How do you fix a love that's been broken beyond repair?
For years, Cassie Taylor tried to forget about Ethan Holt. He was the one great love of her life, and when he failed to return her love, a part of her died forever. Or so she thought. Now she and Ethan are sharing a Broadway stage, and he's determined to win her back. Claiming to be a changed man, he's finally able to say all the things she needed to hear years ago, but can she believe him? What makes this time different from all his other broken promises?
Ethan knows he can't change their tumultuous past, but if he's going to have any chance of being with the woman he loves, he'll need to convince Cassie that her future belongs with him.
Don't miss this stunning conclusion to the unforgettable love story that captivated over two million fans online.
"The emotions were superb. Hottest new book couple!" -Jennifer Probst, New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage Bargain
"Leisa Rayven crashes onto the romance scene, laughing, flirting, and just daring us to put Bad Romeo down. I couldn't!" -Christina Lauren, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Bastard
About the Author
Leisa Rayven is the author of Bad Romeo and a freelance actor and producer in Brisbane, Australia, who makes frequent trips to L.A. and NYC.
Read an Excerpt
By Leisa Rayven
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Leisa Rayven
All rights reserved.
New York City, New York
The Apartment of Cassandra Taylor
In Japan, they have something called Kintsugi—the art of repairing precious pottery with gold. The result is a piece that has obviously been broken, but is more beautiful for it.
It's a concept that has always fascinated me.
So often, people try to hide their scars. As if the slightest damage proves how weak they are. They equate scars with mistakes, and those mistakes with shame. Perfection forever marred.
Kintsugi does the opposite. It says, "There is beauty born from tragedy. Look at these precious fault lines of experience."
As I stand in my hallway, staring at the front door that reverberates with my former lover's knocks, it occurs to me that even though Kintsugi is a noble concept, it doesn't change the truth that once something is broken, it can never be anything else. Beautiful repair, no matter how elegant, doesn't make it whole again. It's still just a collection of pieces impersonating its former shape.
Judging from his soul-baring e-mail this morning, which included an epic declaration of love, I believe Ethan wants to repair me. Ironic, considering he was the one who broke me in the first place.
I know you think I left because I didn't love you, but you're wrong. I've always loved you, from the moment I first laid eyes on you.
I'd spent so long believing I got what I deserved when people left me that I didn't stop to think I got what I deserved when I met you. I couldn't comprehend that if I stopped being an enormous insecure jackass for five minutes, that maybe ... just maybe ... I could keep you.
I want to keep you, Cassie.
You need me as much as I need you. We're both hollow without the other, and it's taken me a long time to realize that.
There's the knocking again, this time louder. I know I have to answer it.
He's right. I am hollow without him. I always have been. But what do I have to offer other than a shell of the woman he fell in love with?
Don't be as stupid as I was and let the insecurities win. Let us win. Because I know you think loving me again is a crapshoot and that your odds are grim, but let me tell you something: I'm a sure thing. I couldn't stop loving you if I tried.
It's possible for him to love me and still leave me. He's proven that time and again.
Am I still terrified of you hurting me? Of course. Probably the same way you're terrified I'll hurt you.
But I'm brave enough to know it's absolutely worth the risk.
Let me help you be brave.
Brave is a word I haven't used to describe myself for a long time.
My phone buzzes with a message.
Excitement and fear crawl up my spine, racing to see which one can paralyze my brain first.
When I'd finished reading his e-mail, I needed to see him. But now that he's here, I have no idea what to do.
As I walk down the hallway, I feel like I'm dreaming. Like the past three years have been a nightmare and I'm about to wake up. Everything feels slow. Important.
When I reach the door, I tighten my robe and exhale in an effort to calm my nerves. Then, with a shaky hand, I pull it open.
I make myself breathe as the door swings open to reveal Ethan, phone in hand. So handsome but tired. Nervous. Looking almost as nervous as I feel.
"Hey." He says it softly. Like he's afraid I'm going to chase him away.
"How? I mean, I just texted you. Were you already here?"
"Uh ... yeah. I've ... well, I've been here for a while. After I e-mailed you, I couldn't sleep. Couldn't stop thinking about things. You." He looks down at the phone and shoves it in his pocket. "I wanted to be near you, just in case you ..." He smiles and shakes his head. "I wanted to be here. Close."
