and bag of shriveled carrots in my fridge and they were still the
only things there. Except that bin of spinach was now not wilted but instead spoiled.
I should throw them out.
I didn’t throw them out.
I worked.
I got fast food (or ready-mades, though no salads).
I slept.
I watched TV.
And I thought about Logan.
I couldn’t get him out of my head. I even dreamed about him.
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And these were not good dreams. They were dreams of him walking away. They were dreams
of him shouting at me that I was a coward. That I’d thrown my life away. They were dreams
where he was pushing a faceless little girl on a swing, smiling at a faceless woman who, even if
faceless, I knew she was beautiful and she was definitely not me.
In other words, bad dreams.
Dreams that haunted me even when I was awake.
So now I was here and it was ridiculous, stupid, insane.
Dottie would be pissed if she knew I was here. Twenty years she’d been struggling to pull me
out of Logan’s snare, a snare I was caught in even if he didn’t want me there and wasn’t even in
my life.
She wanted me to move on. She’d even begged me to move on. At first she’d wanted me to
go back to Logan (and she’d begged me to do that too). When she realized that wasn’t going to
happen, she’d wanted me to go on a date, to go see a shrink, to go get a life, any life without
Logan.
None of this had worked.
Now I couldn’t get him out of my head.
So I was there.
“Shit, damn, damn,” I whispered, looking at the façade of the roadhouse.
It was run-down, near to ramshackle. The paint peeling on the outside. The sign up top that
said SCRUFF’S was barely discernable considering it was night and only the neon u and the
apostrophe worked.
Strangely, Scruff’s looked much the same as it had twenty years ago when Logan and I used
to come here all the time.
Except back then the c also worked, though it had flickered.
There were bikes outside, less of them now than back when this was Logan and my place
because it was Chaos’s place, but it was still clearly a biker bar.
I just had no idea if one of those bikes was Logan’s.
I hoped one was.
And I was terrified of the same thing.
“You should go home,” I told myself.
I should.
But home was where I’d been nearly every night since I’d bought my house and moved in
eleven years ago. It had changed since I’d renovated every inch of it (I had not done this
myself—I’d paid people to do it—but it was all my vision).
I loved home. I never got sick of looking at what I’d created (or someone else had, obviously,
through my vision).
But I was there nearly every night. And the only times I wasn’t were when I was at Dottie’s or
babysitting a friend’s kid or at one of the events I’d planned.
The last, being my work, didn’t count.
Now I was not at home. I was back at Scruff’s. A place I hadn’t been in twenty years.
I was there because Logan might be in there.
And I couldn’t stop thinking about him.
“God, this is crazy,” I muttered, pushing open the car door and throwing out a leg.
I got out, slammed the door, and beeped the locks, keeping keys in hand and purse clamped
securely under my arm.
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I walked toward the building, worried about my car. I had a red Mazda CX-5 that was only a
year old. I loved it. I hadn’t upgraded cars in five years, so it was my baby. And not only was
this bar not the safest spot in Denver, it was located in a neighborhood that also wasn’t the safest
in Denver.
I had to brave it. I was there. I was out of the car.
There was no going back.
Before I got to the door, a biker fell out of it, shouting behind him, “Fuck you too!” and I
nearly turned back.
He stumbled the other way, so my path was clear.
I knew I should retreat.
I didn’t.
I went in.
When my eyes adjusted to the dim, I saw the inside hadn’t changed much either, except to get
seedier. In fact, even the neon beer signs looked the same and on my second eye sweep after the
quick, frantic one I did to see if Logan was there, I saw four of the plethora of them no longer
worked at all. The vinyl on the barstools was worn, the furniture scattering the space was more
mismatched. Even the felt on the pool table was more faded.
And there was no Logan.
Actually, there wasn’t much of anybody. It wasn’t vacant but back in the day the place was
nearly always hopping. Logan and I would go on a Wednesday to find fun with the dozen people
who were also there that we knew and partied with. Or we’d go on a Saturday and find mayhem
with three dozen people we knew and partied with.
