From the New York Times Bestselling Author of the Connections series comes an exciting and passionate new romance….
Janis Joplin. Kurt Cobain. Amy Winehouse. Zachary Flowers. I always knew my brilliant brother would one day be listed among the great artistic minds of our time. I just didn’t know he would join the list of exceptional talents who left us too young, too soon.
I was always the calm one, the perfect foil to his freewheeling wild spirit. But since his death shortly after his 27th birthday, I’d found myself adrift and directionless.
I knew it was time to face my destiny, and I was ready to yield. But then I met Nate, Zachary’s best friend. Only he could help me put the pieces together, fill in the blanks that Zachary left behind. I needed him to answer my questions—and I wanted him for more. He awakened in me a sensuality that had never been explored, never satisfied. Nate’s presence controlled me, his touch seared me, and it was up to me to convince him that he was brought into my life for a reason….
NO CLIFFHANGER ENDING. THIS IS A STANDALONE ROMANCE.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Callie Dalton is an actor and voice artist who loves feisty heroines and brooding boyfriends. She lives in Los Angeles with her own brooding (but not always) boyfriend and her schnauzer, Ella.
Read an Excerpt
PRAISE FOR THE CONNECTIONS SERIES
ALSO BY KIM KARR
Zachary Flowers | August
Let’s be honest.
Nightclubs aren’t about dancing. They’re not about drinking. They’re about the chase—about scoring.
So any guy volunteering to wait in line and sweat his balls off to be given the privilege to pay a ridiculous cover, squeeze his way through a jam-packed bar, spend twenty-five dollars on a Red Bull and vodka, and scream over the blaring music—all with no guarantee of getting laid—is out of his fucking mind.
I mean, come on!
The corner joint has just as much potential as any fancy-ass club, if not more, with its far less discriminating patrons and cheaper drinks.
Nate’s mouth stretches into a huge-ass grin. “We’ve arrived.”
“No shit.” If Nate’s a-little-too-excited announcement hasn’t alerted me, the flashing lights of the neon sign that read THE BALLROOM certainly has. Fucking A, the sign nearly blinds me. One glance out the window and I’m ready to turn around and go home. The line is just as I expected—miles and miles long. I consider making a quick exit with a more than friendly “Peace out,” but something makes me stick around.
Nate slows the car to wait in traffic and grips my shoulder. “I almost forgot. Happy birthday, my friend.”
I shrug his hand off me. “Fuck birthdays. I still can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”
The CEO of Skyline Holdings, who also happens to be my best friend, pulls his decked-out Range Rover up to the curb. “Come on, man—it’s not every day that a guy turns a year older.”
Yeah, twenty-seven—what a great fucking year to look forward to.
Generation after generation, several members of my family have died—not all of them, but enough of them to warrant concern—at the age of twenty-seven.
My great-great-great uncle jumped from the roof of a building during the depression; my great-great aunt’s daughter drowned in a lake; my grandfather died in the Vietnam War; and my mother overdosed.
All were twenty-seven.
All died tragically.
Based on those odds, there’s a very good chance I could be next.
So yeah, like I said—great fucking year.
“You know what they say, don’t you, Z?” Nate’s enthusiastic voice brings me out of my sullen disposition.
“I think I do, Nate, but please tell me again.” I try to suppress the sarcastic tone oozing through my words, but it isn’t easy.
Some douche bag wearing a red jacket pulls Nate’s door open and Nate practically howls at the moon, “Live life in the fast lane!”
My door swings wide seconds later. I step out while reaching into my pocket to retrieve a pack of Marlboros, needing a quick one before we enter the nonsmoking zone. “I hope that’s just what you’ve been doing, because I might just kill you after I wait in this line.”
Nate hands the valet a wad of cash and waits for a ticket. “Please, you know me better than that.”
I can’t stop my lips from tilting upward. “I should have guessed you’d have an in,” I mumble while sticking a cig between my lips. “How’d you swing something like this?”
He shrugs. “A friend of mine works close by, and she wanted to introduce me to someone.”
“She?” My brows wiggle in excitement.
Nate just shakes his head at me.
Typically, Nate’s an all business or all play kind of guy; so coming to a club doesn’t fit his MO. Skydiving, the track, a quick trip to the casinos in the Bahamas—that’s more his speed. I was wondering what brought this outing about, and now I know.
Nate and a girl.
My curiosity is piqued. For the five years I’ve known him, I’ve never seen him with the same girl twice. In fact, he’s a love-’em-and-leave-’em kind of guy.
Over the flare of the lighter, I study my friend as he circles around the car. Nate Hanson, a freak of nature—a geek and a god all in one. A guy who gets what he wants without even trying. And oddly enough, he just doesn’t take advantage of all the beautiful women at his feet like he should.
I couldn’t even tell you the last time he got laid.
Me—I’m the complete opposite. I take what I can get whenever it’s offered.
With a deep inhale, I let the smoke slowly slide from my lungs. Nate meets up with me on the sidewalk and I can’t help but tell him, “You know, I’m actually looking forward to tonight.”
He looks over at me. “Glad to hear it. Now let’s go inside so we can start celebrating.”
I roll my eyes at that.
Enjoy the beginning of the year I might die?
Hard to do.
The thought of new beginnings strikes a chord somewhere deep within me. I look right at him. “Starting tonight, I have a new motto to try out.”
He raises a brow. “Oh yeah? Let’s hear it.”
“Screw living life in the fast lane. How about: Live like you’re dying?”
I haven’t told Nate what this year means, but I will soon.
Seemingly unfazed by my changing our long-adhered-to motto, he grins at me. “Sounds like a great plan. Let’s get started.”
That’s the problem—I don’t have a plan, but I need one for the first time in my life.
Nate walks toward the entrance, ignoring the fact that the back of the line is miles in the other direction.
Horns blow as a pack of chicks with banging bodies walk by, taking my head with them.
I love women—every single one of them.
God knew what he was doing when he created them.
In fact, I think fucking would be the thing I’d miss the most if something happened to me—if you can actually miss anything after you die, that is.
Nate looks over at me. “What’s the smirk for?”
My head snaps back, and I point behind us. “Didn’t you just see them?”
He raises his shoulders as if he doesn’t have a fucking clue what I’m talking about.
“Never mind. I’ve been thinking a lot lately, and I think this might be the year I finally settle down.”
“You’re fucking nuts. You know that?”
I can’t help but laugh. “Never said I wasn’t.”
“Who knows, Prince Charming? Maybe you’ll meet the love of your life inside.”
My mood having lifted with my outlook on life, I respond, “That’s the problem. How to pick just one when I love them all?”
He picks up the pace. “Come on. Keep up with me, will you?”
I exhale my last puff, looking for a place to put my cig out before catching up to him. A skirt walks by with legs longer than any supermodel. “Fuck, she’s hot.”
Nate shakes his head. “You’re one horny motherfucker. Screw finding your Cinderella. Face it, you could never settle for just one.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. I can’t help it though—there’s nothing like the touch of a woman. And at least I take the time to admire what this beautiful city has to offer, unlike some people I know.”
He shoots me a glance. “Waste of time, man.”
I grab my chest and stumble backwards. “Yeah, so you’ve said many times. Your philosophy on romance always breaks my heart.”
“Well, get used to it. You should just stop searching now because if you do find someone, she’ll only end up breaking your heart in the end.”
The truth is, I’ll only break hers if my fucking legacy ends up fulfilling itself. But I already decided that I can’t live this year thinking that way. Instead of crying the blues, I tell him how I feel about his outlook on love. “You kill me, man, you really do.”
“Gives you something to talk about.”
My cell vibrates, and I pull it out of my pocket. I glance at the screen and can’t hide my grin. It’s a text with a picture attached of my sister next to a chocolate birthday cake. Chocolate because it’s her favorite, and she’ll be the only one eating it.
Nate glances over. “Your booty call for the night?”
I glare at him. “No, it’s my sister wishing me happy birthday.”
Zoey has called me about five times today. I usually go home for my birthday, but running the gallery full-time means I just can’t swing it this year.
He grabs my phone to look at the photo. “Why is it she’s never come to visit in all the years I’ve known you?”
I shrug. “Mimi was sick most of the time, so it was just easier for me to go home.”
Zoey is the single most important person in my life. She’s the ray of sunshine you can see through the clouds. She’s the light at the end of the tunnel. She has always believed in me when no one else has. She has also always kept me moving forward when there were times I thought I might not be able to.
I owe her everything.
All I want is for her to be happy.
She deserves it.
I’m hoping she’ll find happiness as soon as all the shit she’s had to worry about is taken care of; then she can finish her schooling. I need to find a way to help her—soon. No matter what, her name will have the abbreviation “Dr.” before it.
I’ll make sure of it—no matter what. I’ve let her down too many times already in my life not to come through this time.
“The birthday cake is sweet, but it’s time to put sweet away and celebrate for real,” Nate says.
I fire back with a little sarcasm. “The anticipation is fucking killing me.”
“You know what, Flowers? You’re a piece of work,” he laughs.
I laugh along and allow my gaze to wander. Nate patiently waits for the chick in front of him wearing a very short skirt and sky-high heels to pay her fifty-dollar cover. I give her a once-over; but when she turns around and I see her buttoned-up blouse, I look elsewhere.
She’s hot but not my type.
We’re in the heart of South Beach on Miami’s colorful Washington Avenue. The Ballroom has to be the most insane club around. This crowd is unreal. There are hundreds of people anxiously waiting outside to get in, and we get to walk right in. But the chicks here, they might not be for me. Pretentious, bitchy women are the only type I can’t stand. And I can spot them a mile away.
