Time doesn’t always heal a broken heart. Sometimes the only thing it does is fill the darkness with more shadows, more pain.
Dylan Thomas has spent the past decade living in the shadows, mourning the loss of his wife, his best friend, his very reason for breathing. He long ago accepted that he would never feel again, that he was damned to a world without light, without hope. That was the day the bottle won, and he gave himself over to the darkness.
Until the one night that rocked his brittle, crumbling world on its axis. She told him what they shared was simply a distraction, a way to forget for a little while. It would’ve been, except the tiny glimpse of how it feels to live again, to feel again, gives him the strength he needs to pull himself up by his boot straps. But sobriety comes one day at a time, and three years later may be three years too late.
Nicole Edwards out done herself again the final book in her Club Destiny series.
DISTRACTION (CLUB DESTINY, 11) - Chapter One
Three years ago, November…
“TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED.”
Sarah Fulton paced her therapist’s oversized office, past the small settee where hundreds of butts had been planted over the years, her hands flexing repeatedly—open, closed, open, closed—nerves rioting uncontrollably. As she made another hasty turn on the beige shag carpet, she shrugged her shoulders in an attempt to release the nervous tension that had consumed her ever since … last night.
Last night. Had it really only been hours, not days or months, since her entire world had been altered once again?
“I’m trying,” Sarah muttered. “Give me a minute.”
“Take as long as you need.”
Right. As long as it was within the allotted hour, then she was golden. Otherwise she would have to come back and relive this again until she was … cured? No, that couldn’t be the right word because Sarah knew that she would never be cured of all the jumbled emotions that had been warring within her for years.
Recent events certainly hadn’t helped steady her in any way.
Taking a deep breath, Sarah dropped onto the edge of the forest-green cushion and stared at her hands. “He called me last night.”
Sarah looked up into the compassionate brown eyes watching her intently. “Dylan Thomas.”
“Your friend,” Elaine, Sarah’s longtime therapist, confirmed.
“Yes.” Though after last night, Sarah wasn’t so sure that was an apt description of their relationship.
“Did you expect this?”
She shook her head. “He was the last person I expected to call me.” Heck, she would’ve sworn the president of the United States would’ve called her before Dylan did.
“What did he say when he called?”
Leaning against the too-firm cushioned back of the sofa, Sarah attempted to get comfortable. It wasn’t easy. Hell, this conversation wasn’t easy.
“He sounded sad,” Sarah explained, looking anywhere but at Elaine’s face. “There was something in his voice. A longing, I guess. It was so intense my heart cracked open at the sound.”
“What do you think made him sound that way?”
Well, that was easy. “Yesterday was the anniversary of his wife’s death.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Was it recent?”
“No.” Sarah shifted. “She’s been dead for eight years.”
“And he’s still sad?”
The question was merely an inquiry, Sarah knew. Elaine wasn’t suggesting that Dylan should or should not still be sad after all these years. Since Sarah understood the grief he experienced, she knew there wasn’t a specific amount of time for wounds like that to heal. They scabbed over eventually, became less painful over time, but there would forever be a scar, a reminder.
“He’s had a really hard time with it, yes.” Elaine didn’t say anything, so Sarah continued, “I should’ve known better, but when he asked if he could come over, I said yes.”
“Were you bothered by the fact that he called?”
“No.” Surprised, yes. Bothered, no.
“What was the first thing you thought when you saw it was him on the phone?”
Sarah studied her short nails. She’d been biting them again, a nervous habit she’d picked up several years ago.
“Is that a question or a statement?”
Sarah shrugged. She honestly didn’t know.
“Do you think that’s why he wanted to come over? Because he’s having a hard time?”
“Yes. No. Maybe.” Sarah sighed heavily. “Originally I kinda thought so. It was the anniversary of his wife’s death. Maybe he needed someone to talk to, or just needed to be around someone.”
Although eight years might’ve seemed like a long time to some people, Sarah could see how the memories that still lingered could be enough to make even the strongest person feel desolate. So, Sarah had come to the conclusion all on her own that Dylan’s dark mood had to do with that.
“If he wasn’t sad, would you have said yes to his coming over?”
“Probably.” Sarah fidgeted, her gaze snapping to Elaine’s. “Okay, yes. I would’ve said yes. I’ve always had a soft spot for him, even though I know I shouldn’t.”