It was Chaos’s place. It was where the boys went when they wanted to tie one on, tag fresh
meat to bang, find trouble, or if none was to be found, make it.
However, looking around, I didn’t see a member I knew from back in the day. I didn’t even
see a Chaos patch on any jacket.
This was a surprise. Chaos had been a fixture there in a way that there wasn’t a night when at
least a couple of brothers were at Scruff’s.
This was also an excuse to leave.
I didn’t go.
I walked to the bar and slid onto a stool, doing this with my eyes still scanning the space like
Logan could materialize out of thin air.
“Well, fuck me. Millie freakin’ Cross. Blast from the past and not a good one.”
I turned my head and stared in shock at Reb.
Reb had been a bartender back then. One I would have suspected would have been long gone
by now.
This was because she’d been sleeping with Scruff’s son who was set to inherit the place since
Scruff was on his deathbed. Though, Scruff had been on that deathbed the entire three years I’d
gone there (two of which I’d drank with a fake ID, not that Reb or any of the other bartenders
cared).
Wade, her man and the next in line to own the establishment, was rarely there (or rarely there
working). He was usually there drinking or alternately out cheating on Reb or fighting or drying
out in a jailhouse or on his bike wandering and leaving her behind to bitch about him and swear
she was going to leave him.
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Reb was tough. She was so unfriendly she was mean. And she didn’t take a lot of shit (except
from Wade).
I was sure she’d get fed up and go.
But she wasn’t gone. She was behind the bar, looking as faded and worn as the rest of the
joint, like she’d aged forty years in the last twenty.
I barely recognized her.
The life-is-shit-and-then-you-die look in her eyes was unforgettable, still there and even
sharper, so I knew it was her.
“You’re like a mullet,” she stated, glaring at me from her side of the bar. “’Cept haven’t seen
you in forever and I see too many a’ those every week. Though, you’re here so just sayin’,
coulda used a longer forever when it comes to you.”
That wasn’t a warm welcome.
Reb wasn’t big on handing those out. She never had been.
But this was more than her usual nasty.
I decided to ignore it.
“Hey, Reb,” I greeted.
“Fuck off, Millie, and I mean that as in, you can get your ass off my stool and get the fuck
outta my joint,” she replied.
I stared.
Way nastier than her usual nasty.
“Like”—she leaned in to me—“now.”
Because apparently I’d gone insane, I decided to ignore that too.
“Your stool? This is your place?” I asked.
She straightened and held my gaze like a threat as she stated, “Yeah. Was suckin’ the wrong
dick. Wade didn’t own the place, don’t know what I was thinkin’, takin’ his shit. The old man
might not’a gotten around real good but he still had a dick and any man’s got one of those, they
like it sucked. Sucked my way to him changin’ his will. Now Wade’s gotta eat my pussy to get
on my schedule to get his tips and actually work to get ’em. Like it better that way.”
I knew she was sharing all of this information to shock me and she succeeded.
I tried not to let it show and replied, “Well, good for you, Reb. Glad you got what you
wanted.”
“Didn’t get it,” she returned. “Worked for it. Worked my ass off behind this bar for ten years.
Sucked old man dick for two. Now it’s mine, shit hole that it is, so not exactly doin’ cartwheels
’cause it cost a fuckuva lot more than it’s worth.”
I couldn’t agree more.
I didn’t share that.
Instead, I asked, “Can I have a beer?”
“No.”
This time, I held her eyes and started softly, “Reb—”
She leaned in again.
“This here’s a biker bar, Millie,” she snapped. “Chaos quit comin’ years ago but it’s still a
biker bar and there aren’t many people wanna show here but I’ll pour a drink for any a’ them,
’specially if they’re a biker ’cause that’s the way it is; that’s the way it’s always been. Who I will
not pour a drink for is some up-her-own-ass bitch who don’t like bikers. I think you get I can use
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every dollar my boys spend on the rotgut that goes here. That don’t mean I’m willin’ to take
yours.”
