Series: The Reluctant Romantics #1
Published by Self-Published on November 27th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
He was the beginning of my heart . . . and the end of it. I was only fifteen years old when he claimed it and twenty when he took it with him.
They say what is meant to be will find a way. But when you have changed to the point of no return, how can anything ever be the same?
Seven years later, Dean Martin waltzed back into my life in hopes of resuming what I had fought so hard to forget, but he was in for a wake-up call. I was no longer the naïve woman he had left . . . and I was no longer his.I met the love of my life and my soul mate when I was fifteen. I knew that; he knew that. He wanted that girl back. I wanted to forget she ever existed.
What I thought was my pre-destined path was very much an illusion. Living seven years with regret, I realized too late that I was broken, and that I only had myself to blame. I thought love could wait . . . but it didn’t.
We’d had it all those years ago, and then I foolishly left it behind. She was all that mattered. She was all there ever was. There was no life without Dallas, no reason . . . except her. No matter how hard she tried to convince me, I knew I had to once again make her mine, to make her remember . . . the fall.
Explicit sex, strong language.
I suspected Kate Stewart was a talented writer when I read Loving the White Liar, but reading The Fall has made me a true believer. The Fall is a second chance love story that well exceeded my expectations.
The story switches between the past and the present, and it spans a period of over a decade. Dallas and Dean first meet in high school, and what begins as friendship turns into a slow burn romance of epic proportions. It’s the type of delayed gratification that I adore, and the payoff is so worth it. They are young and in love; naïve and ambitious. Promises are made, hearts are broken, and the two separate. You know that saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”? In the present (seven years later), with all his career goals met, Dean finally realizes how empty his life is. He returns home determined to earn back Dallas’s love. One problem: Dallas has moved on with another man.
“You are the other half of me. Tell me how to fight for you, baby. Tell me what to do. I’ll do whatever you want. Don’t take my life away from me. Forgive me.”
Here’s what I love about Kate Stewart. She isn’t a lazy writer. She’s patient in her storytelling, unpredictable, and she takes the difficult—and sometimes painful—path to revealing her characters’ authenticity. Nobody is the villain here. There is no right or wrong. Dallas’s new boyfriend treats her well, he has a great career, and even the sex is good. Of course I was rooting for Dean and Dallas to get together, but the decisions aren’t cut and dry.
Dallas and Dean are complex and aggravating characters at times; however, I fell in love with both of them. They are magnetic in their chemistry, their love is palpable, and Kate Stewart gifts them with countless heart-melting quotes.
“I loved you then. I love you now. I’ll love you tomorrow. And if you walk away from me, not one damn woman in the world will ever take your place. No one ever has.”
The story is rounded out by Dallas and Dean’s interesting and entertaining family members. I’m really looking forward to reading about Dallas’s sister, Rose, in the next book in the series.
The Fall stirred up a wide range of emotions in me: tenderness, frustration, heartbreak, and joy. Why not five stars? The pacing drags in the second half as Dallas battles indecisiveness for—in my opinion—an overly extended period of time. Still, I highly recommend this one.
** ARC kindly provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. **
It was three long years before I heard three words that would forever change me. I was walking across campus toward the Marshall Hall building when the voice sounded. “Dean, Dean Martin?” A smile was already on my lips as I looked in the direction of the voice. Dallas’s laugh was unmistakable as she walked toward me. What I wasn’t expecting was the mere sight of her would leave me scrambling to regain basic fucking motor function. My smile quickly faded as she flew at me in a hug. All the breath left my body as I inhaled her scent. I gripped her to me tightly as she laughed and hugged me back. When she pulled away, my arms were still securely around her. I knew I had to be grinning like an idiot as she beamed back at me.
“How the hell are you?” she asked, a little Texas twang in her voice.
“Better now,” I said, still refusing to let her out of my grasp.
We spent a little longer than we should in our embrace, neither of us willing to pull away from the other. In that instant, I felt the pain of missing her ease slightly. My chest tightened at the return of a familiar stir.
It was just that damned easy.
“Let me look at you. Damn …” My voice was hoarse as I let her go to take her in. She was wearing tight jeans, knee high, rider boots and a tight fitting red sweater. I took in every curve as I whistled slowly.
“I know.” She waggled her eyebrows up then down and did a little turn for the full effect.
