Title: Chasing Serenity
Series: Seeking Serenity series, Book #1
Author: Eden Butler
Genre: NA Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 11, 2013
Cover Designed by: Steven Novak: http://www.novakillustration.com/
Cover Reveal Organized by: As the Pages Turn
B&N: NOT UP YET BUT WILL SEND AS SOON AS ITS AVAILABLE
Graduate student Autumn McShane has had her share of heartbreak. She’s been abandoned and betrayed and she lost her beloved mother in a tragic car accident five months ago. That loss damaged her body and fractured her spirit but she’s learning to recover, until her ex-boyfriend returns to town, intent on making her life miserable.
Declan Fraser hates her ex as much as Autumn does, but the last thing she needs is to put her trust in the hands of another man, especially one like Declan: his hard body and lulling Irish accent makes more than few girls weak-kneed. The talented rugby player is rude and sarcastic, with tattooed, muscular arms and a cocky attitude, but he’s the only one who can help Autumn win an ill-advised bet that, if lost, could cost her more than she’s willing to pay. The reluctant alliance between Declan and Autumn stirs up cravings she doesn’t want to admit, but Declan is a hard man to resist.
Just when Autumn starts letting down her carefully constructed walls to the sexy bad boy, he betrays her when she needs him most. Autumn suspects Declan has secrets, and she is determined to uncover what drove him away from her, even if that means fraternizing with the enemy. But will the truth return Declan to her arms or add to the scars on her heart?
Eden Butler is an editor and writer of New Adult Romance and SciFi and Fantasy novels and the nine-times great-granddaughter of an honest-to-God English pirate. This could explain her affinity for rule breaking and rum. Her debut novel, a New Adult, Contemporary (no cliffie) Romance, “Chasing Serenity” will launch October 2013.
When she’s not writing or wondering about her possibly Jack Sparrowesque ancestor, thinking up impossible plots, Eden edits, reads and spends way too much time watching rugby, Doctor Who and New Orleans Saints football.
Author Contact Info:
Review by Brenda’s Book Beat:
College is hard enough, but add in the feelings of abandonment and heartbreak and it’s just plain chaos. Eden Butler made this book hard to put down. There is a twist of the unknown, which I love. I felt like I knew these kids as if I was there feeling with them, struggling with growing up.
I think everyone should add this book to their list of books to read. College never looked so good.
I’ve always searched for the joy my parents had, always believed that I deserved that kind of happiness and so I sought it out.
Chasing Serenity Excerpts
“What do you play?” I ask and he stops for a moment, notices me staring at his hands.
“Wing. Well, normally I’m wing. Tucker’s convinced Mullens to set me as scrumhalf.”
“Ah, so that explains it.”
“Why you hate Tucker.” He doesn’t respond, just returns to the bookshelf to grab another box and my gaze follows him, takes in the rigid set of his shoulders. “He’ll be gone at the end of the season, you know.”
“Hmm. If I’m lucky,” he says.
“Mullens is a good coach. I’ve known him forever and he’s friends with Ava.” A wrinkle forms between Declan’s eyebrows. “Dr. Winchell.”
“Thick as thieves with the president, aren’t you?”
“No. Well, yes, but it’s not what you think. She was my mom’s best friend. They’d known each other since college.”
He opens his mouth as though he wants to say something, but then just nods before he clears his throat. “Sayo mentioned it was a car crash?” When my eyes narrow, he shakes his head as though I shouldn’t be angry. “That was after she and the other two barked at me forever. Told me what an arse I was, how rude I was, how you didn’t deserve to be disrespected.” I relax and he continues. “You were hurt?”
“Yes.” My hands shake, tremble as they rest on the box in front of me and I can see myself bloody and still in the car, remembering the pain, the suffocating feeling of my mother’s loss. A breath tamps down the burn of tears in my eyes. “Three broken ribs, a completely busted up leg, and a lacerated abdomen. I had more scrapes and bruises than even you’ve probably had.”
“I’ve had many. Loads of scars as well.”
