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Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2wQ6fPh
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Google Play: http://bit.ly/2a5Uafh
Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/29TYZHf
Please enjoy the following deleted scene from In Ruins by Danielle Pearl
*In Ruins was published on October 4th, 2016 by Forever Romance
April, senior year of high school
COLLEGES HAVE THEIR spring breaks earlier than we do, and a bunch of prior graduates are back home tonight. Everyone was at Andy's earlier, but he disappeared upstairs with Tina halfway through his own party, and not long after that, Rory left claiming to be tired, with Cap hot on her heels. He came back a few minutes later saying he was also suddenly tired, and proceeded to bail on us as well. Shocker.
The rest of the boys and I pile into Dave’s SUV, and head to The Diner to get a midnight snack—a regular activity for a town without a a whole lot of options for late-night entertainment—and not because Carl said that’s where she was headed.
The Diner is busier than usual with so many people home for break, and our friends mix with older familiar faces, some friendly, some not so much. Carl is seated next to Kendall, who graduated last year, and they're chatting with a couple of guys from her graduating class. I'm about to head over to say hello when I recognize one of the not-so-friendly faces. One that makes my muscles tense, and the fact that he's standing over Carl, murmuring something to her, makes my hands clench into fists.
Brian Falco, the asshole who broke Bits'—Cap’s little sister’s—heart barely a year ago, has had his sights set on Carl ever since. I know it. Even if Carl doesn't. For such a formidable girl she can sure be naïve. But she never showed an ounce of interest in him, and then he was gone, so it wasn’t an issue. But now, whatever he's saying to her appears to have her utterly enthralled, if a little irritated.
"Dude, no drama tonight. Please," Luke murmurs when he sees who I'm looking at and how I'm looking at him.
"Fuck that. We can't just let him move in on Tuck's girl," Dave replies. He's always had a soft spot for Bits, too—so much so that sometimes I wonder if it’s a little too fucking soft. But Cap and I have been tight with Dave practically since birth, and Bits is practically like a sister to him, too, and though he doesn't know about what happened last summer, he knows the rest. Everyone does. So Dave is all too eager for any opportunity to butt heads with Falco—and throw fists, for that matter. But his words snap me out of my rapturous glare. Because they're all wrong.
"She's not my girl," I mutter coolly. Because what the fuck. We're not in a relationship—I know that—but we've been hooking up for months, and at the very least she's one of my closest friends. And she knows how I feel about Brian fucking Falco. In fact, I thought she shared my opinion.
Well fuck that.
Instead of going to their table, I make my way over to a table halfway across the dining room where a group of older girls are munching on cheese fries. My boys follow me, and I ignore their loaded glances. I don't care if I'm being transparent to them. I'm not fully in control of myself at the moment—in control of my goddamn feelings, and not for the first time I resent Carl for bringing them out of me at all.
Tully is another girl who graduated last year, and I hooked up with her a couple of times when I was a sophomore. I have no interest in her now, of course, but we've always been friendly, so I distract myself by taking a few minutes to catch up with her and her friends. My boys don’t complain—they're an attractive bunch—and Dave is making suggestive comments and spitting game before the waitress even drops by the table to take our drink orders.
I purposely position my back to Carl to remove the temptation of watching her. It's pointless, though. I realize Tully has been telling me some story for the past five minutes and I couldn't tell you a word she’s said. And even now, as I realize this, I still can't bring myself to pay attention. I'm so fucking pathetic.
Finally, I give in, and turn around.
But Carl isn't there.
I notice Falco drop some bills onto the table and then stroll out toward the exit. And I lose it.
What in the fuck is she thinking leaving with him?
Rationally, I know I should just let her do what she wants. I have no claim over her, and if she's stupid enough to want to spend time with that asshole, then what the fuck do I want with her anyway?
But I'm not rational when it comes to Carl. My blood rushes through my veins with urgency and momentum, and I'm up and out of my seat with no plan of action or even words. The only thing I know is that I have to stop this from happening, however necessary, regardless of the consequences.
By the time I get outside, Falco is almost at his car, and I search for Carl, expecting to see her climbing into his passenger seat, but he's alone.
"Falco," I call. I don't shout, but my voice carries well enough through the hushed night and the mostly empty parking lot.
Falco swings around to face me, his freshly lit cigarette illuminating his surprise.