When we finally reach the front, the velvet rope blocks us from going any farther. “Tell Jeremy McQueen I’m here,” Nate says in a stern and even voice.
The giant muscled man looks him up and down. “Your name would be?”
The man’s head snaps up. “Sir, nice to meet you.”
Sir? I’m impressed.
Nate pulls out his wallet.
The bouncer dismisses him with the wave of his hand. “Your money isn’t welcome here.”
Nate’s chin dips. “Appreciated, but not necessary.”
Before the bouncer unhooks the velvet rope, he looks right at me and grunts, “Next time wear a tie.”
I ignore him. Do I look like I’ve ever worn a tie? When he doesn’t let us pass, I give in and nod.
The dude finally opens the rope and I quickly move inside. I look over to Nate, who’s dressed in a black button-down and expensive black slacks. “You’re not wearing a fucking tie.”
He shrugs. “Just forget it and have fun.”
I let it go and look around, actually feeling like coming here is just what I need to kick off this new year of mine—the one that just might be my last.
The vibe inside is nothing like I’ve ever seen. There’s a lobby of sorts, with an old-fashioned, huge-ass chandelier. The archways into the bar area are covered in mirrored glass panels with LED lights. There’s a towering ceiling over the dance floor and the area beside it is filled with leather couches and ornate fireplaces.
“Nice! Right?” Nate scans the crowd.
“Yeah. This place is swarming with chicks, and not just pretentious ones.” The club is wall-to-wall tits and legs. Deep-cut dresses, short skirts, and high heels surround me.
It’s fucking heaven.
He lifts a brow. “Knew you’d like it. I’ll grab us a drink. What are you feeling?”
“Beer for now. Thanks, man. I’ll just be here checking out the scene, waiting for my chance to blow out a candle or two.”
He shakes his head before walking away. His stride is full of confidence and, as always, he’s in no hurry. We both stand over six feet but I’m much bulkier. However, don’t let that fool you. I might lift weights, but Nate has trained in martial arts his whole life. Although I’d never admit it, he could kick the shit out of me.
The music booms as I take in the competition—guys in suits, most of them clean-cut like Nate. I stick out like a sore thumb in my jeans, work boots, and black T-shirt.
Like I care.
A group of cute girls are standing together. I zero in on them until I notice one is wearing a crown or some shit like that.
Way too girly for me.
My gaze shifts to a trio of chicks.
One is dressed in leather.
More my speed.
I’m just establishing eye contact when a raspy feminine voice whispers in my ear, “You new here?”
My neck whips around. A vision of utter splendor is standing next to me—an exotic woman with dark hair, dark eyes, and an olive complexion that practically glows. She has ruby red lips and high cheekbones and looks like Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. Mimi made me watch that movie at least fifty times—it was her favorite.
I can’t move.
I can’t talk.
I’m completely taken—bewitched.
“Ummm . . . yeah, it’s my first time,” I manage to say.
“I can always tell a new face.”
The knockout that I can’t believe is still talking to me is wearing a low-cut blouse and a hip-hugging skirt.
Hot. Totally fucking hot.
Pulsing, searing heat goes straight to my cock.
My dick is throbbing and my heart is beating at double speed. “Do you come here often?”
Holy shit! Did I just use the oldest line in the book?
She laughs. “I’m here a lot and I’ve never seen anyone quite like you in here before.”
My headshake is subtle. If she were anybody else I’d have responded by talking shit or walking away.
“I didn’t mean that how it came out.”
I shrug. “I get it.”
She pulls her hair to one side.
It’s then I notice her nametag.
It has THE STYLIST printed on it.
“So tell me—do you work here?”
Her smile wanes as she fumbles to remove the name tag. “No, but I work close by. I forgot I was wearing this.”
“Oh yeah? What do you do?”
Her eyes catch mine. “It’s complicated.”
My brows draw together. “Mysterious.”
“It can be.”
She bites her lip in contemplation, but before she can respond a beer is shoved in my face and the person holding that beer wraps his arm around my girl’s shoulder and kisses her.
Every instinct in my body goes live wire and the urge to punch, to kill the motherfucker, roars loud in my ears until I hear a deep, familiar voice.
“I see you’ve met Gisele.” Nate grins at me.
Fuck, he knows her!
“Z, this is Gisele. Gisele, this is my friend Z, and tonight is his birthday.”
“Happy birthday.” She smiles at me, and I know immediately what I want for my wish.
Gisele better not be Nate’s girl.
I extend my hand, but when she places hers in mine, I have an urge to kiss it rather than shake it. So I do.
My lips against her skin ignite a fire within me.
Gisele gives Nate a knowing glance. “Jeremy is at the bar. Over there.” She points. “Leather jacket. Tall.”
He looks over his shoulder. “Thanks. Excuse me a minute.”
I take a sip of my beer. “Let’s grab a table.”
She nods. “Follow me. It’s quieter in the back.”
Her walk is just as captivating as everything else about her.
Through the crowd of people, she makes her way easily to a high-top table over in the corner. When we sit, she crosses her stocking-covered legs in such a way that I catch a glimpse of her bare skin and the garter just above it.
My eyes widen.
I have an urge to reach over and stroke her there.
I can barely stop myself.
I redirect my gaze up to her face. “You were saying?”
She laughs, obviously having noticed my distraction. “How about we start with you?”
“Okay. What do you want to know?”
“What’s your real name?”
“Zachary Flowers, but my friends call me Z.”
“Z? Not Zach?”
She giggles. “I like Zach better. Do you mind if I call you that?”
“Nope. Call me whatever you want. Only my sister has ever called me Zach.”
She smiles. “So, Zach, what do you do for a living?”
I smile back, loving the shape of her lips and the sound of her voice. “Right now I’m managing Nate’s father’s gallery.”
She takes a sip of her drink, then licks her lips, allowing her tongue to slip out and lick off the alcohol. “So, are you an artist?”
I nod, too absorbed in what she’s doing to speak.
I’m staring—I know I am.
But once again, I can’t help it. Her lips are like a perfect kiss left on a napkin—heart shaped, red, and beautiful. Her body moves with a confidence I’ve never seen in a woman.
The cocktail waitress arrives with a tray of shots and sets them in the center of the table.
“We didn’t order these,” I let the waitress know.
She shrugs. “That guy did.” She points to Nate. “So do you want them or not?”
“Yes,” Gisele answers before I can. The cocktail waitress scurries away, and Gisele picks up one of the shots.
I do the same. “To new friends.”
She holds a finger up. “No, wait.”
I pause my glass in midair.
She clinks my glass. “Happy birthday.”
I give her a slow nod, drinking her in, every inch of her, and slam my shot back, realizing that when she said happy birthday, I didn’t think about my legacy, my destiny, or the club.
All I thought about was her.
“It’s your turn. Tell me what your name tag means,” I insist.
“Hmmm. . . . That’s not easy.”
“Let me put it this way. If you worked with me, a good name for you would be the Artist.”
The Artist. I like the sound of that.
I move closer. “Tell me more.”
“What do you want to know?”
My new motto rings in my ears—live like you’re dying.
And I decide to do just that.
“Everything,” I whisper.
Dr. Julia Raymond | Late May of the following year
Try not to be naive.
In terms of phobia development, we know that phobias are either caught or taught.
If caught, it’s typically due to something happening that the person couldn’t cope with at the time. Whatever it was plants itself into the subconscious.
If taught, it’s usually due to conditioning or receiving misinformation. For example a child may be told, “Stay away from dogs. They can bite and kill you.” If the child already has a tendency to be fearful or anxious, the child will more than likely be afraid of dogs.
Zoey Flowers suffers from thanatophobia—the fear of death—or at least, that was my initial diagnosis when she came to see me five weeks ago.
I’m not so sure anymore.
From the minute she stepped into my office, I was intrigued. Something was different about her. I’d seen her as a patient years ago when she was trying to work out her feelings for her mother. Now a woman, she is still polite, intelligent, and nicely dressed, but when she came in, she wore the type of sadness on her face that only evolves from despair.
“So, Zoey, what brings you to see me today?” I asked once she’d settled into her seat.
She didn’t fidget or make excuses like most of my patients. She looked me in the eye and said, “There’s a very good chance I’m going to die within the next year, and I’m scared. Some days I’m so angry about it, but others I just feel lost. I’m here because I want you to help me accept my destiny so I can find some direction.”
I settled into my seat, selected a pen from the holder on my desk, and set it next to my pad of paper. In my head I had already diagnosed her—classic case of thanatophobia. “What makes you think you’re going to die?”
“My brother died a few weeks ago.”
I said nothing and waited patiently.
“Before you think I have thanatophobia, I want to tell you my fear is not irrational.”
Typical response, I thought. “Go ahead.”
A tear leaked from her eye, and I handed her a Kleenex. “Years ago my great-aunt told my brother and me that our family was cursed, that generation after generation of family members have died young and tragically at the age of twenty-seven. She called it the Twenty-Seven Club and she told us her daughter had joined it along with many other relatives. My brother and I thought she was crazy. Although we were aware that our grandfather had died at twenty-seven—he died in the line of duty—and our mother had died at twenty-seven—she overdosed—we didn’t give much credence to her statement. It just sounded absurd.”
Phobia—taught, I thought to myself.
I scribbled on my notepad the number—27.
“You said your brother recently passed. How old was he?”
