High powered divorce lawyer, Victoria Larkin, is known as the ice queen. Tough. Emotionless. What they don’t know, is that ten years ago, she lost everything. Including her hope for the future.
Chase Monroe struggles with his own demons. Devastated by guilt and on a mission to correct his past, he uses his skills as a college psychology professor to help others move beyond their grief.
When Victoria is forced to attend grief counselling, she meets Chase, and there is an instant attraction. Chase is determined to help her confront her past and find happiness. Victoria is afraid to relive her pain.
Just as they begin to step forward, tragedy strikes and throws them backwards, and they find themselves, once again, shackled to the past.
Can Chase and Victoria find the path to a happy future together? Or will they forever be wishing for yesterday?
**Recommended 18+ due to language and sexual content.
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“Now,” I narrow my eyes and pin several of my smart-ass students with a firm stare, “Don’t think by choosing ‘Power and Dominance’ as your topic that I’m going to accept a bunch of BDSM papers. If you took anything out of this class, you’ll understand that it is much more than floggers and calling someone Daddy.” An eruption of laughter roars in front of me. “Anyone that chooses that topic will be graded harder than say one that nobody ever chooses, like ‘Cognitive Biases of Decision Making’ or ‘Parental Investment.’”
The chuckles die down and several of them groan, clearly they were all headed to Tumblr to begin their research right after class.
I smirk at their disappointment and continue. “You have two weeks to complete this assignment as per what the grading rubric specifies. Wednesday and Friday of this week, we’ll use our class time in the Media Center to begin our research. All papers are due the week before finals and is twenty percent of your overall grade as you’ll see if you refer back to your syllabus. Anyone have any questions?”
Mack, the class idiot, raises his hand. “Two weeks isn’t very long to do a twenty-five-page research paper, Dr. Monroe. Especially when finals are around the corner.”
Several other students groan in agreement.
I frown and scrunch my eyebrows together as if to contemplate his complaint. “You know, Mack, you have a point. Forget the assignment.”
When they all cheer, I laugh. “Kidding. Do the assignment. Don’t be lazy. Most of you are U of C seniors and plan on taking internships at psychiatric wards and private practices this summer. Do you think they want lazy asses?”
Some of the class chuckles at my cursing while some are grumbling at my not-so-funny joke.
“I’m here to make it tough,” I regard Mack with a serious look and push my black-rimmed glasses up my nose, “Because those patients out there are going to be one helluva lot tougher than I am. Suck it up and do the assignment. See you guys Wednesday and don’t forget to have your topic posted on Blackboard before next class.”
This class groans and shuffles as they gather their things. Cort, my teaching assistant, strolls down the steps and drops his bag on my table. He’s been my assistant for two years now, but I’ll lose him in a few weeks once he graduates. Then it’ll be a nightmare selecting another to take his place. The guy’s familiar with the way I like to grade and keeps me organized. It sucks that I’ll have to start all over in the fall.
“You even had me going and I know never to believe your goofy ass,” he gripes and rolls his eyes at me as he leans against the table.
I chuckle as I gather my notes and tuck them into my thick, leather folder. “It’s twenty-five pages. They’ll get over it—so will you.”
“I, for one, could have used two weeks of extra study time,” he pouts.
Shoving the folder into my messenger bag, I raise an amused brow at him. “Really, Cort? You typed up the rubric and input my notes into Blackboard. Did you really think I’d waste all that work done and that you’d get off that easy?”
He runs a frustrated hand through his overgrown blond hair and frowns. “Wishful thinking I guess. I’m stressed and have a lot going on right now with my classes—all of which they are unloading a crap-ton of assignments at the last minute. But I should have known better with your hard ass.”
I stand and walk over to him, and then slap him on the shoulder. “Come on. I’ll take you to dinner, you big baby. I’ll tally the topics as they come in today and tomorrow and then add them to the spreadsheet. You can,” I throw up air quotes and mimic him in a whiny voice, “study.”
He swats me away as he laughs and shoulders his bag. “You’re a prick, Chase. No wonder you can’t keep a girlfriend.”
I flip him off and grab up my messenger bag. “I think you deserve an ‘F’ for that smart-ass comment. Besides,” I tease with a wag of my eyebrows, “They couldn’t hand the Chase.”
He shoves open the classroom door and I follow out after him. “Most women,” he mutters as if he’s the professor and I the student, “prefer to catch the one they’re chasing. You never settle with any of them.”
I scratch the dark scruff along my jawline as I ponder his words. “I stayed with Savannah for a while.”
He scoffs from beside me. “A while? Chase, you dated her for three weeks. The girl had practically planned your wedding and named all your future kids. And when you got bored of her and broke it off, who do you think she pestered for weeks afterward.”
Cort may be my teaching assistant and eight years my junior, but we’ve become pretty good friends. Unfortunately for him, he’s been privy to several hairy breakups. Including Savvy.
