So, I had every intention of releasing Collide earlier this year. I even had a release date set, a cover created, and a countdown on my blog. Unfortunately, that ended up not happening, which was actually being a blessing in disguise, even if the delay did manage to piss off a few people. (I'm sorryyyy!) The book is a lotttt stronger now that I've pretty much rewritten the entire thing.
I'm preparing to submit Collide to Spencer Hill's contemporary line, as well as Entangled Publishing and Evernight Teen. I'm sticking to small publishers because I feel they are the right fit for this story. (This is why I've been quiet when it comes to Collide. I've been submitting it for the past couple of months. Here's to hoping the revisions pay off!)
What this means is that, while I'm awaiting decisions from these three publishers, there will be an even longer delay. I know this sucks, I do, but I need to try. This book is easily my best work to date. I'm incredibly proud of it, and I want it to reach as many readers as possible, and self-publishing it will not allow for that to happen. If I can't find a publisher, then yes, I'll go the self-publishing route. But I'm trying to avoid that because I'm not good at marketing. I have terrible social anxiety, which makes it hard to reach out to people. (If you've been curious as to why I rarely do promo, this is why.)
So while I can't allow myself to hit publish on Collide just yet, I can give you the entire first chapter to read right now:
One last note: If I do end up going the self-publishing route after all, expect Collide to get a makeover. That would call for a new cover, as well as possibly a new title. Collide is going to be my first New Adult romance title, so I want to do whatever I can to launch it correctly.Chapter OneGemmaI ran my finger over the rim of my glass.Sitting alone at a bar wasn’t exactly how I intended on spending my night. And I especially had not dreamt of being forced to watch as my best friend shoved his tongue down some random girl’s throat. If I’d had it my way, I would have been at home, in my bed, curled up with a swoon-worthy book.Unfortunately for me, Ben wasn’t having that.“You need to be more social, Gems,” he’d told me. Next thing I knew, we were in his truck and on our way to the nearest hole-in-the-wall pub: Mickey’s Lounge.It wouldn’t have been so bad, had the place not been filled to capacity. I wasn’t exactly a fan of being squished up against sweaty strangers that could hardly hold onto their alcohol. Thanks, but no thanks.I knew that I should have jumped back in his truck the moment I stepped out.When we’d first arrived, we spotted two girls sitting on the curb. One of which had been crying hysterically into the other girl’s arms, mumbling something about ‘Fucking Johnny’.That should have been my first clue that the night was going to be a bust. I wasn’t the greatest in social situations as it was, and being around confrontation only made my anxiety even worse. But as much as I might have wanted to turn back around and run, I knew Ben had brought me there for a reason.I did need to be more social, and I knew that, even if the thought alone was enough to terrify me.We were just making our way up to the bouncer when a boy that’d I’d later learn to be Fucking Johnny himself, had exited the bar with another girl on his arm. I shot Ben a holy-crap-what-the-hell-is-going-on look as I watched the drama unfold.“What the fuck, Johnny? Who the hell is she?” The short brunette rose to her feet, struggling to keep her balance at she charged at the girl. An action which I failed to understand. Why was it that they insisted upon fighting each other instead of ganging up on the guy that had clearly played the two of them?When the girl on Fucking Johnny’s arm got into the drunk brunette’s face? I wanted nothing more than to run and hide. Seriously, cheating was an ass move as it was. But to do it in front of the girl? And at a public place where alcohol was served and emotions were sure to take over? It all added up to an volcano waiting to erupt, and I wasn’t eager to be there when the lava spilled over, so to speak.That little incident should have been a good indicator of how my night was going to go. But I’d chosen to ignore the painfully obvious in favor of trying to have a fun night out. Trying having been the key word.I really needed to stop letting him drag me out of the apartment. Or I really needed to remember to keep my e-reader in my purse. At least if I’d had my e-reader on me, I would have had something to keep my mind off of him and how much I wanted him to cross the line between friendship