I don’t know what possesses me to do it, perhaps some subconscious need to prove how tough I am, that I’m not some sniggering girly girl, but I lift up the side of my shirt and show Declan the top of my incision from the surgery. It’s a horrid, long line still pink that runs from my hip to just below my bellybutton.
“A steel rod from the truck that hit us pinned me to the seat. Seven hour surgery.” Declan winces. The scar had faded and the doctors told me that over time it would continue to diminish, but it would never disappear completely. Five months on and it’s still quite disgusting.
Seemingly without thinking about it, Declan reaches down and rubs his thumb against my scar and at his touch, my stomach flips. I know he can see the light hairs on my stomach stand on end and how my skin covers in goose bumps. He looks at my face again and once more his eyes linger too long in my eyes, then down to my lips. But then he breaks contact and unbuttons his shirt.
“I’ve got a few nasty ones as well. See this?” He lifts his undershirt back over his left shoulder and I nod, curious of his point, his intentions. “Rory McDonald pushed me straight through the rusty, broken uprights when I was fifteen. Twenty-nine stiches that ached like a bugger. And here,” he lowers his shirt then pulls up the hem to show me a smooth gash just below his bellybutton. “Mickey Douglas forgot to ditch his watch during a practice match when I was eighteen. Fecking thing nearly ripped me in half when he lined me up and smashed me as I went for a try-scoring pass.” The scar is faint, barely noticeable and doesn’t register really as I am distracted by muscles so taut that I can see the lines across his stomach. There is a long trail of black hair below his navel that disappears beneath his belt and I can’t help the wild dip of my stomach as I watch his bare skin.
“That’s um, yeah.” I swallow against the dryness in my mouth and Declan steps closer, his shirt still raised. Again I feel him watching me, and I don’t realize how close we are standing until he drops his shirt. There is no smile on his face, no condescending little grin that tells me he thinks I’m an idiot.
I don’t react when Declan reaches for my face or when his hand cups my cheek. The tips of his fingers are smooth, not like the rough callouses on the tops and palms of his hands. I’m about to speak, say something glib, sarcastic, but just then Declan rubs his thumb across my bottom lip, a mimic of what I’d done to him Thursday night on the sidewalk. I can only manage to watch his head lower until his lips are at my ear. When he whispers, his voice is low, a soft rasp that nears a growl and instantly makes my body ache.
“Like what you see, love?”
He steps back and the crackle present in the air, the one I’d forced the other night, returns, collects into the stillness of the basement. The seconds stretch, he moves forward, and the only sound I can hear is the low hum of the lights overhead and my own heartbeat thumping in my ears.
“Yes….um, no…it’s not like that.”
DELETED SCENE – McKinney’s Bathroom Scene – Declan’s Point of View
I can’t go anywhere in this fecking town without seeing Autumn.
She’s in the library. She’s sitting in the courtyard. She even walks past the bloody pitch on her way home.
Not that I’ve noticed.
Now she’s in McKinney’s. A bloke can’t even have a bleeding pint with his mate without her showing up. Everywhere I go, she’s fecking there.
Looking like she does, all pink cheeked and full lipped.
Freckles covering her face, her neck.
Just thinking of those freckles, and knowing how they scatter down her neck, across her collarbone, to her gorgeous round tits, has me harder than bleeding steel.
I’ve tried to stay away. It’s for the best, if I’m being honest. Take the book sale for instance, I managed to keep away from her all day, though I will admit I couldn’t make my eyes keep from watching her. But I managed, you see, and felt right grand about it. But then Joe put her on the spot, asked her about her birthday and what did Autumn do? Bleeding caved. Let her Da talk her into something she didn’t want any part of. Fecking bit of a martyr, that one.
I told myself I’d hang back. I told myself that if she knew the truth, knew about my family, then she wouldn’t be too keen on me chatting her up. She wouldn’t want me kissing her. She wouldn’t want me touching her. Christ. Just the memory of what she let me do to her that night at her apartment makes me want to skewer my eyes out every time I think on it. I want to drive the taste of her skin off my tongue. I want to give her the space she needs, until Joe gets off his arse and tells her the truth.
But stay away from her completely? That’s not bloody likely.