She averted her gaze this time. “He was twenty-seven.”
Phobia—caught, I jotted down.
“And last week was my birthday—I turned twenty-seven.”
This got my attention.
“Well, it certainly does seem very coincidental. Let’s back up a little. You said your great-aunt first brought your attention to this . . . phenomenon. Did she give you any more information—family history, mental health issues, anything that could shed some light?”
A small frown presented on her face as she thought back. “No, I was just a teenager then. And like I said, I thought she was crazy. In fact, I never paid any attention to what she had told us until my brother died.”
Not a classic case by any definition.
Since Zoey’s return to my office, I’ve spent session after session discussing this incapacitating syndrome that has prevented her from completing the simplest of tasks, like planning what to make for dinner the next day, to the more complex ones like completing her application for her doctorate or even going to Miami to clean out her brother’s things.
On my own, I’ve spent countless hours researching her condition and discussing it with my colleagues in roundtable discussions. From everything she’s told me, we all agree—her fear is not irrational.
As crazy as it sounds, based on predictability, her fear is logical.
The prescribed courses of treatment were not working though.
She continued to remain adrift.
Her dreams were also getting worse. She dreamed of dying in the simplest of ways. They were always a product of what she did the previous day. This was one of the obstacles preventing her from planning. I’d given her exercises to relax her body and free her mind from getting trapped in her thoughts. Yet, after three weeks, her dreams were still occurring.
I had to change my treatment plan and use unconventional methods.
Rather than focus on what might occur in the future, I decided to go with the accept-your-destiny route. Not in terms of dying, but rather in terms of living.
I fear all this did was manifest resoluteness within this young woman though. Her fear seems to have subsided, and what has evolved is resignation.
Not what I had hoped.
My course of treatment changed yet again when I realized this, and we went to work on getting her life back on track. We started by setting small goals—what she wants to accomplish tomorrow, next week, and even in the fall. Daily sessions did get her to the point where she’s now planning her meals, agreeing to appointments beyond the next day, and returning to her job at the summer’s end.
That was a stride worth celebrating.
Yet, there is a darkness in her I can’t seem to get to. A sadness that has manifested itself so deep, she won’t let it come to the surface. I fear this is a combination of events that occurred in her childhood and her most recent tragedies.
Still, yesterday we had our most significant breakthrough.
“I booked my ticket to Miami this morning,” she said.
I clasped my hands together. “How do you feel about that?”
She took a deep breath. “I feel good about it. I want to see where my brother lived and what his life was like.”
“Let’s discuss your trip. What do you hope to accomplish while you’re there?”
“This might sound weird, but I want to prove to myself that what he lived of his life was worth it. I think it will help me move forward.”
Pride shone through in my smile. I couldn’t help it. “So do I,” I told her.
However, at the same time, I was fearful that taking on too much at once might threaten her emotional state. She’s not delusional, but she is fragile. She feels she has nothing to live for, and that concerns me the most. Unless she latches on to a reason to live, her fear concerning the Twenty-Seven Club might just become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“Thank you, Dr. Raymond, for everything.”
She pulled me from my dark thoughts. “You don’t have to thank me, but please call me if you should need me for anything. I have you scheduled to be back in my office in ten days.”
This beautiful young girl had somehow become very special to me, and I was hopeful this next step would be the breakthrough she needed to look past what might be and concentrate on the present. She needed to live her life and not dwell on the maybes.
“Don’t forget to focus on your inner voice,” I reminded her as she opened the door.
She smiled. “I won’t.”
Your inner voice—it can be a source of amazing strength, wisdom, and guidance if you can hear it.
Luckily for Zoey, she can.
In the darkness, it looks more like Pandora’s Box than a place where an artist once lived. Nestled between two houses, each the size of an arena and both lit up like football fields, this much smaller home sits dark and alone—no movement from within, no cars in the driveway, no one living inside.
The picture that appears through the rain doesn’t seem to reflect any part of him. But something of my brother has to be here. Even just a small piece left behind for me to catch a glimpse of.
A rush of melancholy hits fast.
My throat tightens.
I can’t breathe.
Sweat forms on my brow, even though the car is cool.
This isn’t one of my asthma attacks—this is grief rearing its ugly head. The grief I tried to deal with at home in all those therapy sessions. The grief I know I have to accept. But just like accepting my destiny—I’m having a hard time doing this.
Destiny—that hidden power that controls fate. Even though it’s a path I don’t want to be on, I’m not certain I can stray from it.
It owns me—I don’t own it.
My fate might very well be inevitable, just as my brother’s was.
I’ve almost come to accept that.
Taking a deep, calming breath, I close my eyes, demanding my fear stay at bay.
I’m stronger than this.
Yet in the darkness, I don’t feel stronger.
My mind swirls with sadness and I quickly snap my eyes open, hoping to eradicate this feeling of dread. My eyes flutter for a moment before I’m finally able to lean forward and take a closer look.
With the illumination of the car’s headlights, I stare through the windshield at the house I’ve stayed away from for far too long.
And in this moment, everything about the property comes to life. It’s a work of art—as if my brother painted the picture for me to help ease my fears, like he did when we were kids.
It’s there, the small part of him left behind for me to see. Not his body turned to ash, not the marker at the cemetery bearing his name, but a piece of who he was during the life he led here.
The green bricks of the driveway show his funky edge; the triangle-shaped sailcloth carport demonstrates his love for the abstract; and the house’s tropical-modern design with its Spanish-style roof is in itself a work of art worthy of being hung on a gallery wall.
Yes, I can see it now.
I can see him living here.
Happy with the life he led before he died.
Just what I was hoping for.
As I sink back down, the worn leather seat seems to swallow me whole as sorrow mixes with relief and rivets through every vein in my body.
Not what I imagined, but the longer I look, the more I can see him living here.
Suddenly, I’m stuck between the dreamlike state I’ve been in, refusing to accept the truth, and the reality of my situation. The finality renders me immobile—I’m here but he’s not, and all I can do is sit motionless.
“You did say 302 South Coconut Lane?” the driver asks over his shoulder.
My eyes meet his in the mirror. “Yes, this is the right place. Just give me a moment, please.”
With trembling fingers, I reach for the handle and attempt to gather the courage to at least open the door. I just don’t know if I can do this. I’d have thought the passing of time would have made it easier, but maybe it hasn’t been long enough.
The driver clears his throat, sensing my apprehension. “Do you want me to take you somewhere else?”
I hand him my credit card. “No, this is what I came to Miami for.”
With a signature on the driver’s iPhone, I’m ready. I pull the strap of my overnight bag onto my shoulder and step out. Water sloshes everywhere, but I stop for a minute and look up to the heavens.
I have no idea.
Once I’ve gathered my courage and strength, I shift my gaze back down and notice the balcony. It’s too dark for me to tell, but I can’t imagine it wasn’t built for framing some kind of beautiful picture, something worth looking at.
Water fills my eyes and my tears mix with the rain, as the idea of Zach sketching from there comes to mind.
The driver hands me my suitcase and shuts my door before hopping back in the car.
At that moment, the sky seems to open up, and before I can button my coat, I’m soaked.
Hurrying forward, I stop at the white metal gate. With a slight push, I’m walking into a tropical paradise. Trees line the walkway and a natural stone wall protects the area. The pathway leads to a few stairs with a glass door at the top of them.
Walking slowly, very slowly now that I’ve shielded myself from the rain, I’m at the bottom of the stairs way too soon.
I’m not ready for this.
Feeling like a lost girl, one who is waiting for her brother to take her hand and guide her to the playground to swing, I can’t help but wish that he were here beside me.
With a breath in and out, the smell of salt in the air assaults my senses. The ocean must be very close. I wonder if the sand that surrounds it is anything like the sand at the beach Mimi took Zach and me to every summer.
God, how we loved going there.
We’d walk on the pier, swim in the lake, ride the carousel, and eat Abbott’s famous custard. There was a beach closer to where we lived in Canandaigua, New York, but it didn’t have an Abbott’s. Zach loved the black raspberry ice cream so much that he’d get two.
“I need to stock up until next year,” he’d say.
It was so rare that anything made him happy, and I bet Mimi would have bought him a hundred ice-cream cones if only his happiness would have lasted.
Tires squealing onto the main road jar me from my memories.
On shaky legs, I take the stairs slowly. I reach for the keys Zach accidentally left at home when he visited at Christmas. He left his whole keychain. I would have mailed it, but I didn’t find it for months and by then he had had new keys made.
I remember the day Zach told me he had bought a house. I was so glad he was doing well, that he was happy.
Finally, I had thought.
It takes me a few more seconds to gather the courage to unlock the door. The first key I insert doesn’t work; neither does the second, nor the third.
A gust of warm wind whips around my black raincoat and blows up the nylon like a tent—a sign of the impending tropical storm that the driver mentioned before I tuned everything else out.
Nervousness and impatience blend as I wonder who I’ll call if I can’t get in. Zach’s friend Nate would be a good start. Over the years, we’ve talked on the phone if he was around when I’d call my brother. He also called me right after Zach’s death. He told me he would take care of everything until I could make it down here. And we’ve e-mailed quite a few times over the past seven weeks. In fact, I e-mailed him just before I boarded the plane this afternoon, telling him I was coming. But last I checked he hadn’t responded yet.
He’s always responded immediately to my previous messages. It may seem odd, but I feel like I know him well, even though we’ve never met.
The rain comes down harder and I look around for where my brother might have hidden a spare.
