Author: Jessica Gouin
Series: Gone #1
Publisher: Caffeinated Veins Publishing
Release Date: December 1, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
More Info: Goodreads
Purchase: Amazon US
Purchase: Amazon UK
Purchase: Amazon CA
Purchase: Amazon AU
Forget everything you know about happily-ever-afters...
Sawyer, tattooed and rebellious, intended to stay numb until graduation.
Lachlan, gorgeous and charming, was the master of his charmed life.
He had never been more captivated or terrified.
She never saw him coming.
Six weeks was all it took to fall in love.
Then he was gone...
Six years later their lives collide again.
Can forgiveness and faith restore what was broken in those years of absence? Or will the dark secrets buried inside one another destroy their second chance at love?
What happens when the one who ruined you is woven into your soul? How can dreams appear to come true only to twist into nightmares?
Though they ache for the happy ending to their fairytale, fate may have something else planned.
Title: Six Years Gone
Series: Gone #1
Genre: Contemporary/NA Romance
Author: Jessica Gouin
Genre: Contemporary New Adult
Release Date: December 1, 2016
My face is killing me.
I wince and suck a breath through clenched teeth as Drew reaches across the small space inside my car to touch my cheek, right below the bruised skin. “What the hell happened to your face, Sawyer?”
A very large and very stubborn part of me wants to tell him everything that happened earlier today, knowing he’ll go after Nathan who deserves a good ass kicking. Every other part of me just wants to get high and not talk about anything at all.
I wave a hand dismissively as I work my tender jaw back and forth. “Don’t worry about it. Nothing happened. Mrs. Hoover made me participate in gym class again.” Everyone knows I don’t mix with sporting activities of any kind, and it’s really not far from the truth.
He drops his fingers from my skin along with his questioning. “Yeah, you should probably just skip the class altogether. So, you need to take off right away? I thought we could leave your Jeep here, get in my car, and go for a drive. Like how we used to.” Drew runs his hands over his short dark hair and the glimmer of hope in his eyes needs to be crushed. Now.
“You mean like how we used to before I caught you under some random chick on your couch? Like how we used to before I broke up with you? How we used to when I thought you were a decent boyfriend? Is that the time you’re referring to?”
His relaxed hands become tight fists, and the sparkle instantly extinguishes. I’m tired of having this same fight with him every time we meet up. I should really find someone else to get my supply from, but he always has what I need and doesn’t try to overcharge me.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a drug dealer per se. He happens to know the right people to acquire certain items of interest for other people.
Okay, he’s a drug dealer. A cheater and a criminal.
“I told you a million times, Sawyer. She meant nothing to me and I made a mistake. When’re you gonna believe I’m sorry and get over it?”
“I am over it. And, I’m over you. There aren’t enough words in the English language to make me trust you again.” It’s not only Drew I don’t trust. He just happened to be the unlucky straw who broke the proverbial camel’s back. Even if I could find it in myself to actually forgive his betrayal, I won’t ever be able to look at him romantically without seeing that afternoon painted on his face like a haunted canvas. Some things can’t be unseen, and that picture is undeniably imprinted in my mind.
His jaw tightens, and the vein in his neck emerges. “Maybe you should find someone else to take care of you, then.”
“I take care of myself, thank you.”
“You know you need me still or else you wouldn’t keep meeting up with me.”
I reach over and snatch the breath mint container—which doesn’t contain any breath mints—from his grasp and replace it with my last twenty. “I’m not doing this with you. I’m done having this argument all the time. I’m going home to crash for the night, and you need to do the same.”
He stares at me, a thousand unspoken and angry words lingering in his gaze. Tension visibly vanishes from him as he leans forward and presses his lips to my cheek, his stubble grazing my skin. The feel of his rough skin on mine used to lower my ability to think. I suppose it still does, only in a different way now. The only feeling I have when he touches me is repulsion.
When he leaves, his scent remains in his absence, stirring in the air around me. A ghost of my first relationship, my first love. If that’s what love is, then it’s not for me Thanks, but no thanks.
Drew’s a murderer.
He executed the last shred of faith I have in the male species.
I sit in the silence of my Jeep. The car was a parting gift from my dad when he walked out on me, and I wait for memories of Drew to fade away completely. Across the park, parents take their sand-coated kids’ hands and wave good-bye to the playground as the sun lowers in the background. What a perfect waste of another day.