I thought I’d have a nice, quiet night with my mate Donovan. We’ve got a shed load of shite to finish for our Modern Analytics project. So this night out at McKinney’s was meant to be a means for us to bounce ideas. Then Autumn walks in with that skirt curving her round arse and that fitted shirt showing off her glorious breasts and all thought of work with Donovan went to hell.
I watch Autumn down two small glasses of wine. She sits with her back straight, with her beautiful grey eyes flicking up to meet mine in the mirror. She knows I’m here. She knows I see her, but she doesn’t speak, doesn’t bother to frown at me, scowl, shoot me the bird. I should be fine and good with that. I did give her the toss, much as it fecking killed me to do. But to have her ignore me completely? That’s a ruddy load of shite I didn’t want.
She talks to the bartender, Sam, I think. That tall bastard is smiling too much at her, laughing too loud at her jokes and I have to curl my fists under my arms to keep from reaching out to wallop his face.
“Deco, come on man, what are you staring at?” Donovan says, punching me on the shoulder to pull my attention away from Autumn.
“Sorry, mate. Just got distracted.”
“Yeah, I see that.” Donovan pushes his notebook into his backpack, clearly resigned to my not being able to concentrate. “Stop being a pussy. Go talk to her,” he says, but I waved my hand, dismissing him.
Then that uppity caffler Morrison runs in and sidles right nearly on top of Autumn. I don’t realize I’m grunting at the pair of them until Donovan jabs me in the arm.
“Be cool, man,” he says, nodding toward the bar. Tucker looks right at me, gives me his usual pouncy glare, but Donovan hits me again and I look away. “You can’t fight him, dumbass. You’re already suspended.” He pops me in the back of the head when I look over at Autumn again. “Let it go, man. She’s not worth it.”
“Feck you, she’s not worth it,” I say, ready to rearrange Donovan’s face. How the hell can he think that? Doesn’t he see how gorgeous she is? How sweet? How when she smiles every inch of her face lights up? My frown is heavy, pulling down my mouth when Donovan laughs at me. Barmy arsehole is fucking with me.
I’m about to tell him off, let him know what an amadanhe’s being, but then Autumn stands, lets fecking Morrison touch her lower back and she disappears down the hall. She doesn’t even look back at me, doesn’t spare a single glance in my direction.
To hell with that.
Donovan tries to stop me when I leave our booth, but he’s three full inches shorter than me and weighs about fifty pound less. He isn’t going to stop me. I’m no idiot, though. I wait until Morrison is distracted, until he and that Norwegian-looking bartender friend of his are deep in conversation before I slip right pass them and down the hallway.
She’s leaning over the sink when I walk in the bathroom. Doesn’t even blink when the door closes. But then she straightens up and we lock glances in the mirror.
God, is she fecking gorgeous.
“I don’t have time for this,” she says and I can tell she’s hacked off at me for being here. I don’t give a shite if she is. There’s no way I can let her leave with Morrison.
“No, you don’t,” I say, taking a step to stand right behind her. She smells like sweet peas and I have to dig my hands in my pockets to keep from touching her. “Uppity bollocks is waiting for you.” I try not to glare at her, to make my face relaxed, indifferent and I’m immediately glad she can’t read my mind. If she knew how much I wanted her, how many ways I wanted to take her, she’d slap me silly. I try for distraction, for anger. It’s easier to pick a row with her than for her to catch on to what I’m thinking. Besides, she looks fecking beautiful when she’s screaming at me with her cheeks pink and her breath catching into a bity growl. “What happened to not reliving the past, McShane?”
Autumn serves me with a vicious glare and I love seeing her anger surface, those small bits of her simmering anger shaking her eyes, makes my knob twitch. She tosses her paper towel in the bin and tries to leave me, but I can’t help myself. I need to touch her, to feel her. I trap her against the wall, stand too close.
This has never happened to me. I’ve never been so bleeding out of my head over a girl. Normally, I don’t bother with them once I’ve gotten bored. I don’t let myself linger too long when the excitement has tapered off. But Autumn, Jaysus, I don’t think I’ll ever be tired of her. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to not touch her, to not want her. I know I likely seem like some pathetic stalker, but I cannot fecking control myself around her.