The terra cotta planter off to the right seems like the perfect location, but when I try to lift it, I can’t. The palm tree inside is much heavier than I thought.
With nowhere else popping out as a place to hide an extra, I wonder if I should call and ask the driver to return. But before I do, I try the keys again—this time turning a few of them the other way.
To my shock and surprise one finally works. My stomach flips as the door easily swings open and I’m launched into darkness and the loud sound of beeping.
Shit, the alarm. I hadn’t thought of that.
Should I try the same code Zach used on all his accounts?
That should work.
With the flip of a switch, a long narrow hallway presents itself. I find the alarm pad behind the door and press 0515, my birthday.
It doesn’t work.
I press 0815, his birthday.
It doesn’t work either.
The name of the gallery he worked for maybe? Nate’s father’s gallery.
What was it? Yes, Wanderlust.
I type the numbers corresponding to the letters and holy shit, the beeping ceases. I can’t believe it. After all this drama, my nerves are finally starting to settle.
Once my bags are tucked inside the door, I glance down the hall.
Hardwood floors seem to run for miles until they end at the underside of an open-air staircase. With small steps I walk until I’ve reached the end and I’m standing at the perimeter of a large living room. My attention goes immediately to the windows and doors—they are everywhere. The entire back of the house is sliding doors with windows above them.
The night and the rain don’t allow me to see anything beyond five feet, but I can make out palm trees, lots and lots of them. They sway back and forth through all the glass.
A beautiful picture.
Looking up, the high ceilings and large glass windows make the palms feel like they are part of the room. The two sparkling crystal chandeliers catch my eye—they are beautiful, but so unlike my brother. He always went for the shabby chic look. Modernism was never his thing.
Another hallway across the way mimics the one I’m standing in, and a fireplace sits in the corner. A large black leather couch, glass coffee table, and giant TV complete the room. I’m actually surprised by the sparse décor. It doesn’t seem to be Zach’s style at all, but maybe it came furnished.
I circle around the stairs to the landing and come face-to-face with a black plaster, life-size statue of a woman. It’s definitely something Zach would have been drawn to—mysterious, sad.
It seems out of place in this space.
Surveying the rest of the room, I see a square kitchen in the center of the living area that separates the two hallways. The high-gloss black countertops match the stairs. Walking around them, I notice the kitchen looks perfect—like it’s never been used. I quickly walk in and open the refrigerator—water, beer, wine, and nothing else. I guess Nate cleaned it out.
Following the hallway of windows that ends with a closed door, I turn the knob and squeeze my eyes shut, not opening them for what seems like hours. When I do, I’m standing in the entrance of what must have been his office. Computers, printers, and papers cover a large desk. Odd—I would have expected an easel and art supplies. And the walls should be covered with his sketches, not watercolors in ornate frames.
His studio must be elsewhere in the house.
I shut the door knowing I’ll be spending time in there later going through all his papers.
Another door opens into the garage. I glance around—a few fishing poles, a basketball, football, and Frisbee, nothing else. The thought of Zach fishing or playing ball makes me smile, because aside from our yearly beach trip, he very rarely spent time outdoors—it just wasn’t his thing.
Across from the garage is another door. When I open it, the switch on the wall does nothing. The brightness of the hall casts a sliver of light, and all I can see is an empty room with a bed in the middle of it.
With a turn of my flip-flops, I head back to the living area and the stairs. The entire space lacks anything personal, except the statue. Something about the statue speaks to me, but why I have no idea. It doesn’t feel like it belongs, but it does—like the way Zach always felt.
With each step, I increasingly start to wonder if I should have just hired someone to do this and had the boxes shipped home.
This is so much harder than I imagined.
The stairs are sleek, so I take them slowly. When I reach the top, I pause and look around. It’s an empty loft with two doors; one must go to the balcony, the other is open and leads to a huge bedroom. It too is white, no color at all.
In the middle of the room is a large mattress with a wooden bedframe and metal bars inset in the headboard. The sheets are rumpled—the only evidence in the entire house that someone lives here—no, lived here.
With my hands clenched to my heart, I draw in a breath and attempt to push away my tears. I’ve cried for far too many weeks already. I’m trying to be strong. That is what he would have wanted.
I find myself once more searching for a piece of my brother, but again there’s nothing. But then a small crystal dish on the dresser draws my attention.
Once I see what it holds, I can’t stop the flow of tears from my eyes as I approach it. With wavy vision I pinch the small diamond that Zach wore so proudly in his ear.
Memories flood me once again.
“Please, Mimi, please. I really want one,” Zach begged over and over.
“No, Zachary. There’s nothing but trouble that can come out of that,” Mimi would say.
It felt like the conversation took place every day for almost a year. But Zach didn’t let up. He begged our grandmother to let him get an earring. She always refused. Over and over and over he asked and she said no. Then on his fifteenth birthday he came home from being out with Mimi sporting this very diamond. My grandmother finally gave in, probably feeling it was better than the fights, the drugs, and his all-encompassing need to rebel against everything.
The other metal in the bowl belonged to him as well—all his forms of self-expression. His lip ring, ear gauges, the circles with a ball hanging from them, most of which he acquired after he turned eighteen and no longer needed Mimi’s permission.
These things in my hand were all a part of my brother.
He was a rebel.
Funny thing is that I always thought he was a rebel without a cause. I used to laugh about that, but today it makes me sad.
I remove my wet coat and shoes, circling around the rest of the room looking for pieces of him.
Nothing that was any part of him, not anything to define who he was.
But I know who he was.
He was my older brother.
He was my best friend.
He was a good man who didn’t always make the right choices but had the best intentions.
Sadness lingers, as I think that I no longer have to wonder about him or worry about him. Now all that’s left is for me to miss him, but I already miss him so much.
Growing up, we only had each other—and our grandmother too. Our grandfather died before my grandmother gave birth to our mother, so Mimi knew single parenting well. She was amazing. She taught us everything she could, told us anything we wanted to know, but she refused to talk about the club. Mimi said she didn’t believe in that old family legend.
Too bad destiny isn’t something you can choose to believe in—it just happens.
Now, it’s become more than a legend. It took him dying for me to believe. My constant reminder is the fact that Zach is also dead—he, like my grandfather and my mother, will forever be twenty-seven.
The question is: will I be joining my ancestors at the same young age?
Is that my destiny?
I hope not—but how could it not be?
I set the dish down and emotion overtakes me, the magnitude of my losses and my short life becoming all too real.
I collapse on the bed.
If I die at twenty-seven, will I have even lived a small part of my life?
Did my grandfather? Did my mother? Did my brother?
My head spins and I find myself back at that place I can’t seem to crawl out of—I feel like screaming, but I can’t because the idea of yelling seems like too much work when all I can think about is myself being next.
I yank off my wet T-shirt and shorts and bury my head under his pillow, wanting to block out that small voice telling me to push through this. I thought coming here would give me hope that life is worth the chance of what might or might not happen, but the sterility of my brother’s home, the lack of anything he was surrounding me, stirs an uneasiness I can’t seem to shake.
I feel like I’m already dying.
I’ve felt like this for many weeks.
Validation of a life worth living and dying young for was what I hoped to find by coming here. But instead all there is is a reflection of what I see when I look in the mirror—emptiness.
I close my eyes, wishing for all of this to be nothing more than a dream. But I know my first impression was right—I’ve opened Pandora’s box.
The wind howls and the palm trees whip against the windows as the storm seems to make its way closer to landfall. Thunder booms and lightning lights up the room, startling me. No, not lightning—a lamp.
“Hello, Zoey.” The voice is deep and husky.
As the sound registers, I scream. I quickly sit up and scan my unfamiliar surroundings. My eyes immediately land on the silhouette of a man standing beside me, and I scream again, this time scrambling off the bed in terror.
In this moment, my heart stops beating, my lungs stop breathing, and my brain stops thinking. I’m petrified.
The man raises his palms up in surrender. “Zoey, I’m Nate, Z’s friend. You don’t have to be scared. I’m not going to hurt you.”
My fear must be evident. I stare at him for a few long moments, both alarmed and trembling. Only once realization sets in, that yes, this is Nate, my brother’s best friend, do I attempt to calm my ragged breaths.
He takes a cautious step back. “Just cover up with something so we can talk.”
Oh my God, my clothes.
Tangled sheets catch on my limbs as I climb back onto the bed and unsuccessfully try to pull the covers over my practically naked body. Before humiliation grabs complete hold of me, I give up and dive for my soaking wet shirt lying on the floor.
Sliding the cold fabric over my head, I pull it down to cover my panties and stand up, quickly crossing my arms over my chest to shield any signs of the chill I’m feeling.
Not great, but better. At least I can look at him with a little dignity.
Finally, I glance up and my gaze catches his. As soon as it does, he drops his eyes.
The photos I’ve seen of him over the years, when my brother would text me a funny shot—a selfie of him and Nate at some top chef restaurant, at the beach, or at a coffee house—didn’t nearly do him justice. Those shots were goofy poses with baseball caps turned backwards and funny faces. Not that I didn’t think he was good looking in them, because I did, but there’s just something different about him.
I blink and focus on the matter at hand. “You scared the shit out of me. What are you doing here?”
Staring at the ground, he leans against the doorjamb. “You beat me to the punch. I was just about to ask you the same question.”
“Why would you ask me that?”
He raises a brow. “I guess I’m just curious.”
I sigh, feeling confused.
