Out of the ashes of ruined lives they finally find love.
When Brock Fitzgerald is welcomed back into his family thanks to the sympathy of his sister-in-law Evelyn and the tolerance of his twin brother Austin, he understands that this may be the best he’ll ever get for himself. Years spent partying, drinking and screwing his way through life have left him drained, exhausted and accepting of his many weaknesses. He’s grateful for the second chance he’s been offered, even as he continues to battle his demons, including one that leads him back into co-dependency with his oldest girlfriend.
Kayla Hettinger never imagined that once she declared herself clean after several near-overdoses of opiates she’d find herself tending bar for her brother’s fiancée Melody, and enjoying what life she’d managed to build. When she strikes up a friendship with Brock over shared experiences and ginger ale, she discovers something needier and more frightening inside herself—and in Brock—than either of them feels equipped to handle.
Breaking through the clutter of addiction and despair only to find your soulmate waiting on the other side seems like the stuff of fairy tales—until Brock and Kayla accept that being dependent on one another is the only way they’ll survive.
About the Author
Amazon best-selling author, mom of three, Realtor, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.
With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.
Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.
Read an Excerpt
Brock stared around at the bustling atmosphere of his brother's successful brewery, trying like hell to stifle the urge to bolt.
He knew he was only here thanks to Evelyn, his brother Austin's wife. If it had been up to Austin, he, Brock, the man's long-lost twin, would have been tossed out on his ear. Working here wasn't that bad. They kept him busy — which was something he'd demanded of them.
He had to be kept busy. Anything less would be a disaster.
"Hey, Brock," one of the office chicks hollered for him.
He blinked and slapped a smile on his face. "Yeah, sorry. Here. I found this new reporting system for your inventory management. It's mobile-based so anyone back in the warehouse can pull it up on their phone and make entries." He handed over the computer tablet, forcing himself not to stare at the woman's tits. She took it, patting his arm, brushing it with those self-same very large, very nice tits.
He gritted his teeth and palmed the anti-anxiety pill he kept in his pocket. He wasn't due to take it until noon but he knew this was going to be a 'one of those days' day
Sweat beaded his forehead as he turned from her and almost ran over Amy, Evelyn's too-cute-for-her-own-good assistant. She batted her long lashes at him. Her full, red lips moved. He blinked at her too, not hearing a word, aware only of the smell of her perfume, or shampoo, which almost covered the distinct, sexy odor of her skin.
"Sorry, I gotta ... go ..." He stumbled out of the main office, breathing heavily and cursing the genetic lottery that had gifted him with this weakness. Okay, all these weaknesses.
He ducked into the men's room and threw the lock, then leaned against the door, willing his stupid body to behave like a grown man's and not that of an out-of-control teenager's. He knew his problem of course — he'd been living with his curse long enough to realize his own triggers.
He'd not been sleeping well — again, his fault as he'd slid off the wagon with exercise. But he was so sick of the routine — he was fucking bored with it, with all of this. But that was not the original problem.
"Stop," he said, turning so he could slide down to the floor with his back to the locked door. "Just stop."
He rested his face on his arms and waited, knowing it would pass. It always did.
Flashes of memory hit his brain — the smells and tastes of all the women he'd fucked paraded around, poking and prodding and teasing him. The sweet but ghostly memory of a heroin high made him shiver. The edgy, brittle perfection of a night out on nothing but X plus a hit of coke made his face burn.
He wanted it. He wanted all of it. He needed it. Why didn't anybody understand how much he needed it?
"Fuck," he muttered, banging his head back against the door. "Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck." He hit his head harder and still harder, until the pain broke through his nervous system and his rigid dick went limp.
Trembling all over, he got to his feet and stuck the pill into his mouth, wincing at the metallic taste. He tossed it back with a handful of tap water, then splashed some on his face. The ants were marching again — up and down his spine, back and forth across his scalp — which meant he'd muscled past stage one and was now on to stage two.
"Fucking great," he said to his reflection.