“Reb, what happened was a long time—”
“What happened was you told one of my kind,” she jabbed a thumb to her chest, “you’re too
fuckin’ good for him. You’re too fuckin’ good for High, you’re two fuckin’ good to sit your ass
on my stool. Now, Millie, not gonna say it again, get the fuck out.”
High.
That was right. I’d forgotten. Logan had become High when he’d officially become Chaos.
The joke was his name had been shortened by his parents to the nickname Low. But he liked to
smoke back then and not only cigarettes, so he’d become High.
I’d hated that name mostly because I really wasn’t that fond of how often he smoked pot. I’d
hated that name enough I’d never used it.
I had to admit (just to myself) I still hated it.
“There are things that I—” I tried again.
“Don’t give a fuck.”
“I’m looking for Logan,” I blurted.
Her face twisted in a way that scared the absolute shit out of me as she moved closer to the
bar, put her hand on it, and leaned deep.
“And I hope like fuck you don’t find him,” she hissed. “He moved on but before he found it in
him to do that, you obliterated him.”
My heart constricted in a way I actually felt pain.
Excruciating pain.
“Christ, he was so into you, he was you,” Reb spat. “He lived for you. Every breath he took, it
was for you. Then you sunk the blade in and slashed it straight through, gutting him. Honest to
fuck, Pete, Tack, Arlo, Brick, Boz, none a’ us thought he’d survive. Ride off a cliff. Set himself
swingin’ in the Compound. Get himself in a fight he knew he couldn’t win. He searched for it. It
never came and you could smell the goddamned disappointment on him when he woke up to face
another day without you in it. Every woman on this goddamned earth wants a man like that to
feel like that about them and you had it and you fuckin’ tossed it away like it was garbage.”
I nearly fell off the barstool in my need to flee because I could take no more. The pain was so
immense it was a wonder blood wasn’t oozing from every pore.
“Yeah, bitch,” she kept at me as she watched me move. “Get gone. Get the fuck gone. Don’t
ever come back.” She lifted a hand and jabbed a finger at me. “And don’t you go lookin’ for
High. He don’t need your shit in his life. Not again.”
I backed away two steps, unable to tear my eyes off her simply because I had no thoughts. It
was actually a wonder I was moving.
All I could feel was the pain.
Eventually my body took flight and I got out of the bar. Into my car. I hit the button and
reversed out of my spot without even looking to check if it was clear.
And I drove home.
It was late and even though I needed her, I wasn’t going to call Dottie again. I wasn’t going to
call any of my other friends who knew about Logan and my inability to get over him. I wasn’t
going to go home and burst into uncontrollable tears that felt like they’d choke me and keep
crying until I hoped they would so it would finally be over.
I got into my house and flipped the switch illuminating the kitchen.
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I locked the farm door behind me.
I walked to my marble countertop that was white with gray veins and dropped my purse on it.
And then I stood still and stared unseeing into the living room.
Reb was right. I knew it. I knew I’d destroyed Logan.
We’d met when I was eighteen, nine weeks after I graduated high school.
He’d asked me out within minutes of the first words we spoke to each other.
I’d slept with him on our first date.
Not because I was easy.
Because I knew he was everything.
And he was.
He was a dream come true. A fantasy come to life. Every clichéd hope of every girl on the
planet walking, talking, touching, kissing.
Except, perhaps, rougher and owning his own bike.
He’d treated me like gold.
No, like a princess.
No, both.
I was precious. Beloved. Treasured.
He looked at me and every single time he did it, I knew he thought what he saw was so
beautiful he couldn’t believe his luck.
The sex wasn’t great.
It was explosive.
And we slept entwined and woke the same way, like we needed to be connected to each other
to recharge in the night so we could take on the day. Like without that, we wouldn’t be able to
function.
To my parents’ dismay and his parents’ delight, we’d moved in with each other within six
weeks of meeting.
We fought and every single time we did it, we ended it laughing like what we were fighting
about was ridiculous because, mostly, it was.
We were together for three years that felt like fifty-three, all of them blissfully happy.
Then that time felt like three days the minute he walked away from me because I made him
do it.
