When Sloane Avery stops to help a stranded driver, she finds more than a broken down car on the side of the road. Twenty-year-old Luke Evans is faster and sexier than her Maserati, but she's not interested in taking him for a test drive. Despite their differences and Sloane's dislike for his Jack and Coke fueled lifestyle, feelings grown between the two. But, when the loss of his little brother sends Luke spiraling, he seeks comfort in Sloane's arms and ends up between her sheets. The morning after, Sloane's ready to confess she loves Luke, until she walks in on him getting serviced-by her sister.That was five years ago, practically a different lifetime and definitely a different Sloane. Before she's been hardened by booze, sex, and as much distance as she could get from the past. Now, called home by a family emergency, she's determined to hold onto her heart the next time she sees Luke.But Sloane's not the only one who's changed. With a successful business and a near-perfect girlfriend, Luke's turned his life around. Only the reappearance of Sloane and the reminder of his biggest mistake can put a dent in his plans. Luke is set on fixing what he's broken, even if it might cost him more than the comfortable life he's built himself, but Sloane is having none of it. She'll do anything to be sure he doesn't get close enough to find out the truth-she's still in love with him.
UNTIL WE BREAK by Jamie Howard. Copyright © 2015 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.
“You’re late!” Gran calls out, not even bothering to lift her eyes from the register.
I bustle through the dining room into the kitchen, nearly colliding with Blaire in the process. Reflexively, she readjusts the plates balanced on her arm and bumps back through the door.
“You’re late!” she yells back at me.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m late,” I grumble under my breath. I wouldn’t have been if I’d followed my better instincts and blown right past the disabled Wrangler, but just as I decided to keep right on going, my foot eased off the gas and I slammed on the brakes. I’ve always been a sucker. One day it’s going to get me in trouble.
I’m tying my apron on when the door swings back open and Blaire reappears. Her brown hair is pulled back in a loose ponytail and her green eyes are glittering. “Do you know how many tables I’ve had to juggle by myself while you were moseying your ass in today?”
I roll my eyes at her and give the apron strings a final tug. “I wasn’t moseying. Some guy was stranded on the side of the road, so I stopped to help.”
“Please tell me you’re joking.”
When I just stare at her, she gives me a harder stare back. “You don’t just stop to help random people. The guy could have been an ax murderer or a serial killer.”
I scoff and wave a dismissive hand her way as I turn to roll some silverware. “He wasn’t an ax murderer, he was just a guy whose car broke down and who didn’t have his phone.”
She peeks through the window in the door, surveying the tables. “Convenient.”
I stack the rolled sets of silverware in a pile next to me, glad to see the routine of it is coming back to me quickly. It’s been years since I helped out around Gran’s Diner, but it’s almost like I never left.
“Yes, Blaire, it was very convenient for him that his car broke down and he had no phone. He must have known I’d be driving down that stretch of road and staged the whole thing.”
Her footsteps echo as she walks across the room, and I turn just in time to catch the rag that’s flying at my face. “You’ve got crap on your leg.”
I wipe at the smeared grease stain, scrubbing to get it off until my skin is red. “Is that grease?”
I laugh. “Actually, yes. I offered to take a peek under the hood of the car.” The dangerous glint to her eyes dims a fraction. “Seriously? Why?”
“Honestly, I thought it would be kind of funny. Although, come to think of it, he didn’t look all that amused.”
Her eyes narrow as she looks at me, and she takes another peek out front. “The next table is yours, by the way.” Her first sentence nearly collides with the second. “Who was the guy?”
I find another smudge of grease on my hand and get to work on that. “Luke . . . I don’t know. I didn’t get his last name.”
“Luke Evans?” she asks, her hands finding their way down to her bossy hips.
Didn’t I just say that I didn’t get his last name? I throw the rag back at her, which catches her on the shoulder before plopping down onto the tile floor. “He could be Luke Skywalker for all I know.”
She toes the towel and kicks it into the sink. “Really tall?”
“Killer blue eyes, long-ish brown hair, fucking gorgeous?” Her voice rises as she speaks, like someone is accidentally leaning on the volume button of the remote.
“Um, I guess? He had sunglasses on, so I couldn’t really see his eyes. He was at that party last night. The one who wiped out at my feet? You know, the guy who was letting that girl fondle him in front of everyone?” Gross. There’s no bigger turnoff than a guy who thinks the world lives and dies in his pants.
She bursts out laughing. “Did you just say ‘fondle’? God, Sloane.” While she continues cackling, I start stacking clean dishes on the shelf.
“Well, let me add a last name to the first one you got. That is Luke Evans, and he is definitely the guy who lets girls fondle him in public. Hell, I’d definitely let him—”
I throw up a hand to cut her off. “Please, don’t.” “Don’t say it or don’t do it?”
I shudder. “Either. With how many holes he’s probably stuck that thing in, I bet it’s about to shrivel up and die.”
She hops onto the counter next to me, swinging her legs back and forth so that her heels drum against the metal cabinets. “Can I at least talk to him, Miss Prude? I hear he’s quite the charmer.”
“You’re joking, right?” I give her an incredulous look as a plate dangles from my hand. Her perfectly plucked eyebrows draw together. “No, are you?”
I slide the last plate into the cabinet and shut it. “He barely managed to string together a multisyllabic sentence, and I had to repeat my name for him. Twice. I’m pretty sure the guy took the short bus to school.”
Blaire’s mouth drops open. “You did not just say that.”
I already want to take it back. I’m not a mean person. Ever. But guys like that—I can’t stand them. Especially not after . . . Nope. Grabbing that intrusive thought around the throat, I shove it back into the box of things I never want to think about again.
She chews on her lip as she studies me, seeing straight through me like she always does. At least I have the same power over her. It must be a sister thing. That or the fact that we grew up in each other’s back pocket with less than a year separating the two of us in age.
Hopping down off the counter, she takes another glance through the window. When she turns back around, her eyes are glittering again. “Gran sat table seven; it’s all yours.”
I bump through the door and fumble in my apron for my pen, not really paying attention. “Good morning, my name is—”
My eyes snap up as I finally find the pen and stare straight into the prettiest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. They’re nicer than mine, which is saying something, since I really love my eyes. These eyes are such a pale blue, like Winterfresh gum, and so unexpected when they’re surrounded by that overly sun-kissed skin and dark brown hair.
“You again.” The words slip out from between my lips before I even realize I’ve said them.
He looks slightly taken aback, and his smile slips a notch. He gestures across the table. “This is Archer.”
I hold out my hand to him, but I’m still holding the pen. I shuffle it back into my other hand and try again. “Nice to meet you.” He shakes my hand, trying to keep the look of amusement from his face but failing.
“What can I get you guys?”
“French toast and coffee for me, please,” Archer says, handing me back his plastic-coated menu.
“I’ll have coffee too, French fries, banana pancakes, and a chocolate milkshake.” Luke offers up his menu and waits for me to comment on his order. That combination of food plus the way his eyes are squinting at me are leading me to believe he’s nursing quite the hangover.
“Coming right up.”
I can feel his eyes on my ass the entire way back to the kitchen. Pig.
Debut author Jamie Howard spends her days as a legal and compliance specialist. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Art from Ramapo College. When she's not tapping away at the keyboard, you can find her devouring books and perfecting her gaming skills. She lives with her husband, son, and three dogs in New Jersey, and is almost always awake early enough to see the sun rise, even on the weekends.