“Please leave me alone,” she says.
I look in her eyes, at the soft features of her face and they give her away. She wants me touching her. I can feel it, see her pleading eyes, her mock disgust at me in every crinkle around her eyes. She moves right and I follow her, rounding my arms, flattening my hands to trap her against the wall. What the hell am I doing?
He’s out there, Morrison. I’ve seen the way he gawks at her, how he stares after her like he wants to devour her. Autumn’s lips are full, always pink, always tempting and I want to taste her. Right now, right here, with a crowd of people outside this room, with Morrison waiting to take her away from me. But then her eyes shift, up to my mouth and I know she doesn’t want him, that she hasn’t stopped wanting me. Her skin is soft, delicate when I touch her cheek, let my fingertips smooth over each freckle, then down to that impossibly delectable bottom lip.
“You can’t go with him.”
“Why the hell not?”
I don’t like her anger now. This isn’t what I wanted. I just wanted to see her, to feel her, to remind her that I haven’t disappeared, that I won’t. Morrison doesn’t know how to touch her. He couldn’t know what she needs. He’s as much use as a back pocket on a shirt.
When she tries pushing me away, I lean in, rest my forehead against hers. It takes all my composure to rein myself in. My heart pounds against my chest and I feel my pulse working like a jackhammer in my throat.
I inhale, close my eyes against her body on mine, her nipples already hard, likely aching but I don’t move, can’t break the sensation of our bodies touching, of her perfect tits rubbing against my chest. When she tries to move, goes for the door, I slam it shut, lock it. I just need a moment to make her see reason. To explain without… fecking Joe, I can’t explain. Shite. Not yet.
“He’s not the one, love.” She has to realize that. That idiot wanker? No way is he good enough for my McShane. “You know that. Deep in your gut, you know it isn’t Tucker.”
“Then who is it?” She practically screams that bit. “It’s not you. You’ve told me that a thousand times. This…thing, this whatever we had, is over.” I try to think of some reasonable excuse for pushing her away. There aren’t any. In every one I come off like a bleeding arsehole. “No, Declan. It was your choice.” She pauses, takes a breath and for the first time I see her anger slip away. Behind it is the loss I think she feels. She’s hurt. I’ve hurt her, I knew that, but she’s never let me see that before. I’m being unfair, have been since the first time I saw her with that bollocks. The day afterI broke it off with her. Until now, she’s guarded herself, hasn’t let me see a bit of the hurt I’ve caused her, not really. But it’s clear as day right in those grey eyes. How she wants me. How she misses me. Fuck me do I want her too.
Autumn yanks on my collar and I’m so fecking close to grabbing her, to taking her right here. But then she speaks and her voice cracks and I’m too much of a shite to do anything but let her touch me, let her do with me whatever the hell she wants. I let her control me. Fecking gladly. “I wanted you so badly. I still—” Her eyes close and she squints her lids tight as though that last bit slipped out of her mouth. Fuck this. She wants me and right now I could give a good shite less why I need to back away. I lean forward, can’t help but touching her neck, feel the warmth on her skin; skin that I’ve tasted. Skin that I want to taste over and over again. But before I can, she jerks away from me, tries to put distance between us. “You rejected me. I’m not going to play games with you anymore.”
“I can’t…if you knew—”
It’s on the tip of my tongue. The truth about Joe, about my life back home. It almost comes out, but when I look at her again, see how her eyes have gone all glassy, I’m right back to feeling like a prized git. If she knew, she’d hate me for touching her. She’d hate herself for wanting to touch me right back.
“Help me understand then.”
I sag against her, drop my head to her shoulder so that I can take a breath, so that I can sort out what way is best to put her off, just once more. But my mind is fecking blank. There’s nothing there but her smell, the way her curves feel in my hands, how she makes me weak. “You don’t know how hard this is for me.” I straighten up, hope that she can see how desperate I am when I look at her. “I want you. God, do I want you.”
“Declan. Please. You have a girlfriend. You shouldn’t say things like that when you have Heather.”
What the bleeding hell? “How do you know about her?” I ask, determined not to budge when she tries pushing me away again.