I rattle the container from Drew in anticipation, flick the lid open and shake out an Oxycodone. Swallowing the tab, I allow my head to fall back against the seat. My eyelids flutter as I wait, impatient for the best part.
A car door slams and I jump, causing the mint container to slip from my grasp, slide down the seat, and drop to the floor. Red and blue lights flash in my mind, the memory of last July playing like a cheesy movie.
The memory of being pulled over driving my best friend Sloane’s car on a Saturday night.
Sloane, stoned and paranoid next to me, kicking a bag under her seat.
Handcuffs restraining and possession charges being filed.
My brother, Owen, picking me up from the police station because our mom was too drunk to drive. Or care.
The judge showing mercy by only sentencing us to community service instead of jail time.
Last summer was one to remember.
The only positive outcome of the whole mess was, when my community service at the horse ranch ended, I was fortunate enough to be hired on staff to work after school and on the weekends. Being employed at the ranch keeps me sane and away from trouble.
Before my high has time to settle into me, I drive away from the park to head home. Owen will be getting in from work soon, and it’s his night to cook. I’m hopeful Mom stays out until I’m asleep. It’s better when it happens that way. Days will go by when I don’t see her. It’s nice because I can forget she even exists on those days. Sometimes, I imagine that when my dad bailed a few years back he took my mom with him.
Owen’s only three years older than I am, but we would have been better off left on our own to starve to death. At least we wouldn’t have the added trouble of taking care of my mother on top of trying to survive.
My Jeep doesn’t make it far before it chugs, sputters, and rolls to a stop. When I open my eyes each morning, I don’t have an overwhelming sense that my day is going to be great, but today really fucking sucked.
Owen and I share the Wrangler, and we were supposed to make this tank of gas last until payday.
I pick up my bag from the floor, toss the mint container and keys inside, and start my trek home. Owen’s going to flip out when I tell him about the Jeep, or worse, he’ll get all quiet. Living one day at a time, I have a tendency to get so wrapped up in how much having virtually no parents sucks for me I forget it has to be twice as hard for Owen.
I’m a half block in when a black truck slows beside me.
“There’s something you don’t see every day,” a deep male voice calls out. It’s a voice that I instantly recognize and instantly turns my stomach. It belongs to the asshole responsible for my swollen face. “A real-life damsel in distress. Your piece-of-shit Jeep break down again?”
I roll my head to glare at Nathan Cain behind the wheel of his souped-up toy with the Australian guy, Lachlan, riding shotgun.
“Cain. Just the guy I want to see again. Are you here to check on my facial trauma from your baseball? Your concern is utterly touching. I mean, whoever said chivalry was dead has clearly never lived in Woodsview. You’re such a super nice guy. Really! You should take me out sometime in that awesome small-dick compensation on wheels.”
Nathan’s million-dollar smile fades, which is really satisfying. “Next time, take your drug sessions elsewhere, Sawyer, and you won’t be in my ball’s way. But, I mean, if you like balls in your face, I’m all yours, baby.”
I stop walking completely, change my direction, and take a few steps closer to his truck. “Have you ever had your ass kicked by a girl before, Cain? Because I swear to fucking god I’m about to break your precious pitching arm.”
Nathan’s eyes narrow, and he opens his mouth to say something, but his passenger leans forward, blocking Nathan’s view. “Do you need any help with your car, mate?” Australia asks, leaning a bit farther out of the window, glancing in the direction of my Jeep. I’d heard he moved here to live with his aunt and uncle a few years back, beginning of high school I think. I didn’t expect him to sound so…Australian. The accent is deeper than I would have guessed to have been in America for so long now.
I’m not in the mood for this shit. I just want to go home and lock myself in my room where I don’t have to see or talk to anyone. “Screw off. Seriously, I don’t need anything from you guys. I would rather pull out my eye lashes so just go harass someone else.”
Nathan lets out an audible exasperation and speeds away, mumbling something I’m sure isn’t very intelligent.
Nathan, Lachlan, and the rest of the rich pricks have been using the less financially privileged as their personal punching bags since elementary school. Secretly, I used to envy them with their wealthy, non-divorced parents, their name-brand clothing, expensive cars, and easy lives.
Now, I simply despise them. They don’t stand for anything anymore except their daily goal to make my life hell.