His jacket is on the ground, crumpled next to a cardboard coffee cup.
"Ethan, how long have you been out here?"
"I told you, a whi—"
"How long, exactly?"
His small smile masks something deeper. Something desperate.
"A few hours, but in a way ..." He looks at his feet and shakes his head again. "I kind of feel like I've been waiting out here for three years, just trying to find the courage to knock on the door. I guess that e-mail was my way of doing it."
When he glances up again, for the first time in a long while, I see fear in his eyes. "The real question is, are you going to let me in?"
I notice how I'm gripping the doorjamb with my right hand, while holding the door with my left. My whole body blocks the entrance. It's like everything I am is subconsciously standing in his way.
He leans forward slowly, being so careful. "You read my e-mail, right?"
Right away, the space between us feels very small.
He puts his hands in his pockets, expression wary. "And? Did it help?" I don't know what to say. Does he expect some sort of declaration from me? Something to match his thousand 'I love yous'?
"Ethan, that e-mail was ... amazing."
Apparently that's all he wants to hear, because his face lights up.
"You liked it?"
"I loved it." My throat tightens around the "L" word . "Did you really type out the ... those phrases ... individually?"
"How long did it take?"
"I didn't keep track of time. I just needed you to know. I still need for you to know."
I grip the door tighter.
I know we shouldn't be having this discussion in my hallway, but if I let Ethan in, he'll touch me, and then whatever fragile strength I have left will shatter.
"So ... where do we go from here?" He moves forward. "I mean, I know what I want." So close, his feet almost touch mine. "I think I've made myself pretty clear. But what about you?"
I tense because of his proximity.
This man represents so many things to me. He was my first true friend. My first love. First lover. The master of more pleasure than I knew existed, and the architect of more heartache than I thought I could endure.
It seems almost impossible to translate all of those men into the one he wants to be. The one who just wants to be a single thing to me.
"Cassie ..." He touches my hand, then traces down my wrist and over my forearm. There's an explosion of goosebumps left in his wake. "What do you want?" I want him. Can't want him. Need him. Hate needing him.
"I don't know," I whisper.
"I do," he says, leaning forward. "Invite me in. I promise, I'm here to stay this time."CHAPTER 2
Six Years Earlier
Westchester County, New York
When I wake, I stretch, and it takes me a moment to realize why I'm sore. Then I remember.
I had sex. Incredibly passionate, muscle-trembling sexual intercourse. With Ethan.
Ethan Holt took my virginity.
Oh, Lord, how he felt. All around me and inside.
Scenes from last night come flooding back and make the ache transform into tingles.
Surely I'll look different now. I feel different. Wonderful. Like a whole new world of experience has been opened up to me, and I can't wait to explore it.
As I sigh in contentment, I reach over to the other side of the bed, only to find it empty.
I open my eyes. "Ethan?"
I get up and check the rest of the apartment. Empty.
I go back and sit on my bed. The sheets are crumpled and still smell like him.
I check my phone. No messages. I look under the bed to make sure that a touching love note/apology hasn't slipped under there.
I'm pretty certain when a man leaves your bed in the middle of the night, it's not a good sign.
Later that morning, I jiggle my knees as I wait for our Advanced Acting class to begin.
Holt's late. He's never late.
I still can't believe he just left. I mean, if you sleep with a girl for the first time, you at least send her a text, right? If not an actual phone call to say, "Hey, thanks for letting me deflower you. It was rad."
I know that being open is a struggle for him, but doesn't he realize he's not the only one who needs reassurance?
Erika sweeps into the room, and I try to put Ethan from my mind.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back. I trust you all had a refreshing Thanksgiving break." Everyone murmurs something vaguely positive, and she smiles. "Good, because for the next few weeks, I'm going to push you harder than ever before. This term we'll be working with masks, which is one of the most challenging and ancient art forms within the theater."
The door opens, and Erika frowns as Holt walks in and sits down. He looks tired.
"Thank you for joining us, Mr. Holt."
He nods. "Yeah, no problem."
"Can I get you anything? A watch, perhaps?"
He looks down at his hands. "Sorry I'm late."
She gives him a pointed look. "As I was saying, mask work is difficult and requires the actor to be completely honest and open. It's not an art form that forgives emotional blocks or insecurities. Be prepared for some brutal self-examination."
Holt glances at me and gives me a tight smile before he turns away.
Erika goes to her desk and collects a large box filled with masks. She spreads them out on the floor.
"These masks exhibit specific emotional traits. I'd like you all to take a few minutes and choose one that appeals to you."
Everyone goes over to the masks. As they talk and laugh among themselves, Ethan stands at the back, waiting for the crowd to subside. I go and stand beside him.
"Hey." He barely looks at me.
"You bailed on me this morning." He shoves his hands in his pockets, and the muscles tighten in his jaw. "Are you ... upset with me? About what happened? I mean, I know you said we should wait, and I pushed you to do it anyway, but—"
"No." He shrugs. "I'm not upset with you. I was just ... I had stuff to do and I didn't want to wake you. Everything's fine."
His words are reassuring, but they don't make me feel any better. "So, you ... enjoyed it then? Me? What we did?"
He drops his head, and I see the hint of a smile as he leans down to whisper in my ear. "Cassie, only you would want to discuss sex in the middle of acting class. Can we please talk about this later, when we're not in a room full of people?"
"Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Later." I know he's right, but my ego deflates more every second. "When, later?"
He sighs and leans down again, so close his lips brush against my ear. "Yes, I enjoyed it. A lot. You were, without a doubt, the best I've ever had. But thinking about it right now isn't going to end well for me. So please, for the love of inconvenient boners everywhere, let it go."
His confession makes me beam. It doesn't excuse him leaving, but at least I know he had a good time.
Erika gestures to us. "Mr. Holt, Miss Taylor ... less talking, more mask choosing, please. I'd like to get started."
By the time we step forward, there are only two masks left: one with a large nose and heavy, frowning brows, and one that looks like a child, all round eyes and soft cheeks.
"Aggression and vulnerability," Erika says as she leans against her desk. When I pick up the child and Holt goes for the other one, she clucks her tongue and swaps them around. "This is a far less obvious choice for you both, don't you think?"
Holt tenses, and for a second I think he's going to argue, but Erika stares him down until he turns and goes back to his seat.
Erika then calls people to the performance space in pairs. She gives prompts for improvised scenes that use only body language. It's difficult, and everyone struggles, but Erika pushes them to give more. She's scary today, and by the time she calls me and Ethan to the stage, my hands are clammy.
"Miss Taylor, you're representing strength, but in a negative context. Bullish, domineering, uncompromising. Mr. Holt, you're the opposite. Sensitive, open, trusting. Begin when you're ready."
I slip on my mask. It's tight, which makes it difficult to breathe. My vision is limited to the small eyeholes, and I have to turn my head to see Ethan.
He glances at me for a few moments before putting on his own mask.
I take some time to center myself, then move toward him and make myself as imposing as possible. It's not easy when he towers over me. Still, I try to be aggressive and intimidating.
"Feel what you're doing, Miss Taylor. Inhabit the emotion of the mask." I grab Holt's shirt and silently order him to the floor. He shies away, feigning fear, but his movement is awkward.
"Mr. Holt, your mask represents submission and vulnerability. You have to embody those characteristics. Open yourself up."
Ethan tries to do what she's asked, but he throws out clichégestures that make him seem more angry than vulnerable.
I can tell that Erika is disappointed in our efforts. A few minutes later, when she calls a stop to the exercise, Holt all but rips off his mask and stalks back to his chair.
Erika collects the masks and places them back in their box. "I know that today was difficult, but it should get easier. Your final assessment in this subject will account for fifty percent of your acting grade, so I expect you all to deliver your best work."
Ethan raises his hand.
"Can we swap masks next time?"
"No. The mask you worked with today will remain yours for the rest of the semester. I think you'd better get used to exploring your vulnerable side, Mr. Holt."
The look on Ethan's face is so disdainful, it's almost funny.CHAPTER 3
The Grove's acting school is the most prestigious in the country, so it stands to reason that their standards are extremely high. Still, I don't think any of us were prepared for just how difficult some classes are proving to be. Especially masks.
Contrary to Erika's assurance that mask work would get easier, we all continue to struggle. But as bad as most of us are, Ethan is the worst. Erika has been pushing him harder than anyone else, and, of course, that means he's always in a crappy mood.
He's being distant, and even though I've made it very clear that I'd love to have more sex, it's been nearly a week since he's touched me anywhere interesting. He doesn't even hold my hand unless I initiate it. Good thing I always initiate it. If he won't let me have the rest of his body, I'm damn well going to have his hand.
"Erika fucking hates me," he says, as we head over to the Hub—a large, four-story building that houses the library, cafeteria, student lounge, and several large lecture theaters—to meet our friends for lunch.
"That's not true."
"Then why force me to work with that particular mask? Anger, sadness, aggression—I could nail any of those."
"Yeah, but she knows you have an issue with vulnerability, so she's pushing you to conquer it. Imagine how great it would be if you had a breakthrough. You'd probably top the class." And become a more affectionate boyfriend.
He shakes his head. "The likelihood of that happening is fucking nil. I can't do it, Cassie. In fact, I'm not even sure what it is."
I pull out my phone and google it. "Vulnerable. Adjective, meaning susceptible to being wounded or hurt; open to moral attack, criticism, temptation. Oh, wow! Next to the definition is a picture of you."
"Thanks. I try."
We're almost at the Hub when I spot a group of second years near the door. I recognize Olivia, Ethan's more-than-a-little-bitter ex, among them. She frowns when she notices Ethan holding my hand.
"I don't believe it," she says as we approach. "I thought all the stories about you having a girlfriend were bullshit, yet here you are with the same girl I saw you with at the beginning of the year. You're really putting the effort in to get her attached before you dump her, aren't you? I mean, what you did to me was bad, but this one? She's going to be cursing your name for years. Impressive."
Ethan tightens his hand around mine. "And today just keeps getting better." He tugs on my arm, and we head inside. I'm aware of Olivia staring after us.
"She really hates you, doesn't she?"
He nods. "Yeah, well, I gave her good reason to." He mutters that he needs food before disappearing into the crowded cafeteria.
I make my way to the far side of the room and find Jack, Lucas, Connor, Aiyah, Miranda, and Zoe at our usual table in the corner.
Jack looks around with a disgusted expression. "Damn, this place is depressing. Doesn't the student council have anything better to do than decorate the shit out of everything? It looks like Jingly the Glitter Fairy jizzed all over the damn place."
"It's nearly December," Aiyah says. "It's festive."
"Festive?" Jack gestures to the tsunami of tinsel and baubles surrounding us. "It borders on psychotic. Yesterday, they ripped down the Thanksgiving decorations like they'd personally insulted their mothers, and today, there's a metric shit-ton of Santa porn all over the damn place. No one needs this much fucking tinsel! If I show up to my rugby match this afternoon with goddamn glitter all over me, I'll make an official complaint to the dean. I will not be known as a human disco ball, no matter how fabulous that would look on me."
There are giggles before Lucas says, "So, what's everyone doing this weekend? Jack, did you finally convince that redheaded dance major to go out with you?"
Jack grins. "Hell yeah, I did. I'm taking her to that new Italian place in town. A little wine, a little pasta. And afterward, when I turn on the Avery charm, I predict I'll be face-deep in her ballet tights by bedtime."
Miranda glowers. "You realize that buying a woman a meal doesn't give you the right to bone her, right?"
Jack scoffs. "I'm aware. Plus, I actually like her. If sex was all I wanted I wouldn't go to all the trouble of taking her out, would I? I'd just invite her over to watch soft porn on Netflix in the hope that it would put her in the mood."
Excerpted from Broken Juliet by Leisa Rayven. Copyright © 2015 Leisa Rayven. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Beautiful Repair,
2. Despised Vulnerability,
4. Hold on to Me,
5. Perfect Disguise,
8. One Night,
10. This Too Shall Pass,
11. Open Book,
12. Hopeful Indifference,
15. Just Sex,
16. Little Ache,
17. Collision Course,
19. Emotional Evolution,
20. Now and Then,
21. Opening Night,
22. Beginning of the End,
23. Sink or Swim,
25. Final Bow,
About the Author,
Also by Leisa Rayven,
Praise for the Author,