His gaze lifts, and those eyes, those bewitching emerald green eyes, stare back at me. “Not that I mind that you’re here. It’s just—a little warning would have been nice. That’s all.”
His tone is more bemused than apologetic.
I’m not sure what to think.
With a straight and confident stance, I clear my throat. “I e-mailed you earlier today to let you know that I was coming for the weekend. I’m really sorry about the late notice, but I decided at the last minute.”
He reaches into the pocket of his low-slung jeans and pulls out his phone. After a few taps and scrolls he looks up at me. “I guess you did. Here it is. I’m usually on top of my e-mails but today my . . . schedule was full. Had I seen your message, I would have tried to rearrange my plans.”
“That’s fine really. I managed. It’s not a big deal.”
I steal a glance at my reliable Timex—just after midnight. What is he doing in my brother’s house in the middle of the night? Just as I’m about to ask him, my eyes catch sight of the way he predatorily walks around the room and I’m momentarily distracted. He moves like a panther—slowly circling his prey, keeping his distance, not too close, but close enough to pounce if he feels the urge. He settles back against the wall, just a little closer now. “Zoey, did you hear me?”
I swallow. “Sorry, what?”
His tone grows more insistent. “I said I would have at least sent a car for you. You shouldn’t be out in this weather on your own.”
My brow furrows. Why is he still talking about the airport?
When I don’t respond, he crosses his arms over his chest like he owns the place.
It’s then that reality sinks in. And as cliché as this sounds, I am not going to let Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome intimidate me. It’s time to take charge. “There was no need. I managed just fine. But if you didn’t know I was coming, can I ask what you’re doing here?”
Confusion seems to have taken over his thoughts as he steps even closer—moving with a lethal grace that makes my body start to hum. I can’t help but study him as his features come into clear focus. His body is long and lean. His hair is dark, the most unusual shade of brown, maybe like the color of expensive chocolate, but not exactly. His eyes are languid, watchful, and the most beautiful shade I’ve ever seen—darker than emeralds or the deepest of forest greens. His lips look full and soft. He is handsome in a way that is unlike anyone I’ve ever seen.
My mind is going haywire.
“Nate, why are you at my brother’s house in the middle of the night?” I ask him again.
A look of realization seems to cross his face as he stares at me. With a smirk, he ignores my question. Instead of answering me, he opens the door beside him. It’s a closet, Zach’s closet to be exact, and he steps right in, again like he owns the place.
“What are you doing?” I ask impatiently.
He comes back into the bedroom with a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt in his hand. “You’re trembling. How about you get changed and we sit down to talk?”
The audacity of this man is beyond comprehension. From his e-mails he seemed nice, but then again, you never can tell what lurks behind the words on a computer screen.
He stares and his small smirk really irritates me. “Take these, they’re mine. I’ll wait downstairs while you get changed.”
If I weren’t standing here, chilled and in my underwear, I might just tell him to go to hell.
But instead I reach for the clothes, and as I do, I start to wonder if he’s been squatting in my brother’s house. Once the clothes are in my hands, his mouth spreads into a slow, easy grin.
Annoyance grabs hold of me as I pivot on my bare feet and head toward the bathroom, making sure not to glance over my shoulder. When I hear heavy footsteps, I let my body fall back and shut everything out of my mind for a few short seconds.
What is going on?
When I’ve gathered my composure, I quickly strip out of my wet clothes and redress. Then I make the mistake of looking in the mirror. A wet dog would look better than I do right now. In an effort to improve the image, I grab a towel and wipe the black mascara from under my eyes. Then I use my fingers to comb through my mass of curls and try to calm them, but that’s nearly impossible.
Okay, better—but not great.
Who cares anyway?
It’s not like I’m trying to impress him. In fact, I’ve never tried to impress a man.
Time to get down to business. I stomp out of the bedroom and down the stairs. The TV is on and I can hear the weatherman announcing the same info the driver relayed to me. “Tropical Storm Angela seemingly having stalled out once it passed over Cuba is picking up wind speed as it makes its way toward the Florida Keys.”
The rain is still beating down, but there are no calls for evacuations so I can only assume I am fine staying here.
Determined to get this conversation over with, I’m stopped dead in my own tracks.
Nate is standing in front of a built-in coffeemaker, waving his hand frantically up and down, cursing under his breath, “Motherfucking piece of shit.”
“What happened? Did the Miele not do what you told her to do?”
I feel like I’m watching him in slow motion.
Without warning, the air crackles.
He’s momentarily taken aback, but then a look of amusement crosses his face. “Zoey Flowers, you are . . .”
Words pop into my head—sexy, beautiful, hot as hell, fuckable.
Where did those come from?
That grin lingers on his mouth. “Your brother’s sister, without a fucking doubt.”
Tears prick my eyes. Not the words I hoped to hear, but so much more meaningful.
His face contorts, the glow of amusement gone from his eyes, shadowed by something darker. He sets two cups of coffee on the counter that separates us. “Hey, I’m really not good at this stuff. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
I swipe the drops away. “No, really, it’s okay. I just miss him. That’s all.”
Nate’s hands grip the counter and his head falls. “Yeah, me too.”
Silence sweeps the vastness of the space, but strangely it’s not uncomfortable.
His gaze lifts. “Zoey, it’s nice to finally meet you.”
I can’t help but be charmed. “It’s nice to finally meet you too, Nate.”
He clears his throat and a bit of shyness seems to cross his face.
I fear I might be staring, so I avert my gaze to look down at the counter and it lands on the two cups. “Are those lattés?”
His head lifts at the same time mine does. The connection is immediate—a jolt of electricity travels between us and I swear I see a little smile—not a smirk, but an actual smile on his face.
The most adorable boyish grin.
My belly flutters and I can’t help but return the smile, feeling a little shy myself.
“Yeah, well, that’s what they’re supposed to be. I didn’t know what you drank, but thought I’d try these.”
I move closer, close enough that my hipbones nudge the edge of the counter. “Lucky for you, I’ll drink anything made with coffee beans.”
Then it hits me that his hair is the color of the finest imported coffee beans.
“Yeah, lucky for me,” he repeats.
Taking a seat on one of the barstools, I blow on the top of the latté. The froth is not exactly froth-like, more like big soap bubbles or maybe clumps of soured whipped cream.
“You’re a schoolteacher, right?” he asks.
“Something like that,” I say. “I’m employed by the University of Rochester. You’re a landlord, right?”
His lips tip up a fraction. “Something like that.”
I laugh. “Just kidding. I know all about you—big successful CEO of an up-and-coming development company, who buys unprofitable businesses, turns them around, and then sells them. Zach said you are very business savvy.”
This is true, but what I fail to mention is Zach told me so much more about him.
He raises one brow in the sexiest way. “You’re going to make me blush if you keep talking like that. But it sounds to me like you’re leaving some crucial things out. I’m sure your brother must have given you some dirt on me.”
How does he know Zach told me all about his inability to commit, his obsession with work, and his need to always be in control? He never spoke of him in a demeaning way though. No, rather Zach seemed to idolize this man. The words integrity, hard working, and respectful always followed anything that might have been construed as negative. Zach once mentioned that he thought something must have happened that triggered Nate’s extreme behavior.
He could understand that.
Honestly, so could I.
“Z never could give a compliment without making sure to put a little bite in it. My guess is he would have said something like this: “Big-shot asshole of some rising development company.”
I shrug. He did have my brother pegged. “Maybe it did go more like that.”
He smirks, and God help me, I have to look away.
I try to tuck my emotion aside by sipping on my latté. It tastes more like water, but the coffee lover in me is far too distracted by the trouble that’s watching me to care.
His eyes seem to darken as they follow the liquid into my mouth and then down my throat. His breath seemingly goes shallow as if he’s picturing my mouth on something else.
My imagination must be in overdrive. I shake it off and point to my cup. “Not bad.”
He takes a sip of his and practically spits it out. “Not bad! It tastes like shit.”
I can feel my lips turning upward again. I swear I haven’t smiled in so long that I snap and just let the laughter roll through me—my body quaking, my hair bouncing like a lion’s mane.
Nate stares flabbergasted, and I can see his body tensing.
Once I’m finally able to speak, I manage to say, “Really, it doesn’t taste terrible. You just have your timing and ratios off, that’s all. Steam the milk a little longer, and add more beans.”
He sets his cup down and gives me a skeptical look.
“I used to work at a coffee shop when I was in college. I can show you if you like?”
Our gazes lock.
When he doesn’t respond, reality crashes down around me. I can’t let this become flirtatious.
I clear my throat. “Well, anyway, can we get back to why you’re here in the middle of the night? You can be honest with me—have you been staying here?”
A muscle twitches along Nate’s jaw, but he doesn’t answer me. Instead, he picks up his cup and turns to the sink, dumps his full latté down the drain, and then walks to the back of the house in the darkness.
My head twists so my eyes can track him.
He flicks a light switch on and twists his own head.
I know he must have caught my stare, and God knows what possessed look I might have had on my face. I quickly turn back.
“Zoey, I think we need to talk.”
“I know we do. And Nate, it’s okay. Really. I don’t mind that you’ve been staying here,” I reassure him as I turn back around.
He opens one of the many sliding glass doors and the sound of the storm gets louder. “Come over here. I want to show you something.”
Something draws me toward him.
He’s a man of authority. I can tell he’s used to getting his way, but I’m not usually one to submit to dominance. I’ve been around it enough at work—male professors are the poster children for authoritative personalities.
But still I move forward, approaching him with caution.
