I love Jessica Scott's Falling series and Deacon & Kelsey's story is one I've been looking forward to for ages so I couldn't wait to start reading Catch My Fall. Let's just say it fully lived up to expectations and you'll have to check back later to read my full review! In the meantime let me tell you all about the book and share a few excerpts to help whet your appetite.
Trapped in the friend zone. Longing for the woman who captured his heart when they were deployed in Iraq.
Former Army Sergeant Kelsey Ryder has scars, the kind of scars she hopes that no one ever sees. Working around the guys at the Pint, she’s reminded of everything she lost when she left the Army behind.
But some scars refuse to stay hidden.
One fateful night changes everything and neither of them know if their relationship will ever be the same.
All Deacon knows is that he’ll be there to catch her when she finally falls
Before I Fall
Break My Fall
After I Fall
Catch My Fall
Readers who want an extended sample can download here:
(Posted with permission of Jessica Scott)
I let her go. I probably should stop fucking with her but with Kelsey, everything is complicated. And in the six months that she's been back in my life, it's only gotten more so.
"She's fine, you know," Nalini says softly. Her eyes are always bright and calm. I love Nalini like a sister and I love that she’s looking out for Kelsey because I no longer can.
I've known Nalini a while now, ever since I started grad school. She's a magnet to other vets on campus, kind of like Eli is over at The Pint. Between the two of them, they're the sun and the moon. The rest of us are caught in their orbit.
She smiles warmly and pats my cheek. "But you're not sure. If you were, you wouldn't watch her like that every time she walks away."
I grin and lean against the broad table behind me. I love that The Grind has broad, wide tables as well as smaller ones and comfy overstuffed chairs. "How much trouble are you causing on campus today?"
"As much as I need to," she says. She folds her arms over her chest. "When are you going to stop pining after her and do something about this awkward standoff you two have going on? I feel like I’m caught in no man's land between the French and the Germans in World War I."
"That is a terrible analogy."
"Yeah, well, you should try being caught between you two once in a while. Take pity on the rest of us who have to deal with your sexual frustration. You can practically touch it."
She follows for a few steps while I laugh and move to the line for coffee. "I don't even know what to say to that." I place my order. “Large latte, extra shot of espresso.”
"Well, that'll put hair on your chest," she says dryly.
I shake my head. "What are you poking at, Nalini?" Because she always pokes until she gets around to what she needs to say.
"Nothing much. Just wondering how things are out at The Pint?"
"They're good. I mean, I know you don't drink but you really should come out some time. There's a whole bunch of us out there, even a couple of new guys who came by last week who used to be in First Cav. You could come by and just hang out, swap war stories about Stetsons or whatever you Cav people do."
She grins and glances down at her watch. "I'm good, thanks. Though it's awful tempting. You 82d Airborne guys think you're all that with your raspberry berets."
"Bite your tongue." Damn, sometimes it feels good to walk back over familiar ground, harassing each other because of the units we've both served in. "I chewed the same dirt as you did in First Cav."
"Well, use that common ground to make some damn progress with her, why don't you?"
I sip my coffee and instantly, my blood cells are more awake than they were a moment before. "Does she say anything?" I want to add in about me. But I don't.
Because I'm a coward when it comes to Kelsey.
"You wish. And even if she did, I wouldn't break her confidence."
"I hate playing games. You know that, right?"
"No games, Deacon." Nalini turns suddenly serious. "I worry about her. About the things she doesn't talk about."
I glance toward the door that Kelsey disappeared through. "Yeah, me too."
I know the things she doesn't talk about, at least some of them.
I know what things keep her up at night.
I know how good things used to be between us, once upon a war.
And I know exactly the moment things got screwed up.
I can't fix any of those things now, no matter how much I might want to. Kelsey has to want to unpack that stuff herself. In the few months she's been back in my life, she's given me no indication that she wants to go anywhere near our shared memories of sand and dust and war.
Not that I blame her.
I leave Nalini at The Grind and head to the old Wilson building for my graduate seminar. I’ve got a relatively light load this semester. At some point, I have to stop avoiding my thesis and actually start typing.