I approach him slowly, but don't bother getting too close. If Carl’s not with him then I have no use for him. I'd prefer not to get into a fight tonight. And I still don't know where the hell Carl is. "Where is Carl?" I demand.
Falco arches a brow and curls his lip in distaste. Yeah, he's not my biggest fan, and I doubt he thinks he should be answering to me. But just because I'd prefer not to get into a fight tonight doesn't mean I won't.
I raise my eyebrows impatiently.
Falco rolls his eyes and shrugs. "How the fuck should I know?"
My nostrils flare with my sharp exhale, though I work to keep my composure. "Don't fuck with me right now, Falco. I'm not in the mood. You were talking to her. Where is she?"
He has the nerve to fucking smirk, and I take a step forward, my hands so desperate to do damage that my nails dig into my own palms, threatening to break skin.
Falco shakes his head and sighs, as if I'm suddenly not worth the trouble. "She's inside as far as I know. We were chatting a bit, she got a little upset, and excused herself to go to the bathroom. Haven't seen her since."
"What the fuck did you say to upset her?" I growl.
"Not my fault," he says simply, reaching for his car door. Part of me wants to throw him right up against it and get a good hit in, but most of me is fixated on hearing that Carl is upset about something, and filled with the inexorable urge to somehow fix it. Whatever it is.
So I turn my back on Falco and jog back inside. I peek my head into the dining room to see if she's back at her table with Kendall. She isn't. So I head back toward the counter, where the bathrooms are located.
I stare at the door to the women's bathroom. What the hell am I supposed to do now? I can't very well just waltz my way into the damned ladies room.
A girl who was sitting at Tully's table a few minutes ago walks out and stares at me with bemused, appraising eyes
"Is Carl Stanger in there?" I ask her before she can question what I'm doing standing outside the women's bathroom like some kind of creep.
She blinks at me a moment. "Uh, no. I don't think so.
I pull out my phone to text her, and also to dismiss this girl whose name I can't remember, and she takes the hint and goes on her way. And then my eyes land on the private family restroom. The one with only one toilet and a changing table meant for parents with young children. I knock on the door.
"Just a minute." It's muffled, but it's her voice.
"It's me, Princess," I call back.
"I said, just a minute." Her tone holds no familiarity and certainly no warmth- as if she wants to make a point that I'm no more welcome than any random stranger. It feels all wrong, and it unleashes a sharp wave of anxiety.
Is she pissed at me? What the hell could I have done to piss her off already? She's the one chatting up people I despise. And I haven't even told her off for it yet.
I bang my fist harder against the door. "Let me in, I want to talk to you!"
She opens the door with a growl. "I'm in the bathroom!"
Yeah, I can see that. I push my way inside, and close and lock the door behind me, ignoring her indignant and decidedly hostile glare. "You've been hiding in here for ten minutes. You're not going to the bathroom," I call her out.
That shuts her pretty, gaping mouth. "I wasn't hiding," she insists. Her shoulders square in challenge, drawing my attention to her chest, and I'm momentarily distracted.
Jade eyes narrow. "What are you doing here, Tucker?"
Right. "Saw you talking with Falco. Thought you left with him." I work to keep my tone nonchalant, as if I'm more curious than anything—as if unaffected by the idea. It’s a masterful act.
Carl’s bottom lip drops again, as if she can't quite believe what she's hearing, and it's validating.
"You thought I left with him?" Her voice rises a full octave.
"Well you were talking to him so long you didn't even notice your actual friends walk into the damned diner!" Yeah, so much for hiding my emotions. My heart pumps faster as I think of him bent down to her ear, murmuring intimately, his breath coming into contact with her delicate skin. Suddenly my own breaths come more harshly.
"He came over to me, not the other way around, in case you didn't notice!” Carl retorts.
"You didn't exactly send him away!" Damn it, Green, calm the fuck down. I want her to want to kiss me, not hit me. At least now that I know she was never considering anything with Falco. But the way she's looking at me right now makes me wonder if I shouldn't run before she skins me alive.
"Well," she lowers her voice. "I was interested in what he had to say. He was telling me a story about my actual friends."
What the fuck is that supposed to mean? "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"
Carl shrugs. "Guess he saw you and some of the guys out at Martine's Bar last night. He was just asking why I didn't go. Said my friends seemed like they were having a good time."
Shit. I feel the blood drain from my face and I will myself to not be so obviously distressed. Because I already know where this is going.
