Unbreak Me by Lexi Ryan
Publication date: May 27th, 2013
Genre: New Adult Romance
Unbreak Me Playlist
Ani DiFranco—32 Flavors
Nine Inch Nails—Perfect Drug
P!nk—Slut Like You
Cold Play—Fix You
The Fray—How to Save a Life
P!nk, featuring Nate Ruess—Just Give Me a Reason
Nine Inch Nails—Hurt
Labrinth featuring Emeli Sandé—Beneath Your Beautiful
Rihanna featuring Mikki Ekko—Stay
Ani DiFranco—Amazing Grace
Josh Radin—When You Find Me
“If you’re broken, I’ll fix you…”
I’m only twenty-one and already damaged goods. A slut. A failure. A disappointment to my picture-perfect family as long as I can remember. I called off my wedding to William Bailey, the only man who thought I was worth fixing. A year later, he’s marrying my sister. Unless I ask him not to…
“If you shatter, I’ll find you…”
But now there’s Asher Logan, a broken man who sees the fractures in my façade and doesn’t want to fix me at all. Asher wants me to stop hiding, to stop pretending. Asher wants to break down my walls. But that means letting him see my ugly secrets and forgiving him for his.
With my past weighing down on me, do I want the man who holds me together or the man who gives me permission to break?
“If you tell me you got to have hot pool sex with Asher ‘Sexier Than God’ Logan, I may never forgive you,” Hanna says.
“Right, but that’s just it. We didn’t have sex. We messed around, and then I took him back to my place for breakfast and took off my clothes.”
“And this is a problem because…?” Lizzy quirks a brow. “You’re not thinking of changing your naughty girl ways on us are you? Has Mom’s constant harassment finally broken you? Because, seriously, Maggie—if Asher Logan is in the picture, now is not the time.”
“No. He rejected me. Told me he wanted to get to know me.”
“Oh,” the girls chorus. Judging by the disappointment on their faces, you’d think they were the ones left high and dry.
“Yeah. What the hell?”
Lizzy throws back her head and laughs, a full-stomach laugh that has everyone in the bar looking at us.
I scowl. “It’s not funny.”
She’s doesn’t even attempt to stifle her damn giggles of delight. “Yes, yes it is.”
Hanna nods. “It kind of is, Mags.”
“It’s not like I go after one-night stands often, but the few times I have I’ve never been denied. Now I know how guys must feel.”
“Maybe he’s gay,” Lizzy says.
“That would be a tragedy,” Hanna whimpers.
Lizzy nudges her. “Don’t be so narrow-minded. Gay boys deserve hot men too.”
I roll my eyes. “He’s not gay. Trust me. His attraction was physically evident.”
“Oh, yeah?” Lizzy props her chin on her hands. “How’s he measure up?”
I groan. “Why the hell do you think I took him back to my place and stripped down to my skivvies while he was trying to get out the door?”
Excerpt © Lexi Ryan, 2013
“I’m intimidating? You’re the freaking rock star at the table.”
Some of the humor drains from Asher’s face, but he keeps his smile in place. “You know about that, huh?”
“My sisters told me. You could have mentioned you’re in a band.”
“I was in a band.” He wipes his hands on his napkin and shrugs. “Past tense.”
With a dreamy sigh, I prop my chin on my fists. “Who knew that one day I’d be on a date with the lead singer from a famous boy band?”
He scowls. “Infinite Gray was not a boy band.”
“Were there any girls in the band?”
“That makes you a boy band.”
“It made us an all-male rock group.”
I bite back my smile. He’s so cute when he’s irritated. “Right, like ’N Sync.”
He winces. “Not like ’N Sync. Jesus, watch where you hurl those things. Words hurt, Maggie.”
He glowers. “You need a musical intervention.”
I perk up. “Ooh! Are you going to make me a playlist?”
I laugh again, but this time a little snort pops out, making me laugh harder.
He narrows his eyes. “You’re playing me, aren’t you?”
“Sorry. I couldn’t resist.”
“So you don’t need that playlist?”
“Says who? No boy has ever made a playlist especially for me before. Please?”
“Not even in high school?”
That takes some of the wind out of my sails. “I wasn’t that kind of girl.”
He studies me for a minute and just when I think he’s going to dig, he drops it. “Okay. It’s your turn. Ask me anything.”
I study him for a moment. The ice-blue eyes that keep dropping to my mouth. The stubble I can still feel against my neck. When I finally speak, it’s to ask, “What do you have against a perfectly good shower?”
He releases a burst of laughter. “If I’d let you have your way with me, you wouldn’t be sitting here with me tonight.”