The sound of the waves crashing against the shore is beautiful. With the door open the smell in the air is pungent in the most delicious way, or maybe that’s Nate—clean, fresh, manly.
Without realizing it, I’m standing right in front of him. I get lost in the wind, the air, the sound—and him. I tilt my head back to look at him. I’m tall, but he’s almost a head taller than I am—he must be six-two. Something about his proximity makes my body feel possessed.
It’s nothing like I’ve felt before.
He steps out the door and onto a covered deck, scrubbing his stubbled jaw. “I told you I’m shit at this kind of stuff so I’m just going to get this over with.”
Relief takes over.
Here it comes.
He’s finally going to admit he’s been crashing here. God, what if he has nowhere else to go? I never thought of that. Maybe he’s not as successful as my brother thought he was. What am I going to do if that’s the case? It’s not like I’d throw him out of my bed—shit, I mean out on the street.
I move forward and stand beside him. “Yes, that would probably be best.”
“Look, Zoey, I think there’s been a misunderstanding. Can you see over there?”
I take a step out even further, and the force of the wind travels underneath my thin T-shirt. “Just barely.”
He points to something, but I can’t make out what it is. “It’s a boathouse that sits on the edge of the property. Zoey, Z lived there, not here.”
I twirl around and my words come out as forceful as the storm. “That’s not true. He told me he lived here, in a house, that he owned.”
“It is true, Zoey. Are you sure he told you he lived here?”
“Yes, I’m sure. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
His face seems to pale. “Maybe you misunderstood him?”
“No!” I shake my head.
“I’m sorry. I had no idea he told you that. I just thought you got the locations confused.”
“No, I’m not confused. God, I wouldn’t have fallen asleep in your bed! Zach told me he bought a house that he lived in on the water.”
“He did live in a house on the water. But he didn’t own it, and it isn’t this one.”
I can feel the blood rush to my face. I swallow hard. “No! That can’t be true. I’m not sure what kind of game you’re playing, but don’t try to take advantage of my brother now that he’s dead. Tell me the truth—you’ve been living here since he died. Haven’t you? I’m going to find out anyway.”
He grabs my arms, stepping closer. “Zoey, I’m telling you the truth. I wouldn’t lie about something like that. I wouldn’t do that to my friend.”
I push him away. “So you’re saying that my brother lied to me? He wouldn’t have done that. We told each other the truth. Always.”
“He moved in when I did. I had an empty place back there, and he needed a cheaper place to live.”
I shake my head, still finding it hard to believe him.
“Why does it matter which house he fucking lived in? The address is the same.” His voice rises, his control now lost as his anger comes to the surface.
The floor seems to tilt—my world spinning on its axis. “It does matter. It matters that he lied. He just wouldn’t do that.”
Tears stream down my cheeks as I realize that Zach did lie.
The look in Nate’s eyes tells me so.
This is his house—not Zach’s.
I know it is; now the space makes sense.
And with that sudden realization, I seem to lose my mind. With my world crashing down around me even more than it already has, I run out into the rain, across the wet grass, toward the dark boathouse.
Nate shouts, “Zoey, come back inside! We’re in the middle of a fucking storm.”
The thunder is so loud my ears are ringing. The lightning is so bright that I can see the boathouse with its solid wooden door right in front of me.
Ignoring his plea, I turn the knob and jerk on it.
It’s locked, but I keep twisting it over and over.
When I can’t get it open, I pound on the door. I pound until I swear my knuckles are bleeding. I don’t even know what I’m doing.
Suddenly, the wind picks up and I can feel the forcefulness as it rocks the boathouse.
I lift my head toward the rain.
“Why did you have to die?” I yell.
“Why did destiny take you?” I scream.
“Why did you lie?” I whisper.
Big, strong hands grip me and turn me around. “Shhh . . . it’s okay, Zoey. We’ll figure this out.”
I look at him. “No, no, we won’t.”
“We will. Let’s just go back inside.”
“Why would he lie?” I yell.
“I don’t know!” he shouts back. “I don’t know,” he repeats more quietly.
“I have to see for myself,” I scream over the noise of the storm.
“Not now. We have to get back inside. You can see tomorrow.”
Tree branches tumble to the ground. I can’t see the water but I can hear it slamming into the shore.
“Why did he have to die?” I cry. They’re the same words I’ve been crying for weeks.
“I don’t know,” Nate whispers in my ear and it’s the first time someone has answered my cries.
“He was all I had left,” I mumble.
The sky lights up, flashing over and over, but I don’t move. Then a long boom, another flash, and suddenly complete darkness. Gone are the lights from the house that allowed me to see Nate’s face. Everything is gone.
“Fuck! The power went out.”
A tree branch smashes against the side of the boathouse.
Nate looks at me. “We have to get back inside . . . now.”
A moment of sheer fear strikes me as I search for the stars, the moon; anything to shed light on the darkness. But my quest is fruitless. I feel completely lost, and my sobs grow louder.
They’re all I can feel, and I can’t move.
Strong arms scoop me up and carry me across the grass. In those arms, I allow myself to find comfort—a comfort I never expected to feel in the arms of my brother’s best friend and a comfort I didn’t realize I needed so very much.
The wind fights against his long strides but he moves like a warrior during battle—swiftly and in precise movements. His boots don’t even sink into the wet, soaked grass that my bare feet must have left pocked.
His body is covering mine. When I try to lift my head from the safety of his neck, his head tucks down to force mine back in place. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he’s trying to protect me from the harsh rain. But after the accusations I just threw at him, I can’t imagine that to be the case.
My mind is filled with scattered thoughts, blown apart by the bomb he dropped, and yet the panting sound coming from his mouth oddly eases the destruction I’m feeling.
The wind and rain stop their assault the minute he crosses the threshold into the house. Both of us soaked to the bone, he sets me down. His hands on my hips steady me while I find my footing, but they linger in place even after I’ve gained my stability.
Again I find comfort in his touch.
I tilt my head to try to see him, but I can’t. It’s just too dark.
The feel of his touch and the sound of his breath are the only evidence that he’s standing there in front of me.
When his grasp is suddenly gone, my sense of direction seems to go with it. “Nate?” I reach out terrified and grab onto him—his biceps, I think. “Don’t leave me alone.”
What People are Saying About This
PRAISE FOR THE CONNECTIONS SERIES
“Compulsively readable…Karr’s world is filled with imperfect yet relatable characters, a familiar but well-written story, and hotter-than-hot sex scenes.”—Publishers Weekly
“Kim Karr is one of my few autobuys! Romantic, sexy and downright gripping! I read it in one sitting because I just couldn’t put it down!”—New York Times bestselling author Vi Keeland
“I was riveted from the first line and couldn’t put it down until the last word was read.”—New York Times bestselling author A. L. Jackson
“I was pulled in from the first word and felt every emotion...an incredibly emotional, romantic, sexy, and addictive read.”—Samantha Young, New York Times bestselling author of Fall from India Place
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Often a book pulls you in right away and never lets you go. The 27 Club is one of those. I started reading and couldn't stop. I was really intrigued by the premise of the book and when the prologue opened and it was told from Zach's point of view, I was astonished and excited. It allowed a small glimpse into Zach and his friendship with Nate. I wasn't sure I was going to like Nate when I first met him, but all of that changed the moment he met Zoey. Seeing him through her eyes showed me how much he was hurting over Zach's loss and the many other changes going on in his life. On the other hand, my heart broke for Zoey even before I met her. I knew she was suffering from not only losing Zach, but also the fear she was next. The club may not seem real to Nate or anyone else, but it was real for her and even Zach. This book was full of OMG moments; some regarding Zoey, some about Nate, and many of them were about Zach. The most surprising ones came at the end. I couldn't help but bawl and even thinking of them now causes my eyes to flood with tears. It was proof of how much Zach loved his sister. Any residual feelings of distrust I had towards him completely dissipated after that. Nate and Zoey's relationship was really rocky initially. I wasn't so sure why Nate was fighting the attraction so much when it was clear he wanted her as much as she wanted him. I did sort of understand his messed up logic, but I was glad to see he was able to overcome his inhibitions sooner than later. They had an intense relationship and it was good to see them helping each other with dealing with the demons that chased them. If this is the emotional intensity with which Kim Karr writes all her books, I've really missed out on not reading her Connection series. I will be sure to remedy that asap and to also make a note to keep an eye out for her future releases. This is one book that is best read in order to experience what makes it so good.
Great story and pretty steamy love scenes! 2 of my favorite things in a book.
Search ' The Astronaut Wives Club.' Please!!!!!!!!!!!
This is one of the BEST books I have ever read!!
I love Kim Karr's Connections series and couldn't wait to find out what she had in store for her readers in The 27 Club, especially after reading the synopsis. I don'the really know what I was expecting The 27 Club to be like, but it was nothing like I would have imagined. It is really rather tragic, while at the same time is what the story centered around. Yes, there is death, mourning, and learning to live and love again, but there is also life, happiness, and discovering what love is all about. The main characters are Zoey and Nate, and I did enjoy getting to know both of them. I loved watching them as tragedy brought them together, and how they coped and recoverd from that tragedy. Both are damaged, and both experinse healing. Zoey focused her life on what she belived was her destiny, and Nate helped her to swith her focus from death to life, while Zoey helped him to overcome his own demons. I think contemporary romance fans will definitely enjoy this book. It has romance, great characters, and a attention-capturing story line. Definitely add this one to your TBA list.
