Juliet St. Clair has spent her life under Hollywood's spotlight. While being America's favorite girl next door has had its perks, having to testify against her stalker to put him behind bars certainly wasn't one of them. But when she thinks about walking away from it all, she can't help remembering the enormous pile of medical bills her family is drowning under. Bills that just keep on coming.
Felix Donovan had it all--stunning good looks, gorgeous women, and a spot as the drummer to a band that's sitting pretty at the top of the charts. Until one life-altering decision left him paralyzed from the waist down. He doesn't know whether to laugh or cry when he wins this year's Sexiest Man award, but the one thing he immediately does is send out a Non-disclosure agreement. Hiding his condition from the public is hard as hell, but he's not ready to face the world while he's still struggling to accept his new reality.
Except this year's Sexiest Woman--Juliet St. Clair--never looks at him with pity, only desire. But falling for Juliet means a permanent spot in the tabloids, a decision Felix isn't sure he's ready to make. And when Juliet's stalker re-emerges from her past, Felix's secret isn't the only thing at stake, it could cost Juliet her life.
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Feeling of Forever
By Jamie Howard
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Jamie Howard
All rights reserved.
There was nothing in the entire world that I hated more than planes. I hated the way they smelled. I hated how even the big commercial ones still felt about as big as a shoebox. And I especially hated the way they made me feel as I dangled tens of thousands of feet in the air with nothing but carefully constructed metal and science keeping me airborne.
It was a good thing I was a big believer in science or they'd never be able to get me on one of these things.
My seat rattled as we hit another pocket of turbulence and, deep in my chest, my heart was getting ready to collapse from exhaustion. Beside me, Ally chewed at her lower lip, completely ignoring my struggle and skimming through a never-ending stream of e-mails. The quiet strains of Rachel Platten danced quietly through the air, buzzing from her laptop speakers.
"Hmm ... have you nailed down your Christmas plans yet, Jules?" she asked, her eyes never leaving the screen.
I forced myself to relax back into the plush leather seat, letting my Kindle plop into my lap. As interesting as I Am Malala was, nothing was holding my attention at the moment. "That's still three months from now. I barely know what I'm doing tomorrow."
"Right, so —"
"Actually, that's a lie. I know exactly what I'm doing tomorrow — absolutely nothing." Closing my eyes, I imagined the softness of my bed — a bed I hadn't slept in for months — lulling me to sleep; I pictured all the food I'd been craving that I hadn't let myself indulge in while I was on set that I sure as hell was treating myself to tomorrow. God, I couldn't wait.
"So yeah, about that."
My eyes narrowed as I turned to face her, and she cringed under the weight of my glare.
"Don't look at me like that!" Her pink-tipped fingernails ran through her blond hair. "I just found out yesterday —"
"Found out what?" My voice ratcheted up a few decibels.
"That you won this year's Sexiest Woman Alive. Yay!" She waved imaginary pom-poms in the air, a Joker-sized smile plastered to her face.
Dread curled in my stomach, my spirits sinking. It's not that I wasn't appreciative of the award; a part of me reveled in the compliment that came with it, but the other part cringed. This was just one more reason that the world could look at me as nothing but another pair of tits and ass. A hot body with a pretty face and nothing more.
I tapped my fist against my forehead as my long-awaited plans vanished into the thin wisps of clouds surrounding us. "Tell me you didn't."
"What was I supposed to say?" She flopped against the back of her seat with a huff. "It's not like you were going to turn it down. And I told them, I told them, you weren't available for at least a week, but they said it had to be tomorrow because that's the only day they could get this year's Sexiest Man to show up. Speaking of ..." Holding up a finger, she bent to rummage through her purse, coming back with a few pieces of paper that were stapled in the top left corner. She handed them to me. "You need to sign this."
I skimmed over the first page. "A non-disclosure agreement? What the hell for?"
"Beats me. I had to sign one too. It's already been through Larry and he said it's okay to sign. It's all standard terms."
A frown instantly took up residence on my face. Larry, my attorney, was just about the slowest moving person on the planet. How he ever managed to sustain a stable practice was beyond me. Despite maintaining the general speed of a lazy sloth, he'd been with me from the beginning and, to me, that counted for far more than his response time. But if he'd had time to look at this, then it meant ... "I thought you said you just found out about this yesterday?"