“Oh, you think I would have moved on to another rock star in my long line of rock stars?”
Excerpt © Lexi Ryan, 2013
Asher looks damn fine standing there, his dark shades blocking his eyes from the setting sun, a tiny silver hoop glinting in each ear. He is all hard muscle and tan in his fitted black t-shirt and faded jeans. I always said there’s no man as hot as my car. Now I’m not so sure.
My first thought is that we could be naked and in my bed in twenty minutes. My second is of the story Lizzy just told me, a story that makes Asher the worst kind of bad boy—capital B, capital N, Bad News.
I pull my keys from my purse. “What are you doing here?”
His too-goddamn-perfect mouth quirks into that cocky half grin. “I wanted to see you.”
“Aw! That’s what all my stalkers say.”
He chuckles. “You owe me a date.”
“How’d you even know to find me here?”
“How’d you get the cash for such a sweet ride?”
I drive a deep blue Mustang GT, a gift from my granny. She’s terrible with money and we love her for it.
“Marry an old man for his money?” he asks.
“Sure. But I was screwing his brains out when he died, so he didn’t mind much.”
His smile never wavers. “I want to take you out.”
“We discussed this already,” I say, my traitorous gaze dipping back to the bulge of his biceps. Lord have mercy. “I don’t do dates.”
“So we’ll call it something else,” he says. “Try not to get hung up on semantics.”
“And what if I say no?”
Asher’s smirk should piss me off. This is a man who gets what he wants, and it’s written all over his face.
I sigh. “Fine, but only if you have a signed note from your wife that says it’s okay if you play with others.”
“It’s one night. What? Are you afraid you can’t resist me?”
Damn. That’s a challenge. “Dinner,” I say, punching my key fob to unlock my doors. “But none of this macho, He-Man, I-drive-the-lady crap. I have free will and I like to keep my vehicle at my disposal. You might be hot, and I might be joining you for a meal, but you don’t own me.”
“Are you done?”
I try to stop the smile that’s coming, but I can’t resist. I don’t meet many men willing to call me on my bullshit. “Yeah.”
“Do you like Cajun food, loud atmosphere, a good beer list?”
I look him up and down again—a visual journey that is worth it every time. “Goddamn, Asher. You keep going and I might just think you had my number. Cajun Jack’s?”
“I’ll see you there.” He heads toward his Jeep. When he turns back to slide his eyes over my body, I have to tell myself that the heat rushing through me is only a product of the scorching May afternoon sun.
Excerpt © Lexi Ryan, 2013
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“You’ve had a long day,” he says. “You want to talk?”
I drape my arms behind his neck. “Why would you think I want to talk to you at all?”
He grunts. “Because you’re looking at me like a starved woman at a prime rib buffet.”
“Yes,” I murmur. “What does that have to do with talking?”
His eyes are so damn sexy. The kind of eyes you see in magazines, where the man staring at you from the pages seems to invite you to strip bare while promising you’d enjoy it.
“Don’t you want us to get to know each other before you indulge?”
I pretend to consider it. “I’m more about the meal than the conversation.”
“You’re a kid.” If it’s supposed to be an objection it rings weak against the pressure of his hand on my hip.
I trace a rivulet of water down his neck. “I’m twenty-one.” I bring up my knees and wrap my legs around his waist, satisfied when he draws in his breath with a sharp hiss.
“Is this about him?” he asks.
I frown. “Who?”
“The groom at your sister’s wedding? He has some kind of hold on you. I saw it in your eyes. In his.”
“This has nothing to do with William Bailey.”
He looks unconvinced but doesn’t call my bluff. Instead, he brushes his lips over mine. Gentle. Careful. Sweet.
The only thing that can break me tonight is sweet, and I won’t be broken. I bite his full bottom lip and dig my nails into his shoulder blades.
A quick study, he gets my message. His hand tangles into my hair while the other digs into my ass and pulls me against him. The hard length of his cock rests between my legs and lights a hot coil of pulsing energy.
He rubs his tongue against mine and moans. Or maybe that’s me, because I’m pulling him closer. I wrap my arm tighter behind his neck, and I’m practically crawling up him in my efforts to get closer and closer still.
I break the kiss and make myself back off. I’m not the kind of girl who loses control. I don’t lose my mind over men and expect to be saved. I don’t want Asher to save me.
His fingertips are at my hip, tracing an invisible path down and under, moving ever closer to that coiled ache between my thighs. His lips part and our breath mingles as I savor the heat of his body against mine, the sweet anticipation of his fingers inching closer to where I want them.