Sarah kissed me last night. Right at the bar. I didn't see it coming, and I stopped it. But I was drunk, and my reaction time was probably a little delayed. Fucking Falco must've seen. By now everyone knows Carl and I have a thing. Smug little shit must have really enjoyed upsetting her. I should have fucking knocked him out in the parking lot, after all.
"Princess, I don't know what that douchebag told you, but it wasn't what you're obviously thinking—"
"I'm not thinking anything. I know. And I don't care, Tucker. You're allowed to hook up with whoever the hell you want," she says pointedly. "And so am I." She sidesteps me and reaches for the door handle.
Oh, hell no. I grab her elbow and spin her back to face me. "Yeah? Except I do hook up with whoever I want, Princess. But that isn't Sarah. I think I've told you that before," I remind her.
She raises her chin, ready to sling some snarky remark, but I cut her off.
"She kissed me, yes. At a crowded bar. And I pushed her off of me." Every word I say gets me more and more pissed. "I can hook up with whoever I want, but do you really think I'm such an asshole that I would hook up with your fucking friends?"
Carl's glare falters.
"You want Falco?" I challenge.
I watch her delicate neck move with her nervous swallow. Because she wants to goad me—it's her nature—but she does not want Brian fucking Falco, and she won't lie and say otherwise just to set me off, I know it.
"I don't want anyone right now," she says instead.
I take a step forward until I'm crowding her. Her scent invades my senses, sweet and heady, and my jeans tighten instantly. Her gaze is unblinking and her breathing quickens and deepens. God, I love the way she reacts to me. "Is that so?"
She doesn't answer in words, but her body tells me everything I need to know. Her mouth opens slightly and she flushes with desire.
It's been too long since I've had her. My mom's been home a lot and Billy’s always around when I’m at Carl’s. And she's not the kind of girl you screw in the back seat of a car. I lift my hand slowly, almost afraid to spook her, just in case she decides to deny me as punishment for that kiss from Sarah I never wanted it in the first place. But she doesn't move. I brace her chin and run the pad of my thumb over that plump little bottom lip. She lets me. She tries to stop me from hearing that small gasp escape her mouth, but I feel it on my thumb, and I lean down for a taste.
Just a small taste. We're in a public bathroom, after all.
But her mouth is utterly intoxicating. The slide of her tongue against mine is torment enough, and the soft sigh she exhales makes me deepen the kiss until it's dangerous to continue. But I can't bring myself to stop. And then her arms are around my neck and her seductive curves are pressed against my body, and I know she can feel how close I am to taking her right here and now. And, God, if she were anyone else, I would—I really would. I never claimed to be a saint. But even I know you don't fuck a princess in a public bathroom.
I wrench my mouth from hers, but I don't let her go. She lets her head fall back against the door and closes her eyes, catching her breath. I love her like this. Completely out of control. I love that I can make her like this.
"I can't wait to have you all to myself in Miami. No parents, no little brothers, just a hotel room, a bed, and you," I tell her, becoming increasingly impatient at the thought. Fuck, I need to calm myself down.
Her eyes flutter open, heated and almost a little vulnerable. A small mischievous smile plays on her lips. "We'll see," she breathes.
"We'll see?" I ask, a mixture of disbelief and desperation. She knows that the threat of withholding herself from me makes me crazy. But then, of course, that's why she does it.
Her shoulder raises in a half-shrug. "Yeah, Tuck. We'll see if you deserve me alone in that hotel room."
I know she's toying with me, but her words hit harder than she intends, and I try to swallow down the spark of unease. Because I don't deserve her. I never did. And if that's a caveat for having her, then I've already lost her. Why does my chest ache at the thought?
I don't realize my jaw is clenched until she grazes it with her fingertips, lightly scratching my stubble, and I turn into it like a fucking pet cat. "I'm looking forward to Miami, too," she whispers, a confession I know costs her.
Every muscle in my body relaxes and I feel myself break out into a lopsided grin.
There's a knock on the door and we both call out at the same time--just a minute/one sec—and Carl grimaces. Neither of us thought the other would answer, and now, whoever is on the other end of that door knows we're in here together.
Well, there's nothing to it now. We open the door and I'm almost ashamed by how satisfied I am by Carl's rare, deep blush. She avoids eye contact with our discoverer—some girl I've seen before, but don't really know. But I throw her a suggestive smirk and wink as I slide my arm around Carl's waist. That’s right, sweetheart, Carl Stanger is fucking mine. Spread the damned word.