"Ah, I um, well I found out they rescheduled the shoot yesterday. Technically I found out about the award a few weeks ago, but you were so swamped I didn't want to bother you with it."
My fingers curled around the edges of the paper, wrinkling them. "I'm going to kill you."
"No, you're not." Ally gave me a shit-eating grin. "You need me too much to do away with me."
Damn her, she was right. Ally was my personal assistant, my best friend, pretty much the only reason I was able to keep my head firmly attached to my body. I honestly couldn't imagine my life without her in it.
I tossed the NDA back in her lap. "I hate you."
"I love you too."
Outside my window, thick fluffy clouds like white cotton candy floated by. I sighed and scrubbed a hand over my face, brushing back a few loose strands of my blond hair. "All right, so what's the plan for tomorrow?"
"Paperwork needs to be back over to them tonight. Call time is ten o'clock tomorrow and it hopefully shouldn't be that long of a day. That's assuming Mr. Sexy doesn't make things difficult." Her nose scrunched up as she read through another e-mail. A second later her finger slammed down on the delete key with a quick shake of her head.
"And did they happen to mention who Mr. Sexy is?"
"Nope." She popped her "p". "They weren't willing to disclose that information."
Of course not. With my luck I'd get saddled with someone difficult. Or worse, some uber-cocky asshole who was going to enjoy tomorrow's shoot way too much. I flexed my toes in my ballet flats, mentally rescheduling my much-needed downtime. One more day. I could make it one more day. Twenty-four short hours. That was nothing. Just a blink.
The past year had been a blur. A draining, tiring blur. And the worst part? It was only one year in so many that I'd been practically running myself into the ground. Jet-setting from one continent to another, ducking the paparazzi, and playing so many roles that I barely remembered who I was anymore.
I needed a break and I was going to get one. End of story. Even if I had to push through one last obstacle to finally get it.
Ally slapped the top of her laptop lid down. "I hope it's someone good. Although, anything has to be better than whiny Wally."
I snorted. My most recent costar was a serious piece of work. It was one of the most challenging roles I'd had to play to date, and doing it with him by my side made it a thousand times more difficult. What is this? Evian? I only drink Veen.
"Seriously, anything." I leveled a finger at Ally. "And after that I'm taking a time-out until we have to go out for premieres. I don't care who calls, what they need me for, even if it's the freaking Pope. The answer is no. N-o. Got it?"
She tilted her head to the side, tapping her finger against her lips. "Why would the Pope want to see you?"
"Oh my God, are you even listening to me?"
A smile swept across her face, making her blue eyes twinkle. "You got it, boss. After tomorrow your calendar is free. Now how about a smile? I feel like you're not really taking this whole Sexiest Woman Alive news as well as you should be. I expected some jumping around, maybe some squealing." Her grin widened, and I felt myself returning the expression.
"If that's what you're expecting, I think you're gonna have to get it elsewhere. Oh wait, hold on ..." I screwed my face up in fake concentration and tugged on my earlobe. "Do you hear that? I think it's the sound of Mr. Sexy losing his mind about winning the award."
Ally whacked me playfully in the arm. "Shut up. He probably is excited about it. I mean, if nothing else, he has to be taking it better than you."CHAPTER 2
I slammed the refrigerator closed with enough force to rock the giant stainless steel appliance. "Fuck no. This is some kind of joke, right?"
With a quick flick of my wrists, I wheeled myself into the living room where my bandmates Ian, Ben, and Gavin were staging some sort of intervention, expertly weaving around our furniture. A year ago, I could barely get around the apartment without bumping into absolutely everything. Now, I was like the frickin Mario Andretti of wheelchairs.
I hated it.
"Has to be," Gavin mumbled from where he was stretched out on the couch. His black hair was still rocking some extreme bedhead. "Obviously if any one of us is getting the Sexiest Man award it should be me." He clapped a hand over his mouth to stifle a yawn.
"There you go, give it to him." I waved a hand in Gavin's direction, parking at the end of the coffee table. "Because if you're expecting me to go to some photo shoot this morning you're out of your mind."
Ben eyed me from his perch on the arm of the couch. "That's not how it works, and you know it." With a sigh, he shoved a hand through his short hair. "But this is Celeb! magazine. We could use the publicity, Felix. Especially with how little we've been in the public eye in the past year."