I slide a hand down his bare chest and between our bodies and cup him through his swim trunks. I’m rewarded with another hiss and then his lips, his tongue, his teeth, hot and desperate against my neck, nipping, toying, playing. Electrifying the sensitive skin.
He cups my breast, and this time I know the moan I hear is my own.
“So goddamn sexy.” His thumb flicks across my nipple, a strangled sound escaping his throat.
I graze my fingertips under the waistband of his swim trunks. I want to feel him in my palm. I want that power to whip through me as I wrap my hands around his hot flesh and it pulses thicker, harder.
For a moment, that’s where this is headed. His hands are greedy, all over me, his mouth doing delicious things to my neck.
“You have protection, right?” I ask.
He laughs and stops toying with me, his head leaning against my shoulder. Slowly, he slides his hands to my back. “That’s not exactly something I keep tucked in my swim trunks.”
I’m so aroused it hurts. Asher is stunning. Solid. Delicious. I want to bite into that corded muscle of his neck. Want to explore that smattering of chest hair with my fingers while I drag my mouth down his flat stomach.
But he doesn’t have protection, and that’s a deal breaker.
“In your house?” My breathing’s unsteady, my heart pounding.
He cups my face in one big hand. “Why don’t you run home and get dressed? I’ll take you to breakfast.”
My jaw goes slack. Who the hell is this guy? Who has brakes that good?
Excerpt © Lexi Ryan, 2013
“How do you feel about weddings?” I hear myself ask.
“Proposing already?” He cuts his eyes to me. “I don’t know. Seems like we’re moving a little fast.”
I bite back my smile. “I need an escort.”
“To a wedding?”
“To my sister Krystal’s wedding. I mean, if you’re still in town or whatever. I’m not asking that you make a special trip.”
He quirks a brow. “I thought she already got married.”
“She wants a do-over. But don’t worry, she promises it’s going to be fah-bu-lous.”
He’s silent. Can you blame him? He didn’t want to sleep with me, and I think this is a more appealing proposition?
“Sure,” he finally says. “I’d be happy to accompany you.”
“Really? Because there’s a pretty good chance the twins might maul you at the reception.”
He chuckles and cuts his eyes to me. “I can handle a couple of fan girls. Anyway, I know you wouldn’t ask me if you didn’t feel like you needed to have a date. I’ve never said no to a woman in need.”
“Humph,” I snort. “My experience says otherwise.”
A block away, a pickup screeches forward at the traffic light, and a guy in a ball cap sticks his head and chest out the window and points at me. “Loooose!” he calls out into the night, drawing out the word. “Loooos-eeee!”
The word, once a sharp knife, is now the sawing of a dull blade against my calloused heart. The truck screeches down the road, and hatred clogs my throat and blocks any response.
“Lucy?” Asher asks. “Isn’t that your dog’s name?”
Suddenly, I’m overwhelmed by my own naiveté. I really thought I could come back to this godforsaken hole-in-the-earth town and live a normal life? New Hope will never offer me normal. If I live and die in New Hope, I imagine they’ll carve my tombstone with the word loose.
I swallow down my anger and shake my head. “Loose,” I explain. “As in loose woman. Promiscuous. Slut.”
Asher’s breath draws in with a raspy hiss and his nostrils flare. Those blue eyes burn as he looks after the offender. He’s long gone now, and I’m glad because the look in Asher’s eyes says what he’d like to do to them. It should scare me, given his reputation, but instead it helps the insult roll off my back.
I can handle the nastiness now. But I wish I could send Asher back in time to be indignant on behalf of my fifteen-year-old self. She wasn’t so hardened.
“Can you tell me a name?” he asks, his voice low and deadly steady.
“They’re just stupid townies from my high school.” I press my hand to his arm. “It doesn’t matter.”
He doesn’t call me on my lie, but we both know it does matter. What had he said in there? Words hurt.
He takes my hand and walks me to my car, toying with my fingers.
“Assholes notwithstanding,” I whisper, “I had a good time.”
“Me too.” He rubs the inside of my palm. Soft. Gentle. This man may look rough with his tattoos and piercings, but there is nothing rough about the way he treats me. And, where the violence that flashed in his eyes didn’t scare me, this gentleness does.
“Listen,” I say. “About the other morning, I just—”
He cuts me off with his mouth. He touches his lips to mine, and I feel frozen for a moment—I am the statue I once trained myself to be. But his mouth is soft and slow and patient. I melt into him, curl my fingers into his chest, slide my tongue against his.
It’s the kind of kiss I dreamed about as a girl and never got.
When he pulls away, he traces his thumb over my bottom lip.
“Come home with me?” I ask, breathless from his kiss, his touch.
“You’re so damn sweet.”