Kim Karr brings readers a stand-a-lone novel about a young woman facing the grief of brother's death and a family curse. This is something new and different from Kim Karr's, Connections series. In The 27 Club, Karr introduces her fans to a new hero and heroine, in Zoey and Nate, that will quickly grab their attention and hold on. This is a book about secrets. Secrets involving the death of Zoey's brother Zach. Secrets about Nate's past. Secrets, secrets and more secrets. Kim Karr fans will love it! I have been a pretty big fan of Kim Karr's previous books in the Connections series, but The 27 Club is something different and unexpected. Karr once again gives readers a devastatingly perfect hero. Nate makes a wonderful bad boy hero that is a little dominant, but also a little bit sweet. The perfect combination. After River and Ben, I wasn't sure she could come close to writing another great hero, but she outdid herself with Nate and I think readers will be swept away by him and captivated as much as Zoey is. Zoey wasn't what I expected. At first she seems grief stricken and vulnerable, even a little bit scared that she to will die in her 27th year. I wanted to like her, I really did. Dahlia was such a pulsing heroine in the Connections series that I wanted to feel that for Zoey in this book, but I just didn't. She annoyed me a little bit. If I thought for a second that there was that possibility that I might die young, I wouldn't resign myself to that fact, nor would it take a man or a relationship to give me to will to fight against it. So, I guess I felt like she needed a little more backbone. I wanted her to take charge of her life and own it, for whatever time she had and I didn't feel like I got that here. The relationship between Zoey and Nate was dependent on so many secrets that it was hard to focus on their connection with each other, when it was missing this kind of basic honesty. Nate knew that Zach wouldn't want him with his sister. Nate knew what Zach's life was really like, but telling Zoey might change her entire perspective of her brother. He was in a tight situation for sure. I felt the heat between them, but it didn't seem like the forever kind of heat. Bottom Line: I love Kim Karr's writing and I thought the premise of this book was pretty intriguing. I loved Nate, he was a great hero and I think readers will fall hard for him, but Zoey was a bit lacking for me. I hope that I wasn't just comparing her to Karr's other heroine's so much that I didn't give her a chance, but I don't really think that was it. I just didn't like her. I got her, but I didn't like her. Probably, just a personal thing, read it and let me know what you think.
Wow -what journey. I did not expect this book to be about the real life fears we all face some real some imagined. I thought by the name it was about a very naughty club and the clients who frequent such (my mind had conjured up all sorts of good stuff).... turns out there was plenty of good stuff in this story just not from the direction my mind had thought. I really enjoyed this story even with the sad paths that life does take us and was gratified these characters made their way through it to the other side. Will look forward to more from this author
4* The 27 Club is filled to the brim with suspense, it will have you gripping your hair while bouncing on the edge of your seat! it comes from so many different directions that I had trouble keeping up with the emotions it elicits. When I initially saw the blurb I wasn't sure what to expect but after seeing a few teasers I was more than a little bit excited. The story of Zoey and Nate isn't a straight forward HEA, it's filled with twists and turns and a lot of will they won't they moments... The looming threat of Zoey's family 'legacy' is what prompts her to start living her life instead of just existing. Nate brings out a side of Zoey that she never knew existed, a passionate, impulsive side that she wants more than anything to embrace for as long as possible, and Zoey does the same for Nate. The pair both have their fair share of emotional hang ups, each want to help the other overcome their issues! Watching them attempt to help the other, adds a complex, but riveting, swirl of spice into the mix. On the whole I really liked the story, I mean what's not to like? Hot sex scenes, strong male lead, two damaged people helping each other heal, plot twists, secrets and one hell of a tragic family 'legacy'. While the tragedy is what initially caught my attention, the magnetic pull between Zoey and Nate is what drew me in and kept me hooked. Thank you Kim for sharing Zoey and Nate with the world! P.S. I would LOVE it if there was a novel or a novella about Z's last year ;)
3.7 star The story has laughs, betrayal, pain, healing love, grief, and heartbreak. This is Zoey and Nate’s story. Zoey believes she is about to enter club 27. As some people in her family die at the age of 27. Since her brother died when he was 27 she kind of just gave up to her fate. She traveled down to her brother’s house to pack up his belongings and she find out no everything is as he led her to believe. His best friend Nate tries to help her figure out things but he is really busy trying to out run the attraction they have for each other. The more time they spend together the more they want each other. After agreeing to spend the summer together then Zoey will move back home she wonders if she will want to leave. He believes that she believes that it is fated she has to die when she is 27. But for the first time she really wants to live. Will she make it to her 28th birthday or will fate step in and take her from Nate just when he realizes he wants her above all else? I was able to connect with the characters and the story was a good read. I recommend this book.
I'll be completely honest, I was both terrified of this book and elated about it. From the get go there's a mystery laden theme to it. Is it paranormal, contemporary. Something very key was strategically missing from the information about The 27 Club. This book is both nothing that I thought it was going to be and everything I needed for a wonderfully enthralling read. Zoey and Nate give forbidden love a lustful, and sinful name. Yet, mixed in with the eroticism this novel offers is the ultimate test of facing one's fears. For Zoey it's the fear of coming to the same fate her brother did, and also fear of what his life was like before he met that evil fate. For Nate, it's about the ghosts of his pasts, never being good enough for anyone and fearing the emotions the Zoey evokes in him. Together they fight the undeniable passion burning between them. Fight it because their fears are making them doubt themselves and a future they are both sure cannot exist with one another. But when Zoey makes a startling discovery about the life her brother was leading... well it may just bring to life all the wicked, sexy thoughts she'd like to indulge in with Nate that she'd been keeping at bay. Secret after secret unfolds, and Zoey takes the queue of her brother and starts living her life with the help of Nate. And along the way she forces Nate to face his fears as well. When they've finally become more to once another than either ever intended is destiny just cruel enough to rip it all away? You simply cannot miss out on this book. Like I said before, I was wary, but knowing how much I am addicted to the Connected series I knew I couldn't pass up a Kim Karr novel. She is by far one of the most talented writers I've read. To weave a plot as intricate as this one, much like the webs of her previous series, and capture my heart for the characters within SENTENCES of being introduced to them.... that's a pure, unadulterated gift. The 27 Club is one of those books that made my heart lurch, my gut wrench, and my mind boggle. It's impossible to compare this to another book, because no way in hell is it any kind of cookie cutter. It's unique, flawless, and breathtaking. The premise is outstanding, albeit heartbreaking, the different plots that flow seamlessly into one another had me grasping for more. Pure and simple, this is a must read. Happy Reading! *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
4 erotic, mysterious, steamy, passionate, destiny filled stars! I have been wanting to read a book written by Kim Karr for a long time. My co-bloggers, Lindy and Ria, love her books and they have been telling me to read her Connections Series, but it’s been sitting on my TBR list for far too long! I’ll make sure to take some time in the next few weeks to read them. I really loved the way The 27 Club was written. It was packed with steaminess, mystery and it was a page-turning reading journey! What would you do if you knew that the from the day you turned twenty-seven your days were counted? Generations after generation of family members have died young and tragically in Zoey’s family. They are all a part of The 27 Club. From the moment she learned of her brother’s death, Zoey has been living in fear of what her destiny will be. When she visits the place her brother used to call home, Zoey is overwhelmed with what she finds. Zack has a mysterious past that she knew nothing about. What is more mysterious is the attraction that she feels toward Nate, Zack’s best friend. Whenever they are in the same room, she feels alive. The more time she spends with him, the less she thinks about the curse that is chasing after her. They start a passionate love affair that will make them feel more alive and hanging on to each day. Will Zoey be the next member of The 27 Club or will she be able to take control of her own destiny? I really enjoyed The 27 Club. I did not know what to expect since it was my first time reading a book by Kim Karr. This book caught my attention from the first moment I saw it appearing on all social media platforms. I’m extremely happy with the way things turned out in this book. It always kept me guessing on what was going to happen next. It was intriguing to find out Zack’s secrets. What I had a difficult time with was Zoey and Nate’s relationship. It took me some time to connect with them as a couple. I would have liked to feel a bit more sexual tension between them. I know that it was supposed to be a no strings attached relationship, but it started off too fast for me. I did end up connecting with them once Zoey let go of her fears and Nate made her live all of her fantasies, which were pretty freakin’ hot! This story is told from Zoey’s POV. In the epilogue we got Nate’s POV and I absolutely loved it. I wish that I could have been able to read about his thoughts more often. That epilogue that was written from his POV made me see another side of his personality. I really got a chance to discover how he really feels about Zoey. I’m really happy that the author included an epilogue with his POV. Overall, I really enjoyed my first reading experience with a book written by Kim Karr. She kept my interest from beginning to end. The details included in the story allowed me to make my own conclusions on what happened to Zack, but I was pleasantly surprised that there were new twists and turns that kept coming my way. If you haven’t read a book by Kim Karr yet this standalone is a great place to start! I give, The 27 Club, by Kim Karr, 4 erotic, mysterious, steamy, passionate, destiny filled stars!
An interesting but boring read. Had a hard time finishing book.