The man gazing back at him surprised him a little — he'd gotten used to the gaunt, haunted, yellow-eyed image of a junkie. This guy looked, dare he say, normal?
The eighteen months he'd spent in brutal, cold turkey rehab, alone in Minnesota at an expensive, parent-funded facility, had been the worst. But he'd woken one morning to face the therapies, the kitchen work, the gardening, and the endless group discussions with one thing on his mind — finding his brother.
He had checked himself out, declared himself healed, free of all the demons that had chased him since his adolescence and had hitchhiked his way to Michigan. After a week spent in a roach motel, shivering his way through the long nights, realizing that he now was the proud owner of a two-million-dollar trust fund thanks to the accident of his latest birthday, he'd bundled himself into the public library, set up an email account and reached out to his brother's fiancée — the lovely Evelyn.
It had worked out, thank God. And all had been fine — until he'd seen Caroline.
A trigger, as his many therapists warned in his rattled brain. Something well avoided for his own mental and emotional health. But it was a free country and his oldest, longest-running, most loyal in the face of his bullshit girlfriend had no reason to know he was back in Michigan. She'd wandered into the FitzPub with some friends after work, looking mouth-watering in a short black skirt, high heels and plain white blouse. She'd had a few beers and left, not even knowing he'd seen her.
But now, thanks to that single view of her, here he was again, battling like a son of a bitch for control of his body, his mind and his sanity.
A loud knock on the door made him jump and curse under his breath.
"Hey, you okay in there?"
It was Austin. Fucking guy had a twin brother radar that was eerily sharp. Brock dragged his fingers through his thick hair, attempting to calm his racing pulse and clear his mind of the many things that were tempting him.
"Yeah. I'm fine," he croaked out.
Brock waited a beat, unlocked and opened the door, his happy-golucky, everybody-loves-Brock grin plastered on his face. "Never better, brother. Never fucking better."
He slapped Austin on the shoulder, pushed past him and whistled his way down the hall. His hands were shoved deep in the pockets of his nerdy workplace khakis, curled into tight, painful fists. His brain was still reeling through it all — settling firmly in one place. A place where he was fucking some random woman, while another random woman waited for her turn.
When he turned the corner, he leaned against the wall, his heart racing, his face covered in a sheen of sweat. He needed to get laid. Maybe that would help.
No, Brock. It won't. You don't know how to have normal, healthy sexual relationships, remember? It's one of your many failings.
"Fuck that," he muttered, glancing around, his vision suddenly sharper. He saw Amy, she of the pretty smile, the sweet ass, and the flirty glances. He lifted his chin and grinned at her. She gave him a little wave.
He took a breath and wandered over to her. "Hey, uh, I was wondering ... could I buy you a drink sometime?"
She smiled, fluttered those lashes at him and cocked one hip, most likely without realizing she was doing it. He knew about these things now, having spent ten years off and on in various therapies and detox clinics.
Compulsive sexual behavior had been the diagnosis — coupled with addictions to, in varying orders, alcohol, pot, cocaine and opiates — ever since he'd been caught screwing the substitute high school AP English teacher in the back of her car. He'd been sixteen then. He was now thirty-eight. He had a job, thanks to his brother and his brother's wife. He had a place to live, thanks to his trust fund.
He'd been clean for a year. But the demons were roaring back thanks to her — Caroline, his one most-powerful trigger — and he had no idea how to fight them.
"Sure," Amy said, startling him. He'd almost forgotten they were standing and looking at each other. "How about tomorrow night?"
"Uh ... yeah ..." He backed away from her, knowing he shouldn't, that he couldn't. Amy was a sweet young woman and had a big-time crush on him, the twin brother of the brewery owner. He was the quintessential bad boy — catnip, for some reason, to nice girls like her. He swiped at his lips, already feeling her curves under his hands, the no-doubt lovely tight squeeze of her pussy around his dick. "I'll ... uh ... call ya."