I looked around my kitchen with its marble countertops and butcher block island that had a
vegetable sink. Its heavy, white ceramic farm sink under the window and white cupboards, the
top ones with windows. Other cupboards specially designed for wine, cookbooks, spice racks. I
took in the kitchen’s stainless steel appliances and six-burner, two-oven stove, the wine fridge.
Then I moved.
My boots struck against my hardwood floors that had been refinished four years ago and they
still gleamed perfectly. I went to my living room with its multi-paned windows at the front and
on either side of the fireplace at the side.
I looked around the white walls and the brick of the fireplace (also painted white).
The sheers on the windows were white, too, and they were diaphanous. The furniture was
slouchy and comfortable and all in soft taupe. The accents of toss pillows on couch, loveseat, and
cuddle chair as well as the vases spotted around surfaces were in muted pastels. The frames of
pictures dotted on surfaces were all whitewashed or engraved mirror or intricate silver. And the
pièce de résistance was a large circular peacock mirror over the fireplace.
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The effect was cool and stylish, but not cold. Pretty and welcoming.
I walked down the hall with its walls filled with perfectly placed frames, all black with cream
matting, holding black-and-white pictures of Dottie and her family. My parents. Grandparents.
Cousins. Aunts and uncles. Friends.
I moved past the guestroom and guest bath into the extra bedroom that was a junk room. I
flipped on the light, which set the ceiling fan to giving the room a gentle breeze it did not need in
September.
I went right to the closet, slid the door open, and struggled through the wrapping paper,
luggage, boxes, then hefted out the plastic crates that were stacked in the corner.
Four of them.
I wanted the bottom one.
I got to it and pulled it into the room. I fell to my behind on the floor and flipped down the
latches on the sides of the crate, lifting the top away.
In there were albums, three of which I’d happily, but painstakingly, filled with photos.
One album for each year.
The rest of the crate was filled with those envelopes pictures came in with the front holding
the film.
And last, there were loose photos tossed in in a frenzy to hide painful memories.
In the beginning, I’d pulled that crate out often.
But it had been years since I’d opened that box.
I grabbed an album, put it on my lap and opened it randomly.
My throat closed against the burn consuming my insides as I stared down at a photo of me
standing by Logan, who was sitting on his bike.
We were outside Ride, the auto supply store with attached custom build garage that Chaos
owned.
Logan was off to do something, I didn’t remember what. I was saying good-bye to the man I
loved, who I would see again within hours. He had one of his hands on the bike grip, the other on
my hip. I was facing him but looking over my shoulder at Naomi, the wife of one of Logan’s
Chaos brothers.
My hair was long, down to my waist and unencumbered, like Logan liked it. Unrestrained and
wild. A way I hadn’t worn it in years.
Logan had on sunglasses that made him look cool and badass, jeans, a tee, and his Chaos cut.
We were close, like we were always close whenever we were together, touching, like we were
always touching, and smiling.
Like we were always smiling.
The picture below that was of us stretched out on a couch in the common room of the Chaos
Compound. I was mostly on top of Logan, partly tucked into the back of the couch. I had a hand
on his chest and my head thrown back, the picture captured my profile and I was laughing.
Logan was on his back, head to the armrest, arm wrapped around my waist, holding me to
him even though he didn’t need to since I was lying on top of him. He was looking right at the
camera, also laughing.
On the opposite page there was a picture of us at Scruff’s. I had my booty up on the edge of
the pool table (something I did a lot to be goofy because being goofy made Logan smile, but
something that annoyed the hell out of Reb). Logan was leaning over the table with cue in hand,
lined up ready to take a shot.
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But his head was tilted back, his eyes were on me and mine were on him.
We weren’t smiling. I was saying something to him and I had his full attention.
Like I always had his full attention.
I pressed my hands on the pages, palms flat, like I could soak in those times, like I could be
thrown back years to relive them, like I could absorb the feelings I’d had back then of being safe
and loved and living the life that was just right for me.
It didn’t work.
I turned the page.
Then I turned another page.
And another.
I did it reliving memories I’d relived countless times. They were burned in my brain in a way
they were always there, even when I wasn’t calling them up. They were scars that tormented me
in a way that changed the course of my life.