“Always is a long time,” Elaine noted.
“We dated in high school,” Sarah added, swiping her hand over her frizzy blond hair. For whatever reason, she hated her hair today, wished it was longer, less curly.
“You care for him.”
It wasn’t a question, but Sarah found herself nodding. She did care for Dylan.
“But you don’t think you should?” Elaine questioned.
Sarah shook her head. “He’s broken, and the absolute last thing I need is to try to help someone else when sometimes it’s all I can do to keep myself together.”
“Have you been thinking about Paul?”
Sarah studied her fingernails, fighting the urge to fidget at the mention of her dead husband’s name. “Yeah. More so since last night.”
“And what are you thinking about?”
This was the part Sarah hated. Talking about Paul. Remembering her life with Paul. Even three years later, she still wondered why her husband had … killed himself. Why he’d left her.
“I feel guilty,” Sarah admitted.
“Because your friend called?”
“No.” Not exactly.
Elaine jotted something on her notepad, then looked up at Sarah. “And did Dylan come over?”
Sarah nodded. And that was the reason for her guilt. She remembered waiting for him to arrive. Every minute that passed had felt like an eternity.
“Was that what you wanted?”
“Yes.” That was the simplest answer. Even looking back on all that had happened, Sarah knew in her heart that she’d wanted Dylan to come over.
“And what happened when he got there?”
Sarah relaxed as best she could and closed her eyes, reliving the night before all over again. She couldn’t give Elaine all the details, but that didn’t stop the memory from overtaking her.
A sudden knock had Sarah’s breath lodging in her chest as her gaze slammed into the wooden barrier of her front door. She studied it momentarily, as though she could somehow see through the varnished wood to what lay beyond. No matter how much she wished she had x-ray vision, Supergirl she was not.
Knowing it would be rude to leave Dylan standing outside in the cold and drizzle that’d descended upon them unexpectedly, dropping the temperatures of the late November evening, Sarah willed her heart to slow and leisurely made her way across the room, wiping her sweaty palms on her leggings and exhaling sharply. Her cold fingers fumbled with the deadbolt, but she managed to turn it, her hands trembling as she reached for the knob. Another deep breath and Sarah slowly pulled it open.
And there on her front porch, just beyond the glass storm door, was the incredibly attractive man she’d been expecting, looking just as sexy as the last time she’d seen him a little more than a week ago at the surprise birthday party Dylan’s family had thrown for him.
Sarah sucked in a shaky breath. With his angular jaw sporting days’ worth of beard growth and his narrow nose, his bronzed skin and dark hair glistening from the rain … Dylan Thomas was breathtaking. Even when there was a desolate sadness in his gaze, making him look out of sorts, he was still too handsome for words.
His molten chocolate eyes lifted to meet hers. The same sorrow Sarah had witnessed on multiple occasions was glowing brilliantly, and she instantly knew this was a mistake. What would happen when he crossed over the threshold into her house was anyone’s guess, but Sarah had a feeling she already knew what the outcome would be. Part of her welcomed it, but the wiser part was attempting to warn her.
She ignored that part.
“Can I come in?” he asked, the deep thunder of his voice like rough velvet against her nerve endings. Dylan cast a quick glance behind him toward the street, as though there might be someone watching, but she doubted her elderly neighbors were still awake.
With a jerky nod, Sarah pushed open the glass door and took a step back, motioning for him to follow. When he stepped inside, his sheer size instantly overwhelmed the room, making her modest house feel small. While she stood there staring at him, he closed the door behind him and Sarah took another deep breath.
All common decency fled her mind, leaving her unable to greet him properly. She didn’t even respond when he mumbled a brittle, “Hey.” Instead, she stood there, bare feet rooted to the floor as she unabashedly ogled him, steadily drawing air into her lungs while they stood less than a foot apart.
Every one of her senses was inundated by his presence. He filled her line of sight, and she admired his perfectly imperfect face. All the hard angles, the narrow slash of his nose, his sexy mouth, the beard growth that shadowed his jaw. She could smell the fresh scent of laundry detergent mixed with a subtle spice from his cologne. The only sounds she heard were the rapid thump of her own heartbeat and the labored breaths that filled her lungs. Her mouth felt as though she’d been gargling sand, so dry she struggled to swallow while her palms were still sweating. Simply put, she was a hot mess.