She was a far cry from the skinnier version I left. She had a small amount of curve on her hips and her long legs remained one of her best assets. This was no longer the tempting Lolita that I had left. This was the young woman I had always pictured but even more beautiful than I could have imagined.
“Still dressing like every day is a Sunday at church,” she said, poking fun of my clothes, as usual.
“I don’t hear anyone else complaining,” I pointed out, still overwhelmed with the sight of her in front of me. “And you are still a pain in the ass,” I noted as she laughed.
“You have no idea. So did you miss me, Dean?”
“You know the saying ‘Don’t know what you got till it’s gone?’ Well, I can’t stand most of the girls at this school,” I assured her.
“Well, don’t tell me the infamous Dean Martin has changed his ways,” she teased.
“No, I still sleep with them. I just run like hell after,” I chuckled. “Anyway, what about you?”
“What about me?” she asked her eyes meeting mine. I let them stray and sweep down her body slowly bringing them back to her. “Dean, you wouldn’t be checking me out, would you?”
“Yes, I absolutely fucking am,” I said pointedly, giving her pause. She gave me a wary glance as she looked around campus. She seemed more relaxed than when I had left her, more comfortable in her own skin. Her confidence radiated off her in waves. My mind drifted back to the kiss I had left her with as I studied the slow curve of a smile forming on her lips.
We quickly made up for lost time and spent the rest of the day stuck together, holding hands and laughing as I gave her a full tour of campus. I was on my last year and would be leaving for Columbia next fall and I was again a senior to her freshmen. I refused to dwell on that. I felt completely relaxed for the first time since I had left her three years ago.
We were inseparable our first few weeks of school as we stayed busy, getting reacquainted. When we were not in class, we spent our nights either on the phone, walking on campus, going to parties, or hanging out at my frat house. My friends seemed to like her right away, a little too much for my liking. I caught their hungry eyes on her and glared at them openly as they shot a game of pool at the table in what was supposed to be our dining room. The minute her back was turned, I was bombarded with the inevitable question of who she was to me.
There was no mistaking my straight answer to Casey, the newest member of my fraternity. “Don’t even fucking look at her,” I barked.
“Okay, bud, all right,” he said, backing away to grab the pool stick from Rob—another brother who was a senior—and eyed Dallas suspiciously. It wasn’t common practice for me to bring girls back to the house other than to my bedroom. I had fallen into a bad habit my first few years at school but had slacked since then, concentrating more on my grades.
New York was a whisper away, but Dallas…Dallas was here.
I watched her work the table as she made herself comfortable, shooting off her shit talk at my frat buddies, who happily obliged her. They were impressed, especially Casey.
Casey was notorious on campus, easily one of the biggest players. He had absolutely no good intentions when it came to the opposite sex and though I wasn’t one to preach, he had a rather tasteless way of discarding the affections of his women. He was doing his best to impress her and she seemed to notice, humoring him.
Rob was the next to ask, stepping up and handing me a beer. “What’s the deal?” He asked as he eyed Dallas’s perfect ass as she took a shot and made the eight ball, winning the game. She looked up at me with her knowing smile. She was so fucking beautiful. I cursed my stupidity in bringing her to the house.
“The deal is any woman I bring into this house is off limits,” I said through clenched teeth. Rob laughed as he eyed me. “Dude, that’s not exactly fair. I don’t think any of us would get anywhere that way,” he said loudly. I ignored him and grabbed Dallas’s hand.
“Nice game,” I said, giving her a wink and pulling her toward the door. The guys frowned as if I was taking away their shiny new toy.
“Bye,” Dallas said quickly as I pulled her out of the house.
“Oh, come on, Dean. You aren’t going to pull the same old shit you did in high school.” She raised a brow. I took a step toward her.
“No, this will be different. I promise.” Before she could question me, I swept her in my arms and hauled ass down the steps of the massive front porch of the house.
“What the hell are you doing?” She laughed as I ran like a lightning streak toward the quad.
“Getting you somewhere safe. Couldn’t you smell it in there?” I said, running faster as she laughed.
“Smell what?” she asked, her voice choppy as I kept my legs moving.
“Your pregnancy,” I answered, slowing to a halt. She rolled her eyes as she jumped from my arms.
“They were just curious,” she said, giving me a pointed stare. “I’m sure you don’t bring girls home often to meet the parents, am I right?”
