Title: Darker Water
Series: Once and Forever #1
Author: Lauren Stewart
Genre: Contemporary Romance/New Adult
Release Date: Oct 3, 2014
Word Count: 94,000
After another painful breakup, Laney finally understands that love is a fairytale and sex rarely comes with a happy ending. She’s too busy for it right now anyway—she has a business to run, art to create, and candy to crush. Eventually she’ll be ready to switch from a plastic-or-silicon lover to a flesh-and-blood one. But before that happens, she needs to be sure she won’t feel any of those annoying emotions that make her heart do things it wasn’t meant to do…
Carson is completely upfront about what he wants, and it has nothing to do with Laney’s heart. Her lips? Hell yeah. Other parts of her body? You better f*cking believe it. But her heart? Nope, not even a little. Until it does…a lot. But having feelings for someone isn’t allowed. It’s the kind of thing you’re supposed to push down deep and cover up with one-night stands, sarcasm, and booze…
Two people want the same thing—a commitment to nothing more than great sex in a bunch of different positions. Simple. Enjoyable. A win-win. Problem is, those two people have families and fears and pain that spill into every moment of their lives, control what they do and who they are. And if either Carson or Laney can’t free themselves from the past, they’ll both be pulled under by it.
*** Darker Water is a stand-alone contemporary romance that does not end in a cliffhanger.
FB Author Page: www.facebook.com/LaurenStewartAuthor
Lauren Stewart’s other work
Virtually Impossible (Once and Forever #2)
Deeper Water (Once and Forever #3)
Unseen (The Heights Vol. 1)
Unearthed (The Heights Vol 2)
Hyde, an Urban Fantasy (Hyde, Book I)
Jekyll (Hyde, Book II)
Strange Case (Hyde, Book III)
No Experience Required (a Summer Rains novel #1)
Lauren Stewart lives in Northern California with one teenager, one almost-teenager, a mellow cat, and an incredibly high maintenance puppy. On the nights when Lauren doesn’t pass out from exhaustion, she reads almost every genre so, naturally, her writing reflects that. With every book, every story, you’ll find elements of other genres–fantasy, mystery, romance, paranormal, suspense, YA, women’s literature, all with a touch of humor.
Because what doesn’t kill us should make us laugh.
What Inspired This Book?
It began on a dare—that I wouldn’t be able to write a standalone novel that ended in a happy ending (until then, I’d always written series where one couple takes a few novels to reach their happy ending).
Darker Water is a twist on The Frog Prince, with the heroine believing she has the metaphorical power to turn good men—princes—into assholes—frogs. Because all the men she’d fallen for had seemed perfect right up until she found out they were total pricks. So what does she need to make her believe in love again? A frog, of course. An asshole who, because of her love, finally shows us that he’s been an amazing man all along.
The fairytale at the beginning of the book came to me as soon as I started typing. It was incredible and set up the entire framework for the story. The second part of Laney and Carson’s fairytale, at the end, encapsulates what they’ve learned and where they’re headed.
I took one of the comfy chairs in the corner, put my coffee and my feet up on the large ottoman in front of me, and opened the Angry Birds app on my phone. About fifteen minutes later, I saw jean-clad legs in my peripheral vision. His shoes were pointed towards me, but he didn’t say anything.
“Listen, I’m sure you’re a wonderful person, but I need to focus.” I pointed to my phone without raising my head. “Or I’m going to break my winning streak.”
“I’m not sure if you know this”—the legs moved a step closer—“but when you win, you don’t actually get any candy. Yeah,” he grumbled. “The day I found that out was one of the worst days of my life.”
I wiped my mouth to cover my smile—he’d probably take it as a sign I wanted to keep talking to him. “As much as I appreciate the tip, I’m not interested.”
“Me neither. Wait, what aren’t we interested in again? Oh, did you mean you and me…being interesting together? Then yeah, actually, I am interested in that.”
I looked up at him briefly. Well, no one could ever mistake him for average looking, that was for sure. Full lips that looked very comfortable wearing a smirk. The tattoos covering most of both forearms would’ve made my mom shake her head and say something witty like, Maybe his parents didn’t give him enough coloring books when he was little. Light-brown hair tossed in a hot, I-have-more-important-things-to-take-care-of-than-my-hair way. One of those more important things might be his body. If I wasn’t completely cured of men, I’d thank him for making it a priority. Not that I didn’t find men attractive anymore—I couldn’t control that. And sure, I’d love to take a few more looks at the guy. But that wouldn’t bring me anything but frustration. And frustration didn’t bring me anything but the need for more batteries.