"Hey." I leveled a finger at him. "You wanna give me some of the blame for that? Sure I'll take it. But it's not all on me," I said with a meaningful glance in Ian's direction.
"That's a fair point." Ian shrugged. "But I've worked my shit out."
My fingers dug into my armrests, practically leaving permanent indentations. I didn't need this. I was doing the best I could, and I wasn't going to apologize for handling things the only way I knew how. But dear God, why me? Of all the guys they could have possibly chosen, I couldn't imagine what had prompted them to choose me for this. Actually, I could. My accident had made me a hot commodity, and everyone was just dying to get a shot of the newly reclusive Felix Donovan.
Back in the day, I used to poke fun at women who were self-conscious about their looks. Own it, I'd tell them, love who you are. I guess that was easy to say when I was the Sexiest Man Alive version of myself, but now? Now I couldn't even stand to look in the mirror because I hated what was staring back at me. Could you say hypocrite?
"Well, this is the way it is and I don't see that changing anytime soon. So you know what? If I'm holding you guys down? Then maybe it's time to cut bait and run." I forced the words out through clenched teeth, hating the words even as I spoke them. These guys were my family and pretty much the only thing holding me together anymore. Losing them would be devastating, but I wasn't going to hold them back.
"Oh for fuck's sake." Gavin rolled his eyes. "Stop being such a drama queen. You know that's not going to happen."
At his words, the fist squeezing the life out of my heart eased a little.
Ben stood, resting his hands on his hips. "You're making this out to be a bigger deal —"
"Right, because being on the cover of Celeb! isn't a big deal at all. That's why you want me to do it so badly, right?" I backed up a few feet, hating the way Ben was towering over me. That used to be me — the big dude in the room — but now I spent a whole lot of time at eye-level with people's asses. For the most part, it wasn't nearly as enjoyable as it sounded.
"The band needs this, that's why I want you to do it. We've already put our tour plans on hold. I'm not asking much, just a few hours."
Just a few hours and me letting the world in on my little secret, I finished in my head. Frustration snaked through me, making my muscles tense. The whole thing was stupid, I knew that. Eventually the cat would be out of the bag and no matter how much I'd like to shove it back in there, I wouldn't be able to. But by some miracle I'd escaped the tabloids after the accident, and for all everyone else knew, I was still hot-as-hell Felix Donovan with two functioning legs. To the rest of the world, I was whole.
"I'm sorry, but the answer is no." I stared at the empty leather recliner, not meeting anyone's eyes. "I can't do it." Keeping my gaze averted, I headed for my room. These days, hiding was just about the only thing I was good at anymore.
"Wait," Ian called out to my back.
When I turned around, he was exchanging a look with Ben.
Ian pursed his lips together. "No one has to know."
I felt my forehead wrinkle as I scanned their faces. "What are you talking about?"
Ben shook his head. "I already spoke to Celeb!, told them you wouldn't be willing to do the shoot without everyone signing an NDA. I've got copies of all the signed agreements from the photographer to this year's Sexiest Woman, all the way down to everybody's assistants. Legally, no one will be able to breathe a word about you."
Gavin rolled up onto an elbow, the brown leather of the couch cushion groaning. "You couldn't have led with that?"
"Well, I could have, but I was hoping ..." Ben lifted one shoulder in a half-shrug and sauntered into the kitchen.
Right, he was hoping I'd cave and we could just put all of this behind us. Move on, so things could just go back to normal. Wouldn't that be nice?
It was only as I was replaying his words that something stuck out, making my brain stumble. "Wait, you said the Sexiest Woman?"
Ben reappeared, cracking open a bottle of water. "Yeah, she'll be there. And?"
A laugh tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop it. Jesus, other than my nurses at the hospital and my hardass physical therapist, I'd avoided women like every single one of them was carrying the Ebola virus. Which was really saying something, since I fucking loved women. Loved every single thing about them — their smell, their taste, the way they felt as I ran my hands over their soft, soft skin.
Except, during the brief time I spent back at home recovering, I'd run into an old flame from high school. I hadn't even thought about it; I'd flashed her my trademark grin, the one that practically melted panties and had women tossing their bras onstage. I swore the look on her face had almost killed me. At that moment, as she'd given me a look that was overflowing with pity and flavored with just a hint of revulsion, my heart did this thing in my chest that made it nearly impossible to breathe. Right then, I'd wished that my legs weren't the only place where I couldn't feel anything.
So yeah, I couldn't wait to see what this year's Sexiest Woman thought of her counterpart. This wasn't going to make me feel like shit at all.
Clamping my lips together, I cut off the ridiculous laughter that was still polluting the air around me. All three of them were looking at me like I'd lost my fucking mind.
"Forget it." I spun around. "I need to take a shower."
There was a moment of silence before Gavin shouted at my retreating back, "You're doing it?" A breath later, Ben added, "If we want to be on time we need —"
I backed into the bathroom. "They'll wait."CHAPTER 3
Thirty minutes late. His Highness was thirty minutes late when he finally graced us with his presence, waltzing into the room like he owned the damn place. Although, I guess the more appropriate term would be rolled — oh. My thoughts all shifted neatly into place, and every ounce of anger that'd been multiplying with every tick of the clock melted away like a slab of butter in a hot frying pan.
"Holy hell, is that ..." Ally blinked hard. "Wait a second, is he —"
The NDA finally made sense. "He's totally pulling an FDR." A tiny smile snuck across my face, and I tossed my phone onto the small table in front of me.
"He's ... what?" Her forehead crinkled as she glanced at me, her gaze darting between me and this year's Sexiest Man Alive — Felix Donovan. I'd seen him once gracing the cover of Rolling Stone, then again accepting an award at the Grammys. Two times, all said and done, and even though he spent the majority of his time behind a drum kit, he wasn't someone you'd ever forget.
"You know, FDR. Former president who pretty famously hid the fact that he was in a wheelchair?" I tapped a finger to my lips. "Actually —"
"Why do you even know that?" She shook her head and let a sigh slip out, nudging her chin out toward Felix. "Dead presidents aside, that is seriously a shame."
I whipped my head toward her, the long strands of my hair fluttering over my shoulder and tickling my bare skin. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Don't give me that look, Jules. You know what I mean." She waved a hand toward Felix, who sat glowering on the other side of the room. The man next to him — another member of the band, Ben — was having words with the photographer. "If that's permanent? If that chair is part of package now? Then it's a damn shame and you know it."
I ground my teeth so hard together, my jaw ached. "The only thing I know right now is that you're being an insensitive, judgmental bitch."
A hot flush climbed up her neck to her cheeks. Her lips pinched tightly together like she was physically preventing whatever she wanted to say next from blurting out of her mouth.
I pushed up from my chair, straightening my short blue dress and tugging at the hem. A few inches higher and my vajayjay would be joining the party. "I'm going to say hi; you can stay here."
Her expression immediately softened. "Jules, c'mon, I'm sorry."
I shrugged and kept walking. The staccato click of my heels seemed harsh in the high-ceilinged room, the sound of it piercing straight through the few conversations around me. I knew Ally didn't mean any harm by what she said, but that was part of the problem — she didn't even see the harm in it.
Excerpted from The Feeling of Forever by Jamie Howard. Copyright © 2017 Jamie Howard. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Juliet,
Chapter 2: Felix,
Chapter 3: Juliet,
Chapter 4: Felix,
Chapter 5: Felix,
Chapter 6: Juliet,
Chapter 7: Felix,
Chapter 8: Felix,
Chapter 9: Juliet,
Chapter 10: Felix,
Chapter 11: Juliet,
Chapter 12: Juliet,
Chapter 13: Juliet,
Chapter 14: Felix,
Chapter 15: Juliet,
Chapter 16: Felix,
Chapter 17: Juliet,
Chapter 18: Juliet,
Chapter 19: Felix,
Chapter 20: Juliet,
Chapter 21: Felix,
Chapter 22: Juliet,
Chapter 23: Felix,
Chapter 24: Juliet,
Chapter 25: Juliet,
Chapter 26: Juliet,
Chapter 27: Felix,
Chapter 28: Juliet,
Chapter 29: Felix,
Chapter 30: Juliet,
Chapter 31: Felix,
Chapter 32: Juliet,
Chapter 33: Felix,
Chapter 34: Juliet,
Chapter 35: Felix,
Chapter 36: Felix,
Chapter 37: Juliet,
Chapter 38: Felix,
Chapter 39: Juliet,
About the Author,