“Was I not supposed to find out? She threatened me to stay away from you.”
Fecking Heather. What the hell did she say to Autumn? I’ve told that girl a thousand bloody times I wasn’t interested, but she won’t give me any space.
Autumn has to see right through Heather’s lies. She’s cleverer than that. I have to make her understand, to see that I would never want someone like Heather. This time, when I touch her, Autumn doesn’t flinch away from me. “We’re not together. I don’t want her, Autumn.”
I hope I’m not holding her too tight. She squirms away and I know I should let her leave. I know she doesn’t need me messing her about. But then a flash of Morrison touching her back, of her letting him touch her, vanishes all reason and sense from my head.
“Tucker’s waiting for me,” she says, and it sounds like a taunt.
My anger flares. She can’t be seriously considering Morrison. She hates him. She told me so. “No.” My palm stings when I slap it against the wall. “Don’t leave.”
I can’t make out what she’s thinking. Knowing her, it won’t be good. But the way her eyes shoot over my face, the way they linger on my mouth, how she struggles to keep that bleeding angry scowl on her face, only makes me want to be closer. I want to kiss her until we are both gasping. I want to fill all the spaces Joe and Morrison left bare. I want her to touch me until my body is spent, until the sweat on our skin and the weak pants of our breaths fill the room.
Autumn’s face has hardened again and I think I have already lost her. It kills me, just a little bit more the harder her features become.
“I’m going with him, Declan. I’m going out with Tucker. I’m going to have dinner with him. I’m going to dance with him. I’m going to let him hold me.”
I pull my fingers from her skin. Her words sear me, have me second guessing her completely. She most notice this, must see how the idea of her with Morrison has rage filling in my chest, shaking my hands as though I’ve been fecking electrocuted.
“And when the night is over, I’m going to let him kiss me, let him touch me if he wants. I’m going to do all of that because he wants me and he isn’t afraid to show me how much he wants me. Because he isn’t a coward.”
Like bloody hell. I can’t control myself. She painted a picture and I want to destroy it. No fecking way will I let that happen. Before I know what I’m doing, my fist slams against the wall. It aches like a bugger, but Autumn doesn’t blink, doesn’t flinch at my reaction. She tries moving again, to step away from me but no way in bleeding hell am I going to let her leave all smug like that.
“Does he touch you like I do?” She can’t answer, seems unable to do much else than close her eyes. Autumn moves against me as though she is uncomfortable, as though me just touching her, pressing against her is setting her body on fire. I push her further, loving how she tries to deny what’s brimming between us. “Does he kiss you like I do?” I won’t let her answer. Autumn’s not the sort of girl who appreciates pathetic, insincere words. She likes action. She likes when people are direct. I’ll give her fecking direct.
My tongue slips right into her mouth and she doesn’t deny me. In fact, she is eager, anxious, responds to the low groans that work up my throat. For a moment, I forget that she is not mine, that I had to push her away. All I feel is her lips, her soft, warm tongue buried in my mouth, the way her hips touch against mine and it is fecking perfect. But perfection ends, is extinguished when she again pulls away. Bloody stubborn woman.
She closes her eyes again when I won’t give her an inch of space, tries denying what I’m doing to her body, I can tell. I won’t let her deny this. Not this time. Her skin is so soft, like silk, when I cup her chin between my fingers. They are calloused, shouldn’t be touching her, aren’t worthy. “Look at me,” I say, my voice sharp. “Fecking look at me, Autumn,” I whisper.
She manages to resist, just a few blinks more before she finally watches me. I don’t know what expression I’m giving her. Is it still guarded, hopefully still hiding all the things that are racing in my mind. I want her. Badly. But it isn’t just her body. I think I fecking love her, God help me and the idea of her not wanting, not loving me back makes my control, my composure a pathetic things to lose hold of.
Autumn’s body is hot now, her skin flushed. If she didn’t want me, she’d say so. She’d work that biting knee up against my knob like the first night I tried to kiss her. But she doesn’t. Her fingers claw into my arms, her breath comes out heavy, desperate. “You want me. You want my skin on yours, don’t you? You want to feel my hands on your body.” I touch her, tentative at first, then out of control, a slow rub against her hardening nipple. She doesn’t slap my hand away. In fact, her back curves a small fraction, pushing against my fingers. “I can feel it. Your body aching for me just like mine aches for you.”