Three months ago, I would’ve been blushing, stuttering, making a fool of myself, and planning our wedding. Now I had more important things to take care of, like my sanity. And some very unhappy birds.
So I slumped into the chair and went back to my game. “Trust me, you don’t want me to get to know you, not if you like who you are right now. I’m cursed. I could turn you into a frog with barely any effort at all. Go find someone else to pretend to be in love with. I wish you luck.”
He picked up my coffee from the ottoman and sat down. “Congratulations. You’ve just made yourself twice as intriguing. You have to know that all men enjoy a good chase every once in a while.”
“I’m not running—I’m telling you to run. Go hunt down someone else.”
“Okay, go hunt down someone else, Carson.”
“Maybe three times as intriguing.” After a second, he stood. “Nice to meet you, Lane.”
“It’s Laney, but how did you—?”
He glanced down at my coffee cup, which he was still holding. My name was written in big letters on the side, the ‘Y’ an illegible scribble. I should’ve gone the more environmentally friendly route and skipped the paper cup. But not a big deal. All he knew was most of my name and my drink order. Thankfully they didn’t write my phone number on there, too. Not that he would remember it three minutes from now, because frankly, I’m not worth that much of his effort.
He handed my coffee back but didn’t go away, seemingly content to keep staring at me with a cocky grin. Okay, he was really far from average looking. But guaranteed, he was as much a liar as they all are. Maybe worse because the more attractive a guy is, the more he thinks he can get away with. I take that back—the more he can get away with. Because women are idiots.
“Let me guess,” I said. “You’re different from every other guy, searching for the one woman who will complete you. You’re considerate, caring, and really want a chance to know who I truly am.”
“Not at all,” he said, ticking the points off with his fingers and grimacing. “Definitely not. Dear god no. That’s not even close to what I want from you. And…was that all of them? I got distracted by your breasts for a little while there, so I may have missed one.”
I coughed, covering my mouth before I spit my coffee out. “Seriously?” In the last few months I’d had a lot of similar conversations with moderately similar guys. But not a single one had an answer even remotely like that.
“Seriously. I’m a complete asshole who only cares about what he can get from someone. Take you, for example. I saw you sitting here alone, no ring, great body. And thought, ‘I want to fuck her.’ And yeah, those were the exact words that went through my head. On the way over here I tried to figure out the fastest and most efficient way to get you into my bed—which isn’t far from here by the way—hoping you weren’t the type who needed a couple dinners out first. So, Lane”—he popped an eyebrow—“are you?”
I didn’t know how to respond. Was I? I used to be. Except it had taken more than a couple dinners before I slept with someone. It had taken a commitment of some kind. And now? Even though I was done with relationships and love, I didn’t want to be celibate for the rest of my life. I wasn’t sure I was ready, but there was only one way to find out. And, as far as guinea pigs went, I couldn’t have found a more attractive one. So…
Fuck it. For some unknown reason, I’d shaved my legs this morning. Maybe it was a sign from the universe that today was the day to do some experimenting.
Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m about to do this. I stood, grabbed my bag, and pushed past him on my way to the door. Then I turned around. “I think that was an exceptionally efficient way to get me into your bed.”
Once upon a time, there was a woman who, though not stunningly beautiful, thought herself to be. Because she was in love with a man who made her feel that way.
How fucking ironic—I’d been looking for love for the last eight years. And when I finally stopped wanting and believing in it, it found me. I didn’t have feelings for Carson—I was in love with him.
’You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince.’ My mother’s favorite expression was completely fucking wrong. If you kiss a lot of frogs, all you end up with is sore lips and a bunch of frogs. And if you kiss a lot of princes, hoping at least one of them will stay that way, all you get is a horrific amount of disappointment and even more frogs
I didn’t have feelings for Carson—I was in love with him. And what’s worse than falling in love when you don’t want to? Falling in love with someone who can’t love you back.
“If it could be anyone,” he whispered, “it would be you.”
“Life’s too fucking short to spend any of it embarrassed or guilty. If you’re going to learn how to put yourself first, you can’t keep being controlled by what other people do.”
“Seriously. I’m a complete asshole who only cares about what he can get from someone. Take you, for example. I saw you sitting here alone, no ring, great body. And thought, ‘I want to fuck her.’ And yeah, those were the exact words that went through my head. On the way over here I tried to figure out the fastest and most efficient way to get you into my bed—which isn’t far from here, by the way—hoping you weren’t the type who needed a couple dinners out first. So, Lane”—he popped an eyebrow—“are you?”