He ran, needing space, and air, and another pill. Anything to set him straight. As he fumbled with his car keys, a hand landed on his shoulder. He threw it off, spoiling for a fight and yet unwilling to have another one with his brother.
"Brock," a voice, not his brother's, said. He turned and came face to face with her ... Caroline Reilly. "I thought that was you."
He sagged back against the car and closed his eyes, praying for strength even as he sensed it ebbing out of his exhausted, compromised system. He felt her hand on his arm. Her familiarity soothed him. Thanking his timing on the medication, he opened his eyes, smiled and gave her a quick hug. "Hey, Caro, good to see you." He used their old shorthand, making her name sound like the corn syrup brand.
She sighed into his chest and put her arms around him, which forced him to shift away from her, unwilling to go there — to go anywhere — with her again. He gripped her upper arms and stared at her. "I'm glad to see you looking so great, and, you know, happy."
A tear slipped down her face. He bit back his knee- jerk, illness-based reaction to this, and simply let her go. She swiped at her eyes.
"Sorry," she muttered. "It's good to see you, too." Her smile lit up all the dark recesses of his mind, as it always did. As it had done for so many years. She touched his bearded jaw. "Looking all burly and shit."
"Yeah, it's the atmosphere. Brewers grow beards. I mean, I'm not a brewer but ... you get me." He put his hand over hers, holding her in place for a few seconds before letting her go again — as usual, the hardest thing ever. Taking a long breath, he forced himself to be distant from her. It was his only hope, if he wanted to remain above the chattering, clamoring noise in his head that was rising again, urging him forward.
"Yeah, so, please tell me you have a boyfriend."
She rolled her eyes. "No, not really. Not now, anyway."
"Well, I just wanted to catch up with you ... you know, see how you're doing." She crossed her arms. Her eyes went flat. Relief flooded his system. He was back on familiar ground.
"I'm pretty good." Lame, he knew, but it was all he had. He needed her to go away, far away, before he did something stupid. "As good as I can be, I suppose."
"Working for Austin?"
"Yeah, well, you know what they say about beggars and choosiness."
One corner of her lips lifted. He gulped and shoved his hands into his pockets, willing her to leave him alone. They stood, staring at each other, their respective pasts filling the silence like a dark, deadly smoke.
"So," she said.
"So," he said.
Another tear slid down her cheek. In opposition to everything logical in him, Brock reached out and touched it, then put it to his lips. The taste — salty and so familiar — made him shiver and his mind lurch forward. But he kept control over his body. He had no other choice.
"I'm glad you're back," she said, backing off from him, as if sensing his massive inner struggle. "I love you, Brock."
"No, no, no need to say anything." She pulled her dark denim jacket tighter across her slim torso. "It's my curse. I get it. But I also understand why I shouldn't." She glanced behind her at the FitzPub front door. "I won't come back here, don't worry."
"No ... I mean ... it's okay." But it wasn't and they both knew it.
She tilted her head to one side. A gust of wind blew her red hair across her face, making Brock battle a nauseating urge to grab her, toss her in the car and run away with her. Again. "You really do look good. And that makes me happy, whether you believe me or not."
"I do believe you." The expensive hours of therapy had made him admit that. That his issues with regard to the beautiful Caroline were exactly that — his, not hers.
"I'm glad." She blew him a kiss. He made as if to catch it, and left his closed fist up, unsure where he wanted that ghost kiss to land. She smiled, turned and ran into the crowded parking lot.
The smooth, white expanse of the sheet felt cool as Kayla passed her palms over it, sucking in the bleach-y scent. She'd always loved fresh, clean sheets — she'd had them so rarely in her life.
"Hey." The voice behind her made her flinch. "No sitting on the beds."
"Right, sorry." She got up and shook out the somewhat less clean duvet over the sheets, re-covered the pillows and put everything back together before grabbing the bag of garbage she'd collected from the room. "I'll swipe down the bathroom," she said, not meeting the eyes of her co-worker. As part of her probationary period in this crappy job, she'd gotten paired up with one of the hardcore, long-term cleaners and, to a person, they hated her guts.