That gets me right in the solar plexus. Men call me hot. Men call me sexy. Men don’t call me sweet.
“For a woman who claims to be an open book, you hide so much.” He runs his thumb down the side of my neck, over the hollow in my collarbone. “Next time you strip for me, you’re taking off more than your clothes.”
I step back. “Goodnight, Asher.” I climb in my car and drive away—from him and from this aching inside my chest that feels a whole lot like falling.
Excerpt © Lexi Ryan, 2013
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Ryan writes romances with humor, heat, and heart. Her books are described as fun, flirty, and wickedly sexy. A lover of learning, Lexi has been in the classroom all her life and currently holds the title of assistant professor of English at her local community college. Lexi is a proud member of Romance Writers of America. She lives in rural Indiana with her husband and two children.
Where did you grow up?
Like Maggie’s character in UNBREAK ME, I’m from Middle-of-Lots-of-Cornfields, Indiana. I’m still here, so either I love it or it’s the black hole every teenager in town believes it to be
. Actually, I live in the same neighborhood where I was raised, so my kids get to grow up tromping through the same old forests and creek beds that entertained me as a child—that, I love.
Did you always know you wanted to write?
When I was in second grade, I decided I wanted to be “an author.” I don’t think I had any idea what that meant at the time, but I liked the way it sounded.
My first story was scribbled in a journal I found under my sister’s bed. I loved filling those blank pages with the escapades of a little runaway I named “Spam.” Of course, when I showed my masterpiece to my mother and sister, my mom thought the best part was the little girl’s name and my sister was just irritated that I’d usurped her journal.
By the time I was in middle school, I was penning teenage soap operas. We would pass them around English class. My friends would read them and beg for more. I had a story and an audience. There was no turning back.
What writers influenced your writing the most?
There are so many! I knew I wanted to write since I was little, but when I was in junior high, my mom gave me a copy of Jude Deveraux’s Knight in Shining Armor, and from that moment on I knew I wanted to write romance. In high school, I got my hands on a copy of Sandra Cisneros’s poetry collection Loose Woman. Her voice is amazing, and she’s so unapologetic about her sexuality, it was refreshing and formative. Of course, there have been so many other authors who have influenced me along the way—Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Kristan Higgins, Kristin Hannah, and so many others.
What was the last novel you read and LOVED?
I recently finished Tammara Webber’s EASY and loved it. That book pretty much exemplifies everything I love about reading and writing in the NA genre.
Before now you’ve written adult romances, what made you decide to write new adult?
I’ve always wanted to write about young twenty-somethings, but with a few exceptions there just wasn’t a market for it before. I’m not sure why. My college years were formative. I fell in love, I got my heart broken, I figured out how who I was fit into who I wanted to be, and I had a lot of fun. When new adult romances started getting traction, I knew immediately that I wanted to write one, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to fit it in when I had other books planned. The thing is, once the idea for UNBREAK ME took root in my head, it owned me. I had to put all my other projects on hold. I needed to write this book, and I’m so glad I did.
Will there be a sequel to UNBREAK ME?
I never say never, but UNBREAK ME was written as a stand-alone novel with a happily-ever-after ending, but I do have plans for at least one spin-off novel. It’s in early stages yet, but I’m really excited about it.
Lexi’s Answers to the Inside the Actor’s Studio 10-Questions
1. What is your favorite word?
Love. It’s all that matters.
2. What is your least favorite word?
Utilize. I was taught never to use a three-syllable word in a one-syllable word will do. If a person says utilize when the word use would have worked just as well, it totally makes me roll my eyes.
3. What turns you on?
Words—sexy ones, silly ones, intelligent ones. I love words and reading and writing and conversation and…*sigh* (Just, you know, not the word utilize.)
4. What turns you off?
Pretentiousness—in society, in literature, in education, in everything. Just, yuck. (See #2)
5. What sound do you love?
My kids’ laughter. Bonus points if they’re laughing together.
6. What sound do you hate?
The sound of a crying baby that isn’t being held (I swear it’s a different sound than a crying baby that is being held). It kills me.
7. What is your favorite curse word?
8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I’ve been writing professionally since 2008, but not until this month was I finally able to leave my day job as a college professor to write full-time. There’s truly nothing I’d rather do than write. That said, if I couldn’t do this anymore, I’d love to get paid to bake!
9. What profession would you not like to do?
Childcare. I don’t know how the daycare providers and preschool teachers of the world keep a smile on all day. Not only can kids be difficult, they have to put up with the parents. Yet, they (the good ones) seem to thrive, despite the demanding work and long days. God bless them, every one.
10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
“What? You think I can’t read?”