On top of that, she couldn’t stop staring. His broad chest, covered in the soft, black cotton of his T-shirt stretched snuggly across his impressive pectorals, drew her gaze and held it.
He stole her breath.
For half a second, Sarah mentally considered what she must look like. It was late and she’d been getting ready for bed when he’d called, so she’d had only enough time to brush her teeth, pile her unruly blond curls on top of her head in a clip, and pull on the first thing she’d found in her closet. She wasn’t wearing makeup, and she knew that without it she looked all of fifteen years old.
Then again, she felt like a teenager, too. Young, naïve, aching for something she didn’t understand.
Remembering that Dylan was standing directly in front of her, Sarah forced her eyes away from his massive chest. She had to look up to meet his gaze. He was so much taller than she was, so much bigger, broader. It made her think of high school and how he’d been larger than life, such a great, overwhelming presence in her world.
Now, nearly twenty years later, though still just as handsome, Dylan was nothing more than the shell of the man he’d once been, and she knew that was because he’d lost his wife all those years ago. Sarah also knew that that sort of overwhelming, gut-tightening, heart-shredding grief lingered for years, far longer than she thought herself capable to handle. Her wounds were more recent—three years to his eight—but no more or less significant.
Remembering her manners, Sarah cleared her throat. “Can I get you something to drink?” she offered, her voice cracking because of her nerves. “Coffee? Tea? Water?”
Dylan didn’t respond, he simply stared, his heated gaze sliding over her, leaving chills on her skin with the slow, seductive perusal. Whatever was about to happen—and she had no doubt that something was brewing between them—could never be undone. They’d been walking this line for a few weeks now, teetering on the edge, but neither of them had given in.
They’d been smart.
Now … not so much.
Her heart cracked as she fought the memories, the emotions, the heart-wrenching feelings that she’d battled for so long. This wasn’t supposed to be happening, but she couldn’t stop it. Didn’t want to stop it.
Everything she’d endured these past three years had led her here. To this black hole of despair and emotional chaos. The only thing she wanted to do was forget. Just for a little while. And now she could. She could ignore everything else and focus on this man who was giving her the only thing she needed at the moment.
As though watching in slow motion, Sarah’s breath shuddered in her chest when Dylan lifted his hand, hesitantly cupping her face, his callused thumb making a few gentle swipes across her cheekbone, then slipping lower. The rough pad caressed her bottom lip and she knew she was doomed.
The warning bells were clanging loudly in her head, yet she didn’t pull away from him. His touch was … warm, tender. That affectionate gesture was enough to kick her heart into overdrive, and that yearning she’d been filled with took over.
It’d been so long since a man had touched her.
Three years. Three long, painful years.
Not since Paul. Not since before her husband’s death had rocked the very foundation of her world, leaving her nursing a broken heart as she tried to understand what had caused the man she loved, the man she had vowed to spend the rest of her life with, to take his own life.
But Sarah didn’t want to think about Paul right now. He had abandoned her and the irrational side of her still didn’t forgive him.
There was a different man here. One who she didn’t worry about falling in love with, didn’t worry about having her heart broken by. Not this time anyway.
A different type of ghost from her past.
And Dylan was touching her. The soothing sweep of his fingers over her jaw was almost too much to bear. When his other hand released the clip from her hair, allowing the curly strands to fall past her shoulders, Sarah swallowed hard. The intensity in his dark brown eyes was enough to set her insides ablaze.
She cut him off, putting her fingers over his lips. She didn’t want him to say her name; she simply wanted to feel. She didn’t want to be that broken, sorrow-filled woman anymore. She wanted to let go for a while, give in to the impulses that she’d denied for so long. Nonetheless, there was a desperation in his tone that she felt echoing inside herself. He needed this as much as she did, and neither of them was strong enough to resist.
Sarah shook her head. Whether she was saying they couldn’t do this or simply telling him that words weren’t necessary, she wasn’t sure. But then he was leaning down, his long, strong finger curling beneath her chin to tilt her head back. His eyes studied her face briefly and she wondered what he was thinking about.
Before words had a chance to ruin the moment, his mouth was on hers, and nothing else mattered except for the light brush of his lips against her own, the subtle yet determined slide of his tongue along the seam, a silent plea to allow him entry.
With hardly any hesitation, she opened for him, meeting him halfway, her hands fisting into his T-shirt as her tongue tentatively skimmed his. For all of a second, the kiss was hesitant, an uncertain exploration. Sweet. Almost reverent.