"Yes, do that." The woman flopped into the chair by the open window and fired up one of those smokeless cigarette things. "Make it fast. You know, how I showed you yesterday."
"Right." Kayla pushed the cleaning cart into the dingy alcove between the bed space and the bathroom. As she stared at the filthy sink area, overflowing with empty beer bottles and pizza boxes, she gave herself the usual mantra-like reminder that this was her life now.
Employed. Drug-free. Poor as shit, but other than that, without any real worries.
"Don't fuck it up, K," she said under her breath as she shook out a fresh garbage bag and started scraping the detritus of what looked like a nice party into it. The bottles clinked together as wafts of old beer and pot filled her senses, triggering her synapses even as she used all her mental power not to grab the bottles and turn them up into her mouth.
Once the sink was cleaned out with near straight bleach so strong she'd gone home the last few nights with her fingertips faded, she turned her attention to the toilet and tub. With a sigh, she put on fresh gloves and picked up three used condoms, an empty tube of lube, more beer bottles. The tub was disgusting, ringed with dirt, while the fiberglass shower walls were streaked with God knew what. She sprayed, wiped, splashed hot water all over it, then set herself to the task of cleaning the toilet and the floors.
"Hurry up in there," her minder called.
She emerged, eyes streaming and nose running from the strength of the chemicals. "What's the worst thing you've ever found in a room?"
"Girl, you do not want to know that." The woman heaved herself up from the chair and checked her clipboard. "Come on. We're behind. You're taking too long on those toilets."
"It was pretty gross."
"They're all gross. People are disgusting. Ask any hotel room maid." The woman tucked the clipboard under her arm and glared at Kayla. "But we're on the clock, and the manager doesn't pay overtime. Let's go."
Kayla nodded and pushed the cart out of the room, after looking back once, recalling all the times she'd disgust-i-fied a hotel room, leaving behind way worse than what she'd found in this one. Shutting the door on the room, and the memories before she allowed them to take hold and pull her into a mire of longing for those days, she turned, resigned to another long day of sheets, bleach and berating.
"Hello, I'm looking for Kayla Hettinger." A stranger was standing on the balcony of the one-and-a-half-star no-tell motel where she now worked. The stranger was a strikingly beautiful woman with long black hair and light-brown skin, a Latina, Kayla figured, but without a trace of any accent.
Her minder turned toward the newcomer, her usual frown etched deeper into her dark skin. She took a quick look at the other woman and launched into a barrage of rapid-fire Spanish which was met with a response in kind. Kayla stood between them, waiting for the angry conversation to end, studying her ragged fingernails and jonesing for a hit, a pop, anything to get her through this day that stretched out in front of her like an endless, empty highway.
"Come with me," the strange, gorgeous woman said, grabbing her arm and tugging her away from the cleaning cart.
"You go with her, you're fired, do you hear me, girl?"
"Hang on a second," she said, yanking herself out of the other woman's grip. "What the hell is going on? I don't know who you are or what you're doing but I need this job right now, lady."
The woman sighed. "I'm sorry, Kayla. I'm Melody Rodriguez." The woman waited, as if seeking acknowledgment of this fact of her name. Kayla blinked at her, feeling her boss's gaze on the back of her neck like a pair of lasers.
"Yeah? So?" She took a step back, hand to her neck. Bleach smells filled her nose.
"I'm ... I know your brother, Trent. And I think he'd love to know you're alive. Much less working here in Grand Rapids."
Excerpted from "Gravity"
Copyright © 2017 Liz Crowe.
Excerpted by permission of Totally Bound Publishing.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book took a little bit of reading before I found out it was a gem of rich emotion. The story is touching; sad and deep. The author did a great job covering some very serious subject matters while maintaining the romance angle. This was worth the read. Thank you NetGalley and Liz Crowe for allowing me to read an ARC and write a honest review.