and lust.When we’d first came in, we’d made a beeline for the tables near the back of the pub, and for a brief moment, I’d actually thought the night might go alright. But then the girls started to come by, throwing themselves at him right in front of me. And well, it hadn’t taken long for me to grow tired of having the front row seat to heartbreak.I had tried to move away multiple times, but he continued to pull me back until a call from his sister interrupted him. He’d casually excused himself from Random Girl Number One as he hung up his phone.Eager to drown out the longing feeling that had dug its way inside of my veins like a jackass, I decided that it would be in my best interest to get away from all things Ben for a bit. I took to my feet, excusing myself from the table as Ben glanced out over the crowd in search of Molly, only to find a rough hand wrapped arm my arm, stopping me in my tracks.“Don’t take too long now,” he said, pressing a kiss on my cheek. It took everything in me to not turn my head, allowing our lips to brush together.“Yeah, yeah,” I groaned. “You suck, Ben.”“Love you too, Gemma,” he teased before he slipped away into the crowd, and faded from my sight.I probably should have gone outside, honestly, far away from alcohol. That would have been the smart thing to do, but what could I say? I was fabulous at making terrible decisions. So, I’d taken a seat at the bar. Alone and miserable.“What will it be?” One of the bartenders asked.“Cherry UV Vodka,” I answered. It was stupid really. Chances were that I wasn’t going to drink it, but it was my safe drink, something that Ben had gotten me hooked on during one of the many parties at his apartment.Apparently mixing fruit punch Gatorade with Smirnoff vodka was highly frowned upon. “I bought this for you,” he’d said when he handed me the bottle.I remembered staring at him as though he’d lost his mind. “Really? A bottle of vodka? Are you trying to get into my pants, Benjamin?”He smiled and pulled me against him. “Always,” he joked. “Actually, I bought it because I thought you would like it. It tastes a hell of a lot better than your Gatorade and vodka concoction.”That night, I’d discovered a new appreciation for vodka; too bad that it hadn’t seemed to have the same sort of fondness for me.“Anything else, Miss?” The bartender asked, throwing a white towel over his shoulder. He slid the drink towards me and I handed him a ten dollar bill.I shook my head no, and leaned on the bar counter. “Thanks, but I’m alright.”I swirled the black stirrer around in the glass, mindlessly staring down at the red beverage that I had already been imagining that I was going to regret.I had never been much of a drinker, mainly because I tended to do stupid things under the influence of alcohol. And by stupid things, I didn’t mean just calling every one of my exes at two o’clock in the morning. Nope.No, by stupid things, I meant trying to get into my best friend’s pants. Repeatedly.I’d nearly gotten close once, too. I had managed to get his pants unbuttoned, and I was just about to pull them down when he’d managed to grab a hold of my wrists with one hand, and pulled his pants back up with the other.Yeah, needless to say, I’d since made it a point to watch my alcohol intake around Ben. Unfortunately for me, my mind couldn’t separate my fantasies from reality when I’d been drinking.That was the downside to having an incredibly attractive best friend. It was hard enough to keep my hormones in check when I was sober, but when I was drinking? All logic went out the door. Every. Single. Bit.“Are you sure about that?” Nate took a seat beside me, a shit-eating grin wide on his face. “I think the drunken Gemma show is exactly what I need to fix this boring night.”I turned to glare at him, choosing to ignore the bartender’s smirk.Another stupid thing I’d done under the influence of alcohol? Made out with Nate, who just so happened to be Ben’s cousin.Yeah, that was definitely not my greatest moment. Although, truth-be-told, I wasn’t entirely ashamed of my Nate mishap. After all, the boy was gorgeous at six-foot-three with the body of an MMA fighter. His spiked blond locks highlighted his stunning blue eyes. Yeah, definitely attractive, I thought, but not nearly as attractive as Ben.Ben stood a whole foot taller than my five-foot-one frame, with warm browns eyes, tousled brown locks, and lips that pleaded to be kissed. And while I wasn’t a fan of facial hair, mainly because it was itchy as hell, it looked good on him.And then there was his body, and his abs that would give even Chris Evans a run for his money. Seriously, his abs alone belonged in a museum. They were that beautiful.Nate caught me staring at him, lost in my magical fantasy land, and a playful smile suddenly tugged at his lips. I knew what he was thinking, and I would let him think it. After all, it was Nate and his ridiculous ego. It was better than letting him know I’d been thinking about his cousin’s body. That was a bridge of awkwardness that I just wasn’t ready to cross.