Kim Karr 's The 27 Club is different. It takes a subject that most of us don't like thinking about, our morality, and turns it into a story that leaves us feeling the need to make each day full of living life to the fullest! I signed up to read this book based solely on the fact that I loved Kim Karr's Connection series and her writing. I don't remember reading the synopsis until I picked up the book to start reading. (Kim is an auto read author for me). After reading the synopsis, I knew I was in for something different from the Connection series, something grittier and darker. (Did you get that too from the blurb?) However, The 27 Club wasn't what I was expecting. Zoey and Nate took me on a different journey than I expected, and while I enjoyed this story I am left wanting a bit more angst and drama (I know! I never want more drama!) The 27 Club takes the idea of destiny and plays around with it in how these characters live their lives. Zoey Flowers is afraid to live, for most of her life she was taught to fear turning 27, and after tragedy strikes with her brother dying at 27, her fear of dying paralyzes her from living. Zoey was a character I wanted to like more, but never truly connected with until the last half of the book. Nate, however, captured me from the beginning. Nate was the hero we all sigh over and had me all tangled up for the first part of this book and completely infatuated by the epilogue. Kim Karr had a lot of threads going on in this story and while it did take me a bit to get into the story, once it clicked I was hooked. One of my favorite things about Kim's writing is the unexpected threads that reveal themselves in her books. In The 27 Club there were some threads that intrigued me (The Estate) but never went anywhere, but then there were threads that led to interesting twists and surprises. I enjoyed the whole moral to this story that destiny is the path you choose and life should be lived each day to its fullest, but I was left wanting a bit more. A bit more drama. A bit more mystery. A bit more heart tugging emotion. A bit more of The Estate. The 27 Club, while not what I was expecting did deliver a very good story. I think jumping into this book without reading the synopsis might be the best way to go, that way you don't have false assumptions to cloud your perception of what to expect. Kim Karr definitely gives the reader a lot to think about in this book. What would you do if you thought your life was counting down fast? Would you grab the first person that made you feel alive and safe and hold on? Or would you hide away? The 27 Club gives you a lot to think about and while I wish we got more from Nate, his epilogue is one of the best I have read in a while! Kim Karr has created a book that was thought provoking, hot, and filled with characters you can't help but want to know more about. If you were a fan of the Connection series, then you will enjoy this next offering from Kim. If you have never read a Kim Karr book, then you are in for a treat with how she intertwines her stories with heat, heart and thought provoking subjects. The 27 Club is definitely a book you will want to check out and see for yourself how Zoey and Nate decide to "F&@K Destiny!"
The 27 Club follows the story of Zoey and Nate. Destiny was something that has always plagued Zoey. Her entire life she's lived in fear of the 27 club. She prayed that her and her brother would be spared. However, Zach dies suddenly and that leaves Zoey questioning everything....Zoey now finds herself in Florida. She's there to pack up her brother's belongings and to get some closure about his death. While going through his things, she's discovered that he's kept things from her. Luckily for her, she has her brother's best friend, Nate who can help her sort things out. From the moment that Zoey met Nate, they were instantly attracted to one another. There was a pull that neither one of them could deny. All she knows it that he makes her feel alive and for once she just wants to live in the moment and not worry about the 27 club. What started off as a trip to Florida to seek some closure, suddenly becomes more. Will Zoey be able to handle the truth about her brother's life? Will Zoey get over her obsession with destiny and live in the now? What would you do if you knew your number would be up at the age of 27? Would you live life to the fullest? Would you be wild and free? Would you follow the rules and live your life in fear? I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by The 27 Club. It was not what I was expecting at all. I loved the mystery surrounding The 27 Club and I was completely intrigued by it. This book was sexy, fun, intriguing, and mysterious. I loved the angst and romance in the story as well. I was hooked on this book from the very first page. I couldn't wait to know more. I had so many questions: What is The 27 Club? How did Zach die? Could fate really be that cruel? It was so much fun trying to figure things out. I loved Nate and Zoey together. Zoey was so obsessed with the idea of fate having control over her life, that she wasn't living. She played by all the rules and didn't take any chances. Nate was exactly what she needed: Smart, Sexy, Dominate. He made her feel alive and not afraid. They both had their issues, but Zoey helps Nate to see that love does exist and is worth taking a chance on. Overall, I really enjoyed The 27 Club. I loved the message behind the story: to not let fate dictate your life and to live everyday to the fullest. * I received an ARC copy of this book via the author & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
3.5 stars-wishing there was some more background information: 3.5 stars--THE 27 CLUB is the latest adult, contemporary, erotic romance, stand alone novel from author Kim Karr. The focus of the storyline is the Flower family destiny-a curse to die in your twenty seventh year. This is Zoey Flowers and Nathaniel Hanson’s storyline. According to the online dictionary destiny is the hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future; one’s fate; one’s fortune; or one’s doom. Predestination is the belief that everything that will happen has already been decided by God or fate and cannot be changed. Do you believe in destiny? That your future has been predetermined by a higher power and nothing can or will stop the events from happening? THE 27 CLUB is a story of one family who believe. Told from first person point of view (Zoey) with a couple of chapters from Zach and Nate, the storyline follows college professor Zoey Flowers and her older brother and artist Zach -a close knit brother and sister duo-who believe their destiny is to die before their twenty eighth year. The storyline prologue begins with the introduction of Zach on his twenty seventh birthday: his fear of joining The 27 Club as many of his ancestors had previously done but also his need to ‘live like you’re dying;’ in the here and now. When Zach dies approximately nine months later, Zoey heads to Florida to uncover the truth about his life, his death and the people he left behind including his best friend Nate Hanson. What ensues is a building relationship between Zoey and Nate, and Zoey’s discovery that what she thought she knew about her brother was all a lie. Zoey’s journey will follow a path unlike anything she could have imagined. With her twenty seventh birthday having come and gone, Zoey is preparing for her destiny-one day and one wish at a time. The attraction between Zoey and Nate is immediate but one forbidden by a promise. Zach had never wanted to introduce his sister to Nate knowing that Nate would probably break Zoey’s heart. Zoey and Nate’s relationship is one of passion, forbidden love and mutual understanding as they comfort one another in the wake of Zach’s sudden death. There is no promise for the future; no strings attached; there is an unknown expiration date on their love. The $ex scenes are intense, seductive and intimate with a little bit of kink on the side. The secondary and supporting characters include Gisele and her son Mateo; Nate’s ailing father; their housekeeper Rosie; and several business associates of Zach and Nate’s who reveal more to Zoey than she could have possibly surmised. Zach led a secret life; a life that is never completely revealed to its fullest extent and in this the missing background information makes for some curious assumptions. I would like to have read more about Zach-the who, the what and the why-but we all know is there is no happily ever after for Zach! Nate’s business ventures are another part of the premise that never completely materialized. There are hints, admissions, and revelations but no depth into the reality, his connections or how it came to be. Zoey will uncover her brother’s secrets that tie closely to Nate’s business, but we never learn or understand why. The world building takes the reader into the nightlife of Miami, the secret clubs, the art world and the people Zach, Nate and Zoey encounter in their lives. There are moments of heartbreak, surprise and shock countered by the realization that we truly do not know about the people in our lives. Life is fleeting; the future is not guaranteed. Live life to the fullest; dance like no one is watching! Kim Karr is a brilliant writer who will keep you on the edge of your seat waiting for destiny to take another life but there is so much information missing and not revealed that I was left wondering where it all began. I am hoping Kim puts pen to paper and writes a prequel that will address the incomplete nature of Zach and Nate’s backstory and history.
This book is seriously fantastic. I’m not always a fan of the romance novels that make you cry along with the steamy and sweetly romantic. But the tearing up in this book was so different. It was bittersweet. The first section of the book is from the perspective of Zach Flowers, Zoey’s brother. Brilliant! In some ways, it made moments of the book so much sadder, but at the same time, the story wouldn’t have been as poignant if we didn’t have some attachment to Zach. It fuels the emotion throughout the book because in a very small way, we can catch a glimpse of the sadness that Zoey is feeling. The truly amazing thing is that the author is able to give you that emotion by making you connect with Zach in just that one small section of the book. Zoey is in a seriously crappy situation. I can’t say that with the history in their family that I wouldn’t have also freaked out about the legacy of the 27 club. To make matters, with her brother’s death, she is now all alone in the world. When she finally gets to Miami to box up her brother’s life, she discovers that there are things he kept from her and she has a need to know what they are and why. In some ways, it can give her some closure and the ability to really say goodbye to him. Zoey is a really strong heroine. Despite being the “good girl” and seeing herself as boring and safe, she is so much more. Miami brings out the strength she possesses and the free spirit that was hidden inside her. I loved the fact that giving up control to Nate was a thrill ride for her. Because as that steadfast, responsible one, she was always calling the shots, always making the decisions. That can truly get exhausting and with someone else taking on some of that burden, the reader gets to blossom with her and feel her come alive. There is so much that can be said of Nate. First, he gives new meaning to the term sizzle. That man is sex incarnate and he brings the burn to the pages. However, the author sis an amazing job creating his character, finding that fine balance between sweet and alpha sexy. She mentions a shyness about him from time to time and that could have so easily stepped into a place where all of the sudden you saw two personalities that didn’t really mesh. But, Kim towed that line just perfectly. Nate is definitely complex. He is clearly scarred by his past and so sure that he is no capable of love and all that goes with it. Zoey is focused on the fragility of her future and her almost certainty that she doesn’t have one. Between the two of them, there is a mountain of baggage and they could easily let those beliefs turn into self-fulfilling prophecies. Luckily, even though they aren’t aware of it, they are exactly what each other needs. This book was hard to put down. There are so many characters beyond Nate and Zoey that make this book great, I fell in love with most of them. The histories and the connections were a perfect web for the mysteries of the book, but they are not confusing. Just interesting. I would pick up another book about Nate and Zoey in a heartbeat. 27 Stars!