“I…I don’t want…want you.”
She’s lying. That hard nipple rubs against my fingers again, her hips moving like she wants me to bury myself inside her. God, just the thought of that has me grabbing her wrist, pulling her palm against my aching hard dick. I’m not sure what she’ll do. Hit me? Knee me again? But she doesn’t jerk her hand away. She doesn’t do anything in fact except work those clever fingers against me and shite does it feel good.
She touched me the other day in the library basement. Her fingers worked my dick like they knew exactly how to touch me; as though it was natural how she touchs me. I fecking loved it. “I want you too, love. So much. I want you wet and willing and desperate for me, just like I am for you. All the time. Every second of the bleeding day I think of that night in your bed when all I wanted was to be buried inside you. It hasn’t stopped, no matter what I say, it won’t stop, this ache for you, only you, McShane.” She shakes, arms trembling, touch faltering until I feel cold, miss the searing way she rubbed against me. She can’t do that, can’t stop. “Don’t stop. Don’t ever stop. Let me have you, be with you.”
“No, Declan. You only want me now because I’m seeing Tucker. I’m tired of you fucking with my head.”
Fecking Morrison again. “You’re not with Tucker, not now. I just want…I need…” my breath catches, clots in my throat and all that I feel, all the emotions and heat Autumn works over me, in me, spills out like a flood. I want so many things; her, us, to be free to touch her, to have, to be claimed by her. My mind is stupid with a jumble of thoughts, of things I’m desperate for. And I don’t think, barely breath and some primal bugger takes over, moves my hands down her legs, pulls up her skirt over her hips.
Even before I touch, I can tell she is wet. She wears a thong, fuck me. A bity strip of fabric barely covering her tight body and my fingers move on their own, my heart pounds nearly as hard as my dick throbs.
She’s fecking killing me.
It gets worse when I cup her. Worse still when she moans. “Feck, McShane.” The thin fabric of her thong is in my way and so I push it aside, feel over those soaking lips. “You don’t want me, is it?” I slip a finger inside and instantly shudder. She is soaking and so fecking warm. Is she gripping my finger on purpose? Is that just an instinctive reaction? I don’t fecking care either way. God, she feels good and the way her body reacts, how tight she clamps around my finger, how she milks it, tells me all I need to know. Doesn’t want me? When look in those gorgeous, heavy lidded eyes tells me that utter shite.
“You want me,” I say. “God, how you do and I need you, love. I need to feel you wrapped around me, clutching against me. Only me. That arsehole couldn’t do this to you. You wouldn’t want him to. Not like this.” I push in deeper to hear that low moan of hers, but she’s holding back, refusing to respond. I lick a hot path on her neck, push my weight on her and finally, she releases a heady moan. Morrison couldn’t get this response from her. No bleeding way could he have her purring like this. “I know you don’t want him like you want me.”
I think she has gone over completely, that she will agree that she will stay with me, forget whatever it was I said to push her away. Right now, I’m not thinking about anything other than the way she feels, how she smells, how much I want to keep my mouth over hers. But then, she straightens, refuses my kiss.
“No, I don’t.” I knew it. I knew she didn’t want him. Pouncy bollocks could never touch Autumn like this. She takes a breath, sets her shoulders, then pushes me back, staggers me and I immediately miss the feel of her body squeezing around my finger. “Not yet. But I will. I swear to God I will.”
If she’d hit me, it would have hurt less. She doesn’t look at me when she fixes her skirt, when she hurries to unlock the door. She’s going with him. She’s going to walk out of that door and be off with Morrison. She let me touch her. She let me feel her and she’s still going to walk away from me.
“You don’t love him,” I say, holding my breath, waiting to see if she’ll deny that.
“I don’t love anyone, Declan.”
And as Autumn leaves the bathroom, she takes my breath, little bits of my heart right with her. She leaves me alone with the memory of her warm body and smell of her skin burning in my mind.