But in the next instant, the world ignited into a fiery conflagration of passion and need. Their bodies collided, hands and mouths seeking, searching for that something that would calm the riot of emotions churning within them, separate but similar.
All the pain she’d been consumed by shattered, leaving her feeling free for once. Free to lose herself in this man, this moment.
Dylan’s dark growl sparked the dry kindling that had been so much a part of her for so long, sending her up in flames almost instantly. Her arms went around his neck as he tore at the buttons on the oversized shirt she wore over her leggings, sending the tiny discs flying, pinging off the wall and hardwood, in his heated attempt to get closer to her.
“All the things I want to do to you…”
She didn’t need him to finish the sentence, which was good because he clearly had no intention of doing so. There was no mistaking where this was headed, and Sarah couldn’t find it in herself to put a stop to it. She tried to rationalize her actions, but that became too much when his bristled jaw scraped along her chin.
Too many clothes.
When he had the front hook of her bra unclasped, he forced her back a step, his eyes lingering on the skin he’d unveiled, and the unbridled approval in his molten gaze sent warmth coursing through her. His callused hands abraded her naked breasts, leaving tingles in their wake and a yearning ache building inside her. Without finesse, Sarah wiggled out of her shirt and bra, allowing them to pool at the floor near their feet.
Naked from the waist up, she reached for Dylan, pulling him to her as her back met the wall with a thud, one of his large hands palming her head at the last second, keeping her from slamming against it.
He was warm and solid, his strength evident. She wanted to absorb some of it into her body, to feel whole one more time in her life. Sarah doubted it would ever happen, but she wished it just the same.
“I need you,” he whispered against her mouth, his warm breath fanning her face, the scent of spearmint tickling her nose. “Need. You.”
She didn’t respond. There was nothing to say. She recognized that need, that overwhelming desperation to do something that would make her feel like she wasn’t about to crumble into a heap. At least for a little while.
Tugging at his T-shirt, she helped him to remove it before he worked on pushing her leggings down, her panties disappearing with them until she was standing naked between his solid body and the wall. Her fingers fumbled with the button on his jeans until she finally managed to release it, her lips grazing the hard planes of his smooth, bare chest, while he dug something out of his pocket.
The distinctive rustle barely registered, and she watched as he tore open the condom, forced his jeans and underwear down past his hips, then sheathed his long, thick cock. It wasn’t until he was lifting her off her feet so that she was practically wrapped around him that she realized this was really happening.
Her breath lodged in her throat when he pressed the head of his cock against her entrance only seconds before filling her completely in one desperate thrust of his hips.
“Dylan,” she cried out breathlessly, her fingers latching on to the flexing muscles in his shoulders. Pain, sharp and bright, had her holding her breath. It’d been so long; her body took a moment to adjust to the thick intrusion. Then, just as quickly as it’d come, the discomfort disappeared, leaving nothing but glorious pleasure as he slid deeper. “Yes.”
Dylan pushed into her a few inches before retreating, only to push back in again, her body stretching to allow the invasion. He was big, thick, filling her so … perfectly.
“You’re so fucking tight,” he groaned, his voice rough. “Warm … wet… You feel so fucking good.”
Finding his mouth with hers again, Sarah kissed him, wanting to get lost. No thought, no justification. No regret or remorse. No fear of what would happen after. The only thing she knew was the intense, overwhelming ecstasy of him filling her, his rough hands gripping her thighs as he held her against the wall, his hips thrusting forward, and the glorious friction that ignited dormant nerve endings.
He impaled her, a slow, sensual grind at first. Then faster, harder, deeper. His hips driving forward, retreating, forward again. It wasn’t sweet, it wasn’t romantic, but Sarah didn’t care. They were seeking release, both of them, and she knew there was no turning back now.
He never let up, fucking her wildly, the desperation that outwardly consumed them both nearly palpable in the still, warm air that surrounded them. Her body clenched around him, tightening, pulling him in, and she knew she wasn’t going to last. Self-induced orgasms didn’t hold a candle to this.
“Dylan,” she panted. “Oh, please, yes. Don’t stop.”
Holding on to him, Sarah sought his tongue with her own, her fingernails digging into his scalp as her body hummed with satisfaction. The waves of her release built, driving her higher until she was hovering on a razor-sharp edge, eager to go over.