“She didn’t pester you,” I laugh and hold open the door that leads outside and to the parking lot.
This time he bellows. “Fucking asshole! She stalked me on Facebook and sent me like fifty-seven messages asking me to ‘talk’ to you. I finally had to block her ass. So yes, she pestered the hell out of me.”
My thoughts turn to Savvy. Sweet, petite, pixie of a woman, Savvy. Her bobbed brunette hair and dimples drew me in. Her neediness and pressure to define our relationship was what drove me away. The woman was great in the sack. It was after we crawled out of bed that things became a problem.
“Maybe I should call her up. Invite her to dinner with us,” I poke at him to see if he’ll bite.
“Do it and I’ll torch your baby,” he threatens, taking my bait.
As we stride through the parking lot, I search for my baby. She’s all curves and gloss. My baby doesn’t whine or complain when I leave the toilet seat up or ask me to call her my girlfriend. In fact, she purrs when I get her all revved up.
“Do it and I’ll torch you.”
He bursts into hysterics as we approach my midnight black with charcoal racing stripes Dodge Challenger. I bought her new in December—a little present to myself. Her payment is more than my rent, but she’s worth it.
“You know,” he muses as we toss our bags into the back and climb in, “Maybe I should become a college professor instead. Dr. Murdock drives a six-year-old Toyota Camry with hubcaps and wears stained button downs. You, on the other hand, look like you fell out of a magazine with your model hair and drive a badass car. I wonder if I could convince Mom to skip on my interning with him and change things up a bit. Chicago needs better professors. Who better than fresh from the class of 2015?”
I shake my head ruefully at him and push my key into the ignition. After I turn her over and rev the engine, I glance over at him before putting it in gear. “Considering Dr. Murdock is the partnering psychiatrist at your Mom’s private practice, I don’t think that’d be a good idea. Besides, I like when she invites me to dinner a couple of times a month. She’d kick my ass if I influenced you to switch careers and my home cooked meals would dry up.”
Rolling out of the spot, I lean back against the cherry red leather bucket seat and cruise out of the parking lot. I hang a left onto 59th and head toward our favorite Irish pub, O’Malley’s that sells the best Galway oysters and draft beer.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think my mom would ever cut you off. She says I need a good, male role model in my life,” he growls out the last part with a bitter bite.
I clear my throat and change the subject. Cort has the corner on deadbeat dads. But, he doesn’t like talking about it, and I don’t push. “How’s Blair?”
Glancing over at him, I’m rewarded with a toothy grin. “God, man, she’s amazing. I’m going to marry that girl one day.”
“Did she finally start giving head?” I laugh.
His cheeks redden, but he nods. Lucky prick. “Like a champ,” he says with a whistle, “But that’s not why. She’s great and I love her.”
Such an unfamiliar word in my head.
No matter how many times I lecture on the topic of love and mating from a psychological perspective, I have a hard time grasping it in my own head. Aside from mom, I don’t love anyone. And several girls I dated came close but it was never more than a lovely infatuation. Never love. Never the all-encompassing, do anything for the other, blinding type of love.
I wonder if I’m even capable.
I wonder if I even deserve it.
“Blair’s a good apple,” I agree, driving out depressing, self-loathing thoughts as I pull into O’Malley’s parking lot. “She’s good for you.”
We climb out and make our way inside the smoky pub. Claudia owns the place and squeals when she sees me walk inside. The fifty-something woman with her horrible blond dye job painted on her shoulder length hair bounces over to me, suffocating me with not only her hug but her god awful perfume she no doubt hoarded from the eighties.
“Missed you, handsome,” she gushes and finally releases me. Her brown eyes have been dulled from years of drowning her sadness in alcohol. Tiny wrinkles around her heavily rouge painted lips though indicate she’s spent the past few years finding happiness again.
I chuckle and flash her a flirtatious grin. “You saw me Saturday, gorgeous. It’s not like I don’t come in here at least once between weekends.”
Her cheeks redden and she waves us over to a booth near a window. “You’re too young to be flirting with an old lady like me. Sit your cute butts down over there and I’ll bring you a couple of tall boys. I’ll have Baxter throw in a batch of fried pickles too.”
Cort rolls his eyes at me as we slide into the booth. He’s used to my effect on every woman I encounter. Claudia’s different than most women, though. She’s a true friend and we understand the pain we each force below our surface, hidden by jokes and smiles.
“Maybe you should hook up with her,” he jests after she scurries off, “That is unless you’ve already hit that. You dirty bastard.”
“She’s my friend, asshole. We’re in the same group that meets each Saturday.” As soon as I blurt out the last bit, I clamp my mouth shut, grinding my teeth into dust and wish I could erase my words.
He quirks a blond brow in question, the clever guy not missing a beat. “You ever going to tell me about this group? What is it? A singles group? It can’t be AA because you drink more than me and I’m the college, kid.”