I've become a master of procrastination, among other things. Funny how leaving the war and the Army behind makes you find other things to keep you occupied.
My old first sergeant would kick my ass if he knew how much I was avoiding this work. I grin, thinking of him. I should shoot him a note one of these days.
But I won't.
Lately it's been like I'm running some kind of test with myself or something. How long can I stay away from the lure of the familiar? The good memories.
And yeah, even the bad ones are good when you're talking to someone who speaks the same language. There's something comfortable about just talking to someone who's been there. Bullshitting about the stupid shit we or one of our soldiers did.
I'm pretty sure America would have kittens if she knew the kind of shenanigans her soldiers pulled on guard duty in the middle of the desert.
But I won’t make the call. I can’t. It’s like I’m trying to prove to myself that I can cut the cord between me and the Army, that I can truly function out here as a civilian and not constantly be reaching back to the guys I left behind when I left Fort Hood.
Besides, it’s not like I don’t have enough Army around me with Eli and the rest of the gang at The Pint.
I smile down at my phone, double-checking the room number for the class Professor Blake asked me to assist with. She was pretty vague about who I was going to be teaching with this semester.
I probably should have asked for more details but she's pretty much been my fairy godmother since I decided to go to grad school and get my master’s in public administration, so I figure I owe her whatever she needs.
The classroom is just inside of the old Wilson building. You can practically smell the history in this place, along with the chill from the stone walls and ancient windows. There’s too much history here for a working class kid like me. I suppose people who are used to this kind of place aren’t really awestruck by it like I still am.
I still have no idea how I got accepted here. Or how I haven't managed to be politely asked to leave.
I push open the door to the classroom, tucking my phone into my back pocket, and then stop short. The classroom isn’t empty.
"You've got to be shitting me." What's that they say about fiction? It's supposed to be believable, right? You can't make this shit up because no shit, there is Kelsey Ryder sitting in a corner, her back to the wall.
And she looks ready for war.
"Are you okay?"
"Mostly." I should present to be a rational adult and have a reasonable conversation. Anything is better than the status quo, right? “I guess…sometimes things get to me that shouldn’t.”
"Yeah. I get that." I look up at her words, the frustration in her voice echoing the tension clawing at my heart, locking the words I need in my chest. “It’s hard, though. To say when something hurts.”
I say nothing for a long moment. Letting her words sink in. Letting their possibility wrap around me.
Then I move. Silent and slow, I back her up against the wall. "You don’t have to be strong all the time," I tell her softly. Her mouth is there, just there. She is soft against me, soft in all the ways I remember.
Soft in a thousand ways that will torture me for the rest of a lifetime.
"Neither do you." She’s goading me tonight. Crossing boundaries I know she’s set in place. I can’t figure out what’s changed. If it’s the fatigue I see in her eyes or the mixture of that with too much to drink. I don’t know.
And part of me doesn’t care. Part of me only cares that she’s here. That her body is pressed to mine. That I’ve penetrated the space around her and she has not pushed me away.
God, this woman is fierce and amazing. She doesn't back down, doesn't break against the threat anyone else would read in my body.
"I will never forget what happened between us in Iraq. Or when we came home." I reach for her then, cupping her face. Sliding my thumb along her full bottom lip. Wanting so badly to taste her. To end this unnecessary distance between us. “But we don’t have to keep suffering alone. Apart. It doesn’t need to be like this.”
And goddamn her, she presses her lips to my thumb. A gentle kiss. A thousand sensual memories slash through me, ripping away any shred of my composure.
It takes everything I have not to lift her, to urge her legs around my hips and grind against her. I'm hard as a fucking stone. I know she can feel me, solid and hard against her.
She's my addiction. The one woman I dream about when I'm with someone else.
And she knows it. She has to know it.
Her barriers hurt us both.
"We spent four weeks together when we got home and I don't remember any of them. Except the nightmares." She cups my face, brushing her lips against mine. "I can't do that again. I can't get lost in the alcohol and the sex. Because it doesn't help me forget. It only makes it worse."