It wasn’t simply that I was in a rut.
My life had been interrupted and I’d never restarted it.
Since Logan Judd, I had not had a boyfriend.
I had not had a lover.
Not in twenty years.
He was it for me and those pictures showed why.
I met my perfect man at age eighteen and I had him for three years.
Then I sent him away.
Could I right those wrongs?
Should I?
You obliterated him.
I had.
And I’d done the same to myself.
Every woman on this goddamned earth wants a man like that to feel like that about them and
you had it and you fuckin’ tossed it away like it was garbage.
I hadn’t tossed him away.
Reb didn’t know.
She’d never know.
But I hadn’t done that.
I’d never do that.
Not to Logan.
Every breath he took, it was for you.
I turned the page and went still.
On the two pages before me were six pictures taken at what was known among the biker
world as Wild Bill’s Field.
What it was was a biker rally that happened on Bill McIntosh’s farm every year.
I remembered those rallies, all three of them I went to.
The pictures on the page were from the second one.
Top left, Logan sitting on a log, me on a blanket in front of him on the ground between his
legs. He was bent forward, arms around me, chin on my shoulder, the firelight was illuminating
our faces as we laughed toward someone that, if memory serves, was Boz being his usual lovable
idiot.
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Center left picture, same, except my head was turned and tipped back and Logan’s chin was
off my shoulder and he was looking down at me.
Bottom left, my hand was up and curled around Logan’s forearm and my head was still tipped
back.
But Logan wasn’t looking at me.
He was kissing me.
I shut the book.
The Field.
Wild Bill’s biker rally.
Every biker from every club in the entire state of Colorado went to that rally every year. It
was mayhem, bikes, tents, campers, RVs, sleeping bags, bonfires, a makeshift stage set up for
local and not-so-local bands who played loud and deep into the night.
It was bring what you want or hit Wild Bill’s kitchen that he set up in a massive tent at the
edge of the makeshift campgrounds. He bragged that the proceeds sent him to Miami for
Christmas and supported him throughout the year, except we all knew we hit his field just after
he harvested the hay or corn he always grew in it, which was the way he really made his living.
First weekend of October.
Which was two and a half weeks away.
Every breath he took, it was for you.
You obliterated him.
I needed to right that wrong.
He needed to know.
And I was the only one who could tell him.
It was good now. It was safe. He was alive and well, ordering burritos and raising kids and not
a fugitive from the law or worse.
And he needed to know.
So I was going to find him.
Then I was going to tell him.
On a blanket by a lake, twenty-three years earlier…
He was on me and in me.
He was done.
So was I.
Logan Judd had just given me my first orgasm.
And it was crazy-great.
We were on our date.
He’d picked me up on his bike.
I had been right. My parents had freaked.
But they did what they always did. They trusted me and didn’t make a big deal of it.
They didn’t like me hanging with Kellie either. She was considered a hood. Her dad had taken
off when she was a little kid and never came back. Now her mom and stepdad partied more than
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Kellie did and didn’t mind it when Kellie had all her many friends over (this was because, I
suspected, Kellie, Justine, and I cleaned up afterward and they didn’t have much worth anything
to break).
But anyway, I got excellent grades. I was going to college in a few weeks. I’d gotten into a
good one. University of Denver. This meant I was going to stay close to home, something my
sister didn’t do (she went to Purdue), so this was something my parents liked. I did my chores. I
got along with my big sister. We were thick as thieves and I missed her like crazy since she’d
gone to Indiana. I loved my family and showed it. I’d never been one of those bitchy, pain-inthe-ass
kids who got in their parents’ faces all the time.
Even so, I was a bit of a rebel. I drank and it was illegal. Kellie and Justine and I’d go
joyriding. I’d lost my virginity at age seventeen (but it was to my boyfriend of two years, who
had broken up with me in his first few months at University of Colorado).
I wasn’t disrespectful. I loved my family.
I was just…me.
And the me I was wasn’t stupid and totally irresponsible.
And the me I was put me on the back of Logan Judd’s bike.