Guilt surges through me at not ever having told Cort about what my group is. He’s never asked so blatantly before and I’m unsure how to respond. My group is very near and dear to me. Each person in there is closer to me than my own mother. Our pasts are all brittle and broken. It seems traitorous to share what we are about with someone who could never understand.
“It’s a support, group. And Claud’s a great lady but she’s not interested in ever remarrying,” I clip out and cut my eyes over to her. She’s slicing an orange to garnish our beers with and she’s lost in thought. When no one’s looking, she drops her playful demeanor. Loss and heartache plague her features. But the moment she lifts her chin and her eyes meet mine, she forces a grin. I smile back. “Anyway, what’re you doing your topic on?”
Cort narrows his eyes at me but respects my blatant subject change. “Personality and Psychopathology. Thought I might figure out ole’ Daddy,” he grits out.
His parents divorced when he was a senior in high school when his mother found her best friend in bed with her husband. It was a bitter, nasty divorce that pulled both him and his younger sister into it.
“Psychopathology isn’t the same as psychopathy, man. Hate to burst your bubble there. You’re dad’s just a cheating asshole. That’s my professional opinion,” I tell him with a shrug.
He laughs and soon we’re past tense subjects while we devour fried pickles and beer that Claudia’s long since brought to us.
My laptop sits on the coffee table in front of me open to Blackboard. Most of my students have already inputted their topics, a few brave souls—Mack included—challenging me by taking on ‘Power and Dominance.’ But my gaze isn’t on my computer but instead on the wall in front of me—a wall I’ve painted countless times. Clamping my eyes shut, I attempt to conjure up the exact shade I remember. Everything is sketchy in my memory bank and no matter how hard I try, I can’t get it right.
One thing’s for sure, though.
It’s the wrong goddamned shade.
With a huff, I rise to my feet and stalk over to the bookshelf in the corner. On the top shelf sits a color palette booklet. Snatching it up, I thumb through the colors of the rainbow until I find the one color that always alludes me yet is perfectly imprinted in my brain.
I count through the X’s over each wrong color.
The seventeenth shade gets a big fucking X too.
Since I only instruct Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week, Tuesday’s and Thursday’s are my play days. Tomorrow, it would seem, I’ll be playing in the paint section of the hardware store.
I carry over the palette to the bar and drop it beside my wallet. Tomorrow I’ll attempt, once again, to find that color.
The color that haunts my dreams.
The color that should bring joy but instead drags out depression from the depths of my soul.
A color that will always be perfect in my head but no matter how hard I fucking try, I’ll never bring it to life on my living room wall.
“Life’s not fair,” I mimic Mom’s words.
I cringe at her harsh words that were meant to mend my heart and push me back into reality. Back then, despite her unyielding personality, she was there for me. But, she eventually lost the bite of her hardened heart that my selfish father created, the moment Alzheimer’s started playing tricks on her. Little by little it stole my strict mother away and in return gave me this confused, lost woman. The only person I ever truly loved came to a point where she couldn’t remember if she loved me back or not. Now, I’m all on my own, facing reality, without my mother’s guiding hand and advice.
My head throbs in unison with my broken heart and I run my fingers through my hair. Gripping at it, I slam my eyes shut.
Discombobulated shards of my brutal past stab and slice through my head. I force my eyes back open and with it, the sadness that ever attaches itself to my psyche withdraws into the shadows of my mind.
Tomorrow, I’ll visit her.
Tuesday’s they have fresh daffodils at Schrage’s Florist and just like I do each week, I’ll bring them to her.
She doesn’t have to tell me she likes them because I know.
Pain once again slices through my chest and I stumble into the kitchen, on a desperate mission to dull it. Yanking open the cabinet door above the stove, I grab the amber colored whiskey bottle and unscrew the cap. I bring it to my lips and take a long swig, enjoying the burn as it races down my throat.
It burns in my chest and chases away the hurt.
But for how long?
Another pull of the whiskey.
Life’s not fucking fair.
I’m a lover of all things books, a hopeless romantic, and have always had a passion for writing. Between being a sappy romantic, my love of an HEA, my crazy imagination, and ok, let’s be real, my dirty mind, I fell easily into writing romance.
I’m a huge baseball fan and yet, a complete girly, girl. I’m an obsessive reader and have a slight (hahaha! Slight? Yeah, right) addiction to signed books.
I’m married to my very own book boyfriend, an alpha male with a sexy, sweet side. He is the best inspiration, my biggest supporter and the love of my life. He is also incredibly patient and understanding about the fact that he has to fight the voices in my head for my attention.
I hope you enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoyed writing them!
K Webster is the author of dozens of romance books in many different genres including contemporary romance, historical romance, paranormal romance, and erotic romance. When not spending time with her husband of twelve years and two adorable children, she's active on social media connecting with her readers.
Her other passions besides writing include reading and graphic design. K can always be found in front of her computer chasing her next idea and taking action. She looks forward to the day when she will see one of her titles on the big screen.
You can easily find K Webster on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads!