Will wedding bells rock out for Louder Than Love’s most beloved couple in this Love and Steel novella?
Falling in love with rock star Adrian “Digger” Graves was a dream come true for former librarian Kat Lewis. But with a little help from friends and family—including Kat’s adorable daughter, Abbey—Adrian has planned an evening and a proposal beyond her wildest dreams.
The night before, Kat witnessed the triumphant reunion of Adrian’s rock band at Madison Square Garden. Tonight, he will escort her to the elegant, ultra-exclusive Library Lion’s benefit. It seems like a fairytale, but even fairytales have a deeper, darker side. When old habits return to tempt her knight in shining heavy metal armor, will Kat’s happily ever after come crashing back to reality?
Don’t miss the next Love and Steel novel, Softer Than Steel, coming in September 2015 from InterMix.
Praise for Louder Than Love
“An emotional ride with a to-die-for hero and with a sparkling ending. Topper is an author to watch!”—Laura Drake, author of The Reasons to Stay
“A beautiful and engaging story that will melt your heart.”—Open Book Society
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Also by Jessica Topper
Louder than Love
Dictatorship of the Dress
Courtship of the Cake
Softer than Steel [9/15]
Deeper than Dreams
InterMix Books, New York
AN IMPRINT OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE LLC
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DEEPER THAN DREAMS
An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2015 by Jessica Topper.
Excerpt from Softer Than Steel copyright © 2015 by Jessica Topper.
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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-19226-3
InterMix eBook edition / August 2015
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Penguin Random House is committed to publishing works of quality and integrity.
In that spirit, we are proud to offer this book to our readers;
however, the story, the experiences, and the words
are the author’s alone.
Also by Jessica Topper
Deeper than Dreams
Preview of Softer Than Steel
Rick - Shafted
Sidra - Cinderella in Reverse
For all the dreamers.
“Where would you find fairy tales on the library shelves, luv?”
Adrian’s question sifted into my slumber, adding depth and dimension. I was vaguely aware of his warm skin against my cheek and his chest rising and falling in a deep rhythm.
“398.2,” I recited, my voice drowsy from dreaming. “Why?”
“I love fairy tales,” Abbey murmured to my left. Her small body stiffened in a long stretch before curling around my hip and leg, and her tiny hand pat-patted Adrian’s where it was cupped around my shoulder.
“I’m just making sure you know where you’re waking up.”
Oh, I knew exactly where.
The three of us were all under one roof, in the twenty-six-hundred square feet of the Manhattan sky that was Adrian’s apartment, waking up together for the first time. Some might call it a fairy tale, happily ever after and all that jazz. I was thinking more along the lines of the best kind of dream, finally come true.
I had, after all, dreamed of Adrian Graves before I had even met him.
“You’re smiling, Kat,” he whispered. “I can feel it.”
My grin pressed against the spiral of his desert flower tattoo. Unlike the species it was based on, which took years to blossom and only opened for a few days at a time, Adrian’s flower was always in bloom. It was more like the love that had inspired it: quickly growing, fresh, and beautiful.
“My favorite fairy tale of all is ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears,’” Abbey continued in her breathy, morning rasp. “My bed at home is too small. Natalie’s bed down the hall is too big. But this bed? Just right!”
“Don’t get too used to it,” I warned her. “You’ve got school tomorrow.”
Reality had been sucked into a surreal vacuum as I had watched Adrian perform last night as Digger Graves to a screaming, sold out crowd at his Madison Square Garden show. The concert had taken place on Halloween, which just so happened to have fallen on a Sunday.
“Mommy, do we have to go back home?” Abbey’s small fist punched at the pillow in protest. “I don’t want to go to school.”
“Let’s not think about tomorrow just yet.” Adrian raked a hand through his wayward, dark blond hair. The only lingering evidence of last night’s performance was a smudge of kohl liner under his right eye, reminiscent of Malcolm McDowell’s creepy character in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. My gentle menace kissed both of our foreheads in turn. “Let’s think about . . . breakfast in bed. What shall we have? Beans on toast? Smoked eel pie?”
Abbey gave a delighted squeal of disgust, disturbing the kitten at her feet. She loved when Adrian waxed poetic on what she considered the humorous meals of his homeland.
“How about a full English breakfast for your mum?” he continued. “A proper fry-up that’s old-school, greasy, and gorgeous?”
Abbey giggled with every trilled r that rolled off his tongue. “What will Chelsea eat?” she asked.
The kitten was now up and stalking a loose thread from the sheet, pouncing as Adrian rolled out of bed and shrugged into a zip-up hooded sweatshirt. He was always careful to shield his “boogeyman” body art from Abbey’s young eyes and imagination, lest she have nightmares about some of the more gruesome tattoos on display.
“Kippers for the wee little Chelsea?”
Whether my five-year-old even knew what a kipper was, I wasn’t sure. But she clapped her hands and bounced off the bed after Adrian.
“A full English breakfast would be wonderful,” I told them both, propping myself up on my elbows. “Hold the black pudding, baked beans, and fried bread.”
“So basically bacon and eggs?” Adrian laughed. “I can do that. But I need the help of a certain cat and trusty sidekick.”
Ever a slave to PBS and her favorite TV show, Abbey pricked up her ears. “Maxwell MacGillikitty?” With zero hesitation, she added, “And Mr. Quackson, his dashing duck confidant?”
Although he had written the show’s theme song in jest many years ago, Adrian respected Abbey’s devotion to its cat crusader hero, and answered her in all seriousness.
“I’m afraid Max and the Mister are indisposed, Abbey. But you and Chelsea will do just fine.”
He gave me a wink, which threw my own imagination into overdrive. Sexy man, entertaining your child, as Marissa would say. My best friend had seen the potential in Adrian as soon as he strummed his first bar chord during that children’s program he so graciously agreed to do at the library back in April. Little had I known, I had pulled one of the world’s most elusive hard rockers out of hiding and back amongst the living that day.
“Do they have spiral staircases in English?” I heard Abbey inquire, as they made their way downstairs.
“England’s got loads of ’em! There are the Tulip Stairs at the Queen’s house, for one.”
“Have you ever been there?”
Adrian’s laugh was faint to my ears, and his response was too far away to hear as they descended. I smiled and stretched, reveling in the glorious view that was just beyond my fingertips. There was barely a need for curtains when you were set so high above Central Park, although I had no doubt some of the apartments on the East Side housed telescopes powerful enough to see right across to the West Side. We had fallen asleep under the fattened Manhattan moon last night, and had awoken to a crisp, autumn day. The park was awash with golden browns, oranges, and yellows; its treetops like a seventies-era shag carpet I could imagine walking across. The foliage was still lush, although there were a few bare spots here and there where leaves had already found their way down to the ground. My smile turned into a sigh as I realized it was November 1st.
Some people reveled in flipping to a new page on the calendar, for them it was a time of new beginnings and fresh starts, and I didn’t begrudge them that. Fate had just dictated a sadder habit for me, reminding me of loss with each passing of the milestone first of the month. So much, in fact, I couldn’t bear to keep a calendar in the house until Abbey reached school age and necessity had warranted it.
Do we have to go back home? Abbey’s plaintive tone, entreating me, came to mind. I don’t want to go to school.
School was in Lauder Lake, and Lauder Lake had been our home for the last four years. Sanctuary after our senseless loss. That September 1st day had started like any other, and had ended in a memory I could never shake. I hadn’t been able to stay in the city after Pete died. Home couldn’t be where my husband had existed one day and not the next. So I had taken our baby daughter to the one place where I had existed before I knew him.
But I had just been living on autopilot there. Until Adrian stumbled—adorably and drunkenly—into our lives last spring.
And now here we were, back in Manhattan. I was happy, but sometimes found it hard to wrap my head around it.
“Over easy, luv?” Adrian bellowed.
“Scrambled, please!” I kicked down the covers, suddenly restless. I wasn’t used to being waited on. “I can come down, please don’t fuss.”
“Don’t come down yet!” Abbey screeched. “We’re not fussing, we’re busy.”
I laughed to an empty room, shaking my head, and reached for some reading material. My fingertips fell on the red-leather binding of Blake’s poetry. Adrian had read from the book the first time I had visited—not long after I had discovered the legendary identity of my new lover. The memory felt like an old one. He’d had a MetroCard marking his spot that day, conjuring up images in my mind of him entering the subway with both in hand and winding under Manhattan for hours, lost in Blake’s world of words.
Today there was a new marker holding his place on a different page. Adrian had underlined select passages, and certain words were even circled with inky emphasis.
I seize the sphery harp, strike the strings!
At the first sound the golden Sun arises from the deep,
And shakes his awful hair;
The Echo wakes the moon to unbind her silver locks:
Arise and drink your bliss!
I wake sweet joy in dens of sorrow, and I plant a smile
In forests of affliction,
And wake the bubbling springs of life in regions of dark death.
With a smile, I couldn’t help but wonder if Adrian had been pondering the poetry, or dreaming up new song material inspired by such heavy stanzas. I loved Blake’s imagery of golden suns and silvery moons. The actual sun chose to shine strong as I glanced back up, setting the trees ablaze in glorious light and warming my face.
Arise and drink your bliss!
Perhaps it was time for new beginnings.
I moved to stow Adrian’s place marker, realizing it was an envelope as its unsealed flap caught on the pages. Digger & Kat was inked across the front in neat, narrow script.
I had only met Adrian’s best friend and bandmate in person once, last night, but I recognized Rick’s signature left-slanting scrawl immediately from a lifetime of sharing living quarters with my brother, the ultimate Corroded Corpse fanboy. Mass-produced centerfold spreads still hung on the walls of my house from various music magazines, photographs in full-color with signatures printed across them. Kevin had cherished them all as if they were personally inscribed. Rick’s penmanship graced the liner notes inside the band’s albums as well, from handwritten lyrics to clever hidden messages for the fans to find.
I peeked inside the envelope, and gasped.
Digger had some explaining to do.
I found Adrian and Abbey in the kitchen. Breakfast was indeed in progress on the stove, but those two were conferring, thick as thieves, at the kitchen island. I glanced around suspiciously. Markers and paper were strewn everywhere. Adrian, leaning on his forearms across the work surface, hastily slid back and nonchalantly grabbed a spatula. Abbey curled her bare feet around the chrome rungs of the stool she perched on and quickly immersed herself in her artwork, pretending to whistle even though she hadn’t quite mastered the skill yet.
“What’s going on?” I demanded. “And why does everyone look as guilty as the proverbial cat who swallowed the canary . . . except for the cat?” Chelsea was hunkered by a tiny ceramic bowl, chowing down on dry food rather than the smelly, oily fish Adrian had joked about upstairs.
“Nothing,” Abbey sing-songed. “Just drawing.”
“Abbey’s been keeping me company while I was cooking, and now,” Adrian sidled up next to me with frying pan in hand, “brekkie is served.” He slid a healthy portion onto Abbey’s plate, and she quickly abandoned her art.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I truely love jessicas ability to write such authentic characters & what a beautiful heartwarming conclusion to adrian and kats love story!! What a monumental way to give us readers a vision of this couples future happiness together! I really had to take a few days to recover from the emotiinal impact if this beautiful story's conclusion ! Bravo !! Well done& im proud to say that we ve met and conversed! You are such a sweet & welcoming person.... reflected in your writing
I liked Deeper Than Dreams by Jessica Topper, the second installment in her Love & Steal series. However, I believe I would have truly loved it if I would have read Louder Than Love, Ms. Topper's debut novel and the first book in this trilogy. I am disappointed that the book blurb did not mention the necessity of reading the books in order. At times I felt lost and disconnected from the characters and the plot. This is the love story between rock superstar Adrian Graves, and Kat Lewis, a former librarian. Both come into the relationship with a lot of emotional baggage, and make each other happy with their wit, attraction, and a five year old loaded with cuteness. Adrian puts together a magical evening, and includes Kat's brother, friends and daughter in the planning process. The night culminates into a happily ever after that is one for the record books. Although this novella left me incomplete, I enjoyed it enough to read the first book in the series. Complimentary copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Will wedding bells rock out for Louder Than Love’s most beloved couple in this Love and Steel novella? Falling in love with rock star Adrian “Digger” Graves was a dream come true for former librarian Kat Lewis. But with a little help from friends and family—including Kat’s adorable daughter, Abbey—Adrian has planned an evening and a proposal beyond her wildest dreams. The night before, Kat witnessed the triumphant reunion of Adrian’s rock band at Madison Square Garden. Tonight, he will escort her to the elegant, ultra-exclusive Library Lion’s benefit. It seems like a fairytale, but even fairytales have a deeper, darker side. When old habits return to tempt her knight in shining heavy metal armor, will Kat’s happily ever after come crashing back to reality? Review: This is a sweet and sexy follow-up to the first book in the series, Louder Than Love. I loved the first book and was extremely excited to pick up this book that carries on Kat and Adrian's love story. This quick novella shows what happens with Kat and Adrian the day after the big comeback concert. I think I have fallen more for Adrian after reading this story, the man is a true romantic. Plus, he is sexy and a rocker. ******spoiler****** He creates the most amazing day for Kat which culminates in the sweetest proposal ever. Excellent writing again by Ms. Topper, her stories and characters are rich and interesting. If you have not read the first book, I would pick it up now and read it before book #2 comes out in September. I got my advance copy of Softer Than Steel and cannot wait to get reading it. I adore this series and highly recommend it! 5Stars *Received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review."
Okay, so first of all, this review is totally biased because I LOVE Adrian and Kat so much. When I first met them in LOUDER THAN LOVE, I knew their story was something special. So when it was announced that Adrian and Kat were getting a novella about the start of their new life together, I HAD to read it! I was not disappointed. DEEPER THAN DREAMS is a bridge novella between LOUDER THAN LOVE and SOFTER THAN STEEL (Riff’s book). The story picks up right where the last book left off. Adrian, Kat and her daughter Abbey have settled comfortably in Adrian’s apartment. It’s not called “home” yet but they’re working on it. The novella is not solely centered on Adrian and Kat though. There’s also a lot of backstory from Adrian's and his bandmate Riff’s pasts as well as their original band, Corroded Corpse. DEEPER THAN DREAMS was a complete joy to read and I absolutely LOVED the ending! I would highly recommend you read LOUDER THAN LOVE first before tackling this novella. I’m sure you could read it as a standalone but you’d miss the beauty of Adrian and Kat’s courtship. I’m even MORE excited for the next book in the Love & Steel series, SOFTER THAN STEEL. Riff is a complicated man and I’m very curious about him! I was gifted an eBook copy from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own.