He’d driven us into the mountains and I’d loved the ride. Dad had a friend who had a bike,
Dottie and I had been out on it and we’d both loved it.
This was better.
A whole lot better.
Riding wrapped around Logan.
The best.
He’d pulled off the highway and drove to a lake. We’d gotten off the bike and he hefted a
backpack out of one of his saddlebags, a blanket out of the other. He’d then taken my hand and
walked us down a trail that led to the lake. The sun was just getting ready to set, so we had
plenty of light to see the beauty around us and I saw it.
But I felt the beauty of walking with Logan, his fingers around mine, the backpack slung over
one of his shoulders, the blanket tucked under his arm, knowing this was already the best date
ever and feeling in my heart it was only going to get better.
I’d been right.
He moved us to the edge of the lake and threw out the blanket. We got on it and he pulled
stuff from the backpack.
It was nothing fancy. He had four bottles of beer in there. Homemade sandwiches (turkey and
Swiss). Bags of chips (that were a bit crushed). A package of Oreos (similarly crushed).
But sitting by a beautiful lake up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with Logan, eating
and watching the sun set, it was the most delicious meal I’d ever had.
We’d talked.
From our conversation on the steps of Kellie’s deck, he knew my full name, my age, that I
had a sister, what high school I’d gone to, that I was heading to DU for the fall semester, and that
Kellie and Justine were my best friends. I’d learned his full name, that he was three years older
than me, he was a recruit for a motorcycle club called Chaos, and he was close with his parents
and younger sister, even if he’d left them in Durango, where he’d grown up.
On the blanket, we’d talked more and it was cool because it was like a rite of passage. The
first real grown-up conversation I’d ever had.
I wasn’t some eighteen-year-old just-ex-high-schooler that he’d met.
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I wasn’t a girl.
I was a woman.
A woman he liked.
We talked about the work he did at Ride, the garage and shop that was owned by the
motorcycle club he belonged to. We talked about how, when he was finished being a recruit and
he was a full member, he’d get a bigger cut of the money made there. We talked about his
brothers and how he liked them. We talked about his brothers’ “old ladies,” or the wives and
girlfriends, and which of them he liked…or didn’t.
We also talked about how I was kind of worried that Justine was partying too much and
getting blasted out of her mind when she did. We talked about the fact that I was worried about
this because she’d screwed up on her SATs, refused to take them again, and she’d had a really
bad couple of semesters, so her GPA was shot. Then, when the first two colleges she applied to
didn’t take her, she’d quit applying. And I’d told him I thought she was lost and freaked about
her future and instead of finding her way, she was getting drunk a lot.
“One thing I know, darlin’,” he’d said gently when we were talking about Justine. “You ain’t
ever gonna change a person. Stand by their side or be at their back. But do not push change or
expect it. Just be there for them while they sort their shit out. But do it knowin’ you might have
to cut ties if their shit starts leakin’ and becomin’ yours.”
Thus I’d learned on our date that Logan Judd was wise.
Conversation had while eating changed into conversation had while cuddling and talking and
staring at the moon on the water.
Cuddling had gone from just talking to talking with some kissing.
My first kiss from Logan Judd had been a revelation. It, too, was my first adult kiss. No
fumbling around. No inexperience. No desperation. None of that feel you’d get from a guy like
he knew he was lucky he managed to get his mouth on you and the second he did, he was
thinking about what else he could get.
Logan knew what he was doing. Logan took his time doing it. Logan liked what he was
getting and Logan knew how to guide me to giving that back.
It was dreamy from beginning to end.
And then the talking stopped and it was just kissing until it turned into Logan making love to
me on that blanket by a lake in the Rocky Mountains.
It was slow and sweet and exploratory until it got faster and more urgent and finished on
totally explosive.
It was not only my first orgasm.
It was also the first time a man had made love to me.
And I lay under him, feeling his weight, smelling his hair, my body sluggish in a way I liked,
at the same time I was crazy-giddy like the night before, except in a quieter way I liked better.