“Whore,” she said without affection. I pushed her down on the grass as she yelped out in protest, flailing her arms before giving in to the inevitable.
“You ass!” she said testily as she wiped grass from her sweater but stayed seated.
“Oh Dallas, always trying to bring out the angry Spaniard in me,” I teased as I joined her on the grass.
She chuckled. “Truth hurts.”
The night was surprisingly cool for early September in Texas. I looked over at her, memorizing the perfect outline of her face, the way her silky hair cascaded down her shoulders and swirled around her as the breeze lifted it. She smiled at me and the unmistakable jolt shot through me, the effect the same. This time, I didn’t fight it.
“It’s not like that anymore,” I said in an attempt to reassure her. I grabbed a stray hair away from her face and tucked it behind her ear. She sobered up a bit, her smile slowly fading.
“Not what I heard,” she said, hugging her knees to her chest, averting her eyes. She wasn’t being confrontational, and I knew that. “They don’t call you the Spanish slut this time,” she said with no humor in their voice.
“Oh yeah, what do they call me?” I said, nudging her, hoping to lighten the mood.
“Dean,” she said looking straight into my eyes. Fuck if I didn’t want to kiss her right at the most inappropriate moment. I didn’t want to aid in what she already probably thought of me. I had wanted to kiss her so many times in the past few weeks but had held back for this very reason.
“You do them a disservice, you know,” she said thoughtfully as she played with the blades of grass, not looking at me.
“What do you mean?” I asked, plucking a piece of grass between my fingers.
“Letting them think that’s all you are good for. They never get to know you. It’s sad.”
I laughed. “They objectify me?”
She looked at me seriously. “Yes, they do.” That wiped the smile off my face.
“Dallas, I told you a long time ago, I don’t care about that shit, never will.”
“No, I guess not,” she said, perking up with a smile I knew wasn’t genuine. “I mean you are the big man on campus again. And what the hell is up with that frat chair in there, anyway?”
“It’s my throne,” I said defensively.
She rolled her eyes. It grew darker as the lamp lights came on around us, our faces covered in shadows. We enjoyed a few minutes of silence before she spoke up.
“Tell me about Columbia,” she prodded. “You are so close,” she encouraged.
“I can’t wait,” I said honestly. “My parents took me to New York when I was ten. I just remember being excited the entire time. I loved the semi-organized chaos. The noise, the culture clash, it was palpable, you know. Even then at that age, I could feel it, and it was everywhere. At least that’s the way I remembered it. I made my decision then, I wanted to be there and Columbia was a big heap of icing on the cake. My father and I spent hours going over my game plan. He always loved the idea of Columbia, especially when I told him I wanted to be a doctor. All these years later, I haven’t changed my mind. I’ve been back a few times since to check out the campus, look at housing, I still love it. Have you been?”
I hadn’t realized she was watching me closely, a small smile on her lips. “No, my parents and I vacationed a lot, but mostly to Colorado and then California to see my aunt and uncle. We never really made it out east.”
“It’s incredible and nothing like it is here. It makes our corner of the world seem so small. There is so much potential bursting out of it. I think you’d love it.”
“Maybe…probably,” she said, lost in thought.
“Then again, you are a true Texan. So damn proud to be from this fucking state with no plans of ever leaving,” I teased. “Even your name suits you.”
Before she could attack me for that, I lifted her to her feet. “Come on, I’ll walk you home.”
“Are you going to do this every night?” she asked as she leaned in close and I played with the tips of her long hair as I trailed my fingers down her back, pulling her closer to me. “Maybe, if you want me to.”
“Hmmm, kind of a boyfriend type thing to do, isn’t it?” I avoided her question, leading with mine.
“Coming to my toga party tomorrow night?”
“Maybe,” she said, glancing my way with a smile.
“You should, Dallas.”
“Why is that?”
“’Cause I will be there,” I said, slowing to a stop at her dorm.
She turned to me playfully. “Oh, well, when you put it that way, meh…and change clothes would you, you look like a bible salesmen.” She hurried up the steps as she chuckled.
“Just come, okay? We can tilt a few beers back and I want to talk to you.”
“About what?” she asked as I admired her from the bottom of the steps. She had on a sweater dress that outlined her curves perfectly and tight black leggings that I dreamt of ripping off her all day.
“There’s just something I want to talk to you about.” She heard the hint of seriousness in my voice. “It’s important.”
“Okay, I’ll be there.”