I lower my forehead to hers, her quiet admission gutting me, ripping through me. That’s why she’s kept us apart. That’s why she’s walked away and pretended there was nothing between us.
Her words hurt; they slice at me, reminding me of how fucking self-centered I was when I first got home, wanting to do nothing more than drink and fuck, then drink some more.
I had no idea how much she was hurting. Because I didn’t bother to look.
"I didn’t know." It’s a pitiful confession. So insufficient. I step back then, releasing her from the wall.
Letting her go when it's the last thing I want. She disappears up the stairs, quiet as a ghost.
I lower my forehead to the wooden shelf holding parts of Eli's extensive and very expensive whiskey collection. We're a long fucking way from that bloodstained container where Kelsey used to live.
But we might as well never have left.
A piece of my soul stayed back there, mixed in with the sand and the bullets and the blood.
Forever entwined with hers.
I can't sleep.
I stare at my phone for a while; I guess I’m surprised that my pen pal is still talking to me. This is by far the strangest thing I’ve ever done, but right now, it’s comforting. Like talking to an old friend.
Me either. Nights like this can get really long, really quick.
Do you want to meet?
This could be an elaborate scam to steal my money or milk me for sperm to sell to a fertility bank. Or maybe my pen pal wants my kidney. Those are in high demand these days, aren't they?
To hell with my kidneys. I'm curious now.
Shouldn't we meet somewhere public and well lit, first?
She sends me the place: 42 North, an all-night café a few blocks from here.
What if I get there and we decide that meeting in real life is super awkward?
The email response is back almost before I can blink. There's a desperation in the speed of the reply, and with everything else that happened tonight it's got my Spidey senses tingling.
We'll have to figure it out, won't we? Do you like to play games? Like Monopoly or something?
That response I don't have to think about: Not particularly.
The response is delayed this time. As if she's thinking.
I'm assuming the person on the other end is a she. Could be a dude. Which would be awkward because I don't hit for the same team.
No games. No sex. I just…I don't want to be alone.
He looks down at his feet, his body tense, angled toward the door. Is he thinking of running too? "Look, we don't have to do this," he says. He's giving me an out. An escape. My heart melts a little more for this man. This big, powerful, quiet man.
"I'm not really sure that's what I want," I admit quietly. I'm trying not to cry in frustration. Deacon represents every complication in my life that I've been trying to avoid since I left the Army.
Everything is coming apart, no matter how hard I try to hold on. I wanted to prove to myself that I could be around him, day in and day out, and not lose my tenuous grip on reality.
I was wrong. I can't do this. Not alone.
He rubs the back of his neck, his T-shirt stretching tight over his biceps, distracting me from the aching silence between us. I have to smother the happy dance that's going on in my panties right now. Arms have always been my thing. And Deacon has really great arms.
I'm overtired. That's my story—about why my hormones are suddenly, deeply interested in a man I can no longer deny my feelings for—and I’m sticking to it.
"I don't really know how this doesn't get more awkward." His voice is deep and low.
"Oh, it can get plenty more awkward," I say dryly.
He grins sheepishly. "I guess it can. But we don't have to test this theory, do we?"
I look up at him. At the bright blue eyes that melted my willpower five years ago and the wide, full smile that filled my heart once upon a time. "No," I say softly. "I guess we don't."
About Jessica Scott:
Jessica Scott is an Iraq war veteran, an active duty army officer and the USA Today bestselling author of novels set in the heart of America’s Army. She is the mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs, and wife to a retired NCO.
She is the bestselling author of the Homefront series and the Falling series, both about soldiers and veterans adjusting to life after returning from the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. Her bestselling Falling series features soldiers integrating into life on college campuses.
She's also written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View Regarding War, and IAVA. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)/New Dawn and has had the honor of serving as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas twice.
She's holds phd in morality in Sociology with Duke University and she's been featured as one of Esquire Magazine's Americans of the Year for 2012.
Jessica is also an active member of the Military Writers Guild.
Her debut novel Because of You launched the return of Random House's Loveswept digital imprint and launched the start of the ever popular contemporary military romance genre.
Connect with Jessica Scott online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Tsu / Goodreads