All this because I was connected to Logan, feeling complete when I didn’t know I was
incomplete and it was crazy, totally nutso, but I knew it to be true.
I was complete with Logan.
And I also knew it was no longer that I could fall in love with Logan Judd.
It was that I’d started doing it at his first “hey.”
No, when I first saw him walk into Kellie’s house.
And I was still doing it and knew I’d keep doing it until the deed was done.
Which, with the rate I was going, would take another date.
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This, for some reason, didn’t freak me.
No.
It should. It should freak me. It should feel wrong.
But it only felt right—oh so right…
I…could not…wait.
He pulled his face from out of my neck and I instantly missed his heavy breaths there.
But when his eyes caught mine in the moonlight, I suddenly declared, “I’m not easy. You’re
my second. And if you think I am and this isn’t about the fact that we’re good together…if
you’ve missed what’s going on with us…if you take this, what just happened, and don’t call
again…all I can say is…your loss, Logan Judd.”
I said this and I did it with attitude.
But I also did it completely terrified by the very idea that he might not call again.
He grinned and his body started shaking on mine.
“That it?” he asked, his words also shaking with humor.
“Yes,” I answered, deciding from his amusement not to be freaked that I’d just blurted all that
out.
“Just sayin’, already got our second date scoped out,” he replied.
I relaxed under him and did it biting back a whoop of glee.
“And the third,” he continued.
I slid my hand up his spine.
“All the way to the sixth,” he kept going. “And then it’s your turn to decide what we do, so
best start thinkin’, Millie, ’cause that’s gonna happen next week.”
Man, oh man, he had our first six dates planned.
He was going to call me again.
And again.
And again.
And this made me unbelievably happy.
“I like you.”
God, still blurting!
The grin he was still wearing got bigger.
“That’s good seein’ as you just let me have you as in all a’ you. I liked it a fuckuva lot but
even if you hadn’t given me that, I also liked shootin’ the shit with you so think it’s safe to say I
like you too.”
I turned my head to the side, suddenly scared at how relieved I was that he liked all he’d
gotten from me and wanted more.
“Millie,” he called.
“Hmm?” I asked the tall grass at the side of the blanket.
“Beautiful, look at me.”
At the “beautiful,” my fingers clenched into his skin and my eyes went to his.
“No bullshit, baby,” he whispered the second he got my gaze. “I am absolutely, one hundred
percent not missin’ what’s goin’ on.”
It was then I suddenly wanted to cry because I’d just been made love to, had my first orgasm,
and was still connected to a man I liked a lot, a lot, a lot in a way I knew I was falling in love.
“This is kinda crazy,” I whispered back.
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“This is all kinds of crazy,” he agreed. “Crazy good. And we’d both be fools, we don’t roll
with it.”
He was right. I knew it down deep.
I slid my hands up so they were both cupped, one over the other, at the back of his neck.
“I really liked that,” I told him softly. “What we just did.”
He dipped his face closer and gave me a hint more of his weight, replying quietly, “Got that
when you came for me, darlin’.”
“Does our second date involve more of that?” I asked, and watched his eyes begin to shine.
“Definitely.”
“Good,” I whispered.
More shining from his eyes before I lost that shine because I closed mine, seeing as he was
kissing me.
In the end, our first date involved more of that.
I got home late.
I knew my parents worried even though they didn’t say a word.
But Logan and I had plans to go out the next night.
So I was walking on air.
Release Date October 27, 2015
Walk Through Fire available for pre-order now anywhere where books are sold.

I was born a middle class white child in Gary, Indiana, USA. One of the last of a dying breed. I nearly killed my mother and myself making it into the world, seeing as I had the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck (already attempting to accessorize and I hadn’t taken my first breath!). Mom says they took me away, put her back in her room, she looked out the window, and Gary was on fire (Dr. King had been assassinated four days before). She remembered thinking it was the end of the world. Quite the dramatic beginning.

Nothing’s changed.

All I’ve ever wanted to do was write (well, and be the Queen of the World, but you gotta start small) and I’ve published a gazillion books and counting (and a gazillion is a lot! shoo!).

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