“Dylan … I’m … gonna …” She couldn’t complete the sentence before a firestorm of sensation consumed her, starting in her core and rippling outward in a ferocious rush as her orgasm crashed through her.
Dylan’s hips never stopped, his hands gripping her ass tightly as he continued to hold her, thrusting deep, his fingertips digging into her flesh until…
He slammed into her one last time, his cock pulsing with his release, an animalistic roar vibrating from him. “Fuck. So good. So fucking good.”
And then the muscles in his body went rigid and it was over.
He held her close, breathing hard, his eyes tightly shut, chest heaving, his body trembling as he leaned into her. When Dylan dipped his face into the crook of her neck, Sarah cupped the back of his head, her fingers brushing his short hair, holding him and pressing kisses against his cheek.
And that was when she realized … Dylan was crying.
Her heart broke for him. For herself. For lost love and shattered hearts. For that empty spot deep inside that felt as though it would only continue to be a dull, aching void without that one person who’d given you something to live for. Without them … it was just unbearable.
Even as she soothed him, Sarah knew she couldn’t blame him for what they’d done. She’d been just as needy. He’d managed to push the demons that haunted her away for a little while, and for that, she was grateful.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered, pulling out of her and helping her back to her feet, never once meeting her eyes. “Fuck.”
While she stood there, unsure what to say or do, Dylan rolled the condom off and disappeared into the kitchen. She quickly grabbed her discarded shirt, forcing her arms into it and wrapping it securely around her naked body. When he came back a minute later, his jeans were buttoned, his expression still sad. He looked a little worse for wear, sweat dotting his forehead, his eyes red-rimmed and puffy, and that was when she accepted what would come next.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered sadly. “So fucking sorry.”
She nodded. She was sorry, too.
He grabbed his shirt from the floor beside the door, and she realized that was the only article of clothing he’d removed. He had even kept his boots on.
“I should go.”
She offered another nod.
“Go,” Sarah ordered before he could apologize again. She suddenly didn’t want to hear it.
Dylan’s haunted gaze lifted to hers, and Sarah saw the pain and the grief, along with something else. He was genuinely sorry.
And so was she.
“Sarah,” Dylan began, reaching for the doorknob while she white-knuckled her shirt, keeping it closed.
She cut him off, not wanting to hear his excuses. “Just go. No apologies necessary. I know what this was.”
Surprising her, his thick, dark brows lowered, his pain-filled eyes narrowing as though he was waiting for her to explain it to him.
“A distraction,” she said sorrowfully. “That’s what this was.”
“A distraction,” he echoed, then turned and left her standing there, feeling just as she’d felt all those years ago, back in high school, when she’d lost Dylan the first time.
Strange how history repeated itself.
“Do you think you were ready for that?” Elaine asked after Sarah had been quiet for a while.
Sarah knew Elaine was referring to the intimacy she and Dylan had shared. Since she’d left out the part where Dylan broke down and cried, the woman would never know how devastating it had really been.
Rather than elaborate, Sarah shook her head, her gaze darting around the room, taking it in. The celery-colored walls, the rows of diplomas framed and perfect, the contrasting curtains covering the window. She wasn’t in the past anymore. She was here…in this office, spilling her guts to someone who was supposed to help her overcome the sadness that had consumed her for so long. “I don’t think either of us was ready for that. What transpired between me and Dylan will never happen again.”
“Why is that?”
“Because we’re broken.”
“And that means you can’t find happiness?”
Sarah met Elaine’s questioning gaze. “It means neither of us is whole enough to pull the other through.”
“And you think that’s a requirement?”
She shrugged. It seemed logical.
“And how do you feel today? After you’ve had time to process what happened between the two of you.”
“I know I’ll never be the same.” Sarah swallowed hard, still holding Elaine’s steady gaze. “I know that the second Dylan walked out my front door, I wasn’t the same woman anymore.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean…” Sarah dropped her gaze to her hands and took a shaky breath. “I only thought I was broken before.”
“And you aren’t now?”
Sarah lifted her gaze, allowed the imaginary walls to fall in place around her heart once again. “Oh, I am,” she said with certainty. “But I refuse to let it own me anymore.”
“What do you plan to do about it?”
That was a good question. One Sarah didn’t know the answer to. Not yet.
But the one thing she did know…
She was tired of being broken.