I carry on with my walk home, a little more than irritated, waiting for my kick. April weather in California tends to be in the low seventies, but as my Doc Martens pad against the pavement, the wind licks my body, and I wish I had my sweater. In a euphoric release, starting from my core, I’m slowly becoming lighter. I close my eyes to allow the warm and familiar tingling sensation to rise through my insides, seep from my bones and release through my skin. My face ignites, and I can no longer sense the pain which radiated from my cheek.
This is the moment I was waiting for because, the moment the drugs kick in, my life is livable.
I smile to myself and turn the corner at the end of the street. Headlights slow beside me, and the car window descends in a flawless glide, revealing the driver. I’m about to lose. My. Shit.
“Hi again. I, er…. I wanted to make sure you didn’t have a bingle or something.”
Oh my god. It’s the Australian guy again. He’s everywhere today. The ball diamond where Nathan belted me with a baseball, the drive-by assholing, and here he is again in a brand new (probably) shiny silver car. This guy hasn’t so much as smiled my way in all four years we’ve been in the same high school together, and today, of all days, I can’t get rid of him.
I stop walking to face him. “What the hell is a bingle?”
He appears humored by my question. “Ah, I guess you would call it a car accident here,” he replies with a smirk as he attempts to lose the accent for the words “car accident.”
Isn’t he a treat?
I uncross my arms and turn away from him to leave. “No, Koala bear, I did not have a bingle, so you can run back to your mates and tell them to leave me the fuck alone. For good this time.”
He rolls the window up, but instead of speeding away the way Nathan did, and what I expect this guy to do, he pulls his car to the side of the road and parks. When he’s out, I notice the baseball uniform on him. Good lord, his body makes me want to watch baseball more often. As he walks right past me, I can’t help studying the back of him. I hate to admit it, but he’s hotter than most of the guys at school. There’s something about him that makes him seem older than a senior in high school. More mature. His thick brown hair pulls off the perfect messy style, and it’s long enough to touch his ears. A strong jawline is his most prominent facial feature, accented by smooth, olive skin. His eyes are rich, lips full, and…. Wait a minute. My brows furrow. “What are you doing?”
“I’m pretty handy with engines,” he shouts over his shoulder. “I can have a peek for you. Your Jeep still on Ashmore? With any luck, it’s a quick fix and you’ll be on your way.”
Of course, Mr. Perfect knows his way around a baseball diamond and an engine. I’m sure it’s the beginning of his many abilities. I don’t want this guy knowing I ran out of gas and have to wait until payday because I spent the last bit of money I have on prescription pain meds.
“That’s great. I would love to sit here and listen to your endless talents all night, but there’s no need for you to have a peek. I know what’s wrong with my Jeep, and I don’t need your help to fix my problems. Thanks for stopping, though.”
He turns toward me, approaching slowly with shuffling feet. He’s no more than three feet away, and, for the first time, I notice how brown his eyes are—melted chocolate, with small specks of honey. He’s taller than I thought he was, too. I have to crane my neck to look at his face. I grow impatient as he just stands there and stares at me, waiting for an explanation. I don’t feel like I owe him one, but I do feel like he won’t leave until he gets it.
I let out a sigh of defeat. “The tank is empty, okay? I ran out of gas.”
His mouth curves up on one side, creating a perfect dimple in his cheek. “Well, easy enough. I’ll give you a ride to the gas station.”
What the crap? Is he trying to earn a merit badge? “Why are you being so nice to me? You don’t know me. Is this something the team put you up to, or did you lose a bet or something? Did they tell you to come here?” I interrogate him as if we’re in an episode of Law and Order. I’m tired of being the joke.
“No one put me up to anything. I came back on my own will, wanting to talk to you for no other reason than to offer my help. There really is no ulterior motive here.” He kicks an invisible stone from the road, becoming shy. “I don’t like the way Nathan treated you. The way they always treat you. Or anyone else who isn’t them for that matter. My parents raised me to treat people with respect. The least I can do is see if you need a ride home.”
I narrow my glare, purse my lips. Is he telling the truth? I’ve been screwed over by so many people in my seventeen years on this earth. Lied to and betrayed by the ones who were supposed to protect me with unconditional love. Why would this random person, who I’ve never spoken with before, want to help me? I fear if sincerity hit me in the face, as hard as a baseball, I wouldn’t recognize it.
It’s way later than I intended on getting home now and I’m starving. And, a bit light-headed from not eating since lunch. I make a judgment call to trust what he says is the truth. That he came back tonight for nothing other than to offer a ride home.
“I don’t need a ride to the gas station. But, could you take me home?”