“You know…” He moved in closer so that his lips were inches from my ear. “My place is only about five minutes away-“Before he could finish what he was saying, I threw my elbow out, hitting him in the abdomen. “As I’ve said before, Nate, that night was merely a lapse in judgment on my behalf. I can assure you that it will never happen again.”And it wouldn’t, of that much I was sure.“You say that now,” he teased.“Oh shush, will you?” I pressed my hand to my forehead and slumped back over the bar, my right hand still twirling the black stir around in my drink.Nate ordered two Rum and Coke’s from the bartender before turning his attention back to me. “Are you planning on drinking that anytime soon, Gembug?”“Don’t worry, I’ll see to it that I’m far away from you when I do,” I answered, smiling as I made my way away from the bar in search of Ben and Molly.I could hear Nate trailing behind me, but I ignored him. I’d learned early on that it was best to ignore Nate. If you gave him attention it only fed his ego, and well, he managed to do a pretty damn good job of that himself.I found Ben and Molly sitting at a wooden table near the back of the pub, laughing as they were joined in conversation by a petite redhead and a tattooed guy.“I really hope that girl isn’t expecting to go home with Ben tonight,” Nate said.I hadn’t realized he was standing so close to me, and I’d nearly dropped my glass as his warm breath fell upon my neck, making my body well aware of his close proximity. “Personal space, Nate. You suck at it.”“In my defense, you did kind of stop suddenly and the pub is rather crowded.” I was just about to apologize to him when he followed up his prior statement with a typical Nate response. “By the way, you look fucking fantastic tonight, Gems. Are you sure you don’t want to get out of here?”“Nate Phillips, don’t make me smack you.”“Hey, I had to try.” He moved in front of me, holding the glasses over his head as he maneuvered his way through the crowd through the crowd. “I may not be Ben, but I’m really not that bad, Gemma,” he called out, an apologetic smile spread upon his lips before he turned his attention ahead.I tried to ignore the Ben comment as I followed behind Nate, doing my best to stay close to him. Crowds were not my thing. Hell, pubs were not my thing. If Ben hadn’t dragged me out of my apartment, I would have still been curled up in my bed reading, and that would’ve been perfectly fine with me.But nope. Instead, there I was, taking a seat at a table with a full on view of some girl playing tonsil hockey with my best friend. My best friend that I’d been in love with for years now. Yeah. I would’ve much rather preferred to have been at home.The truth of the matter was that I didn’t exactly have a right to be upset by Ben’s actions. He was single. He was more than welcome to do as he pleased, with whomever he pleased.But that didn’t mean that his actions wouldn’t bother me.Seeing her with him? A girl that I didn’t know – one that I had no right to hate but still found myself envious of? It bothered me because I wanted that girl to be me. I wanted him to want me like he wanted her. I wanted to be more than his best friend that he occasionally joked with, even though I knew that would never happen.I’d been forever friend-zoned, and I just had to learn to deal with it.I reached for my drink, downing it in one gulp, nearly choking in the process. “Whoa, that burned more than I’d anticipated.”Nate chuckled beside me. “I thought you were avoiding drinking near me?”“That was the original plan.” That was before I’d been forced to come to terms with my emotions. “Things change.”“Oh really?” He cocked a brow at me. “Well, I’ll have you know that my offer still stands. We could get out of here now, all you have to do is say the word.”“Not going to happen, Nate,” I groaned. “You can stop trying now.”He threw his arm over my shoulder. “I know. I just like getting a rise out of you.”Molly, Ben’s twin sister, leaned over her new acquaintance’s shoulder and shot Nate a stern glance. “Leave her alone, would you, Nate?”“Hey now, I’m behaving tonight.” He squeezed my shoulder. “Right, Gems?”I rolled my eyes at him and reached for one of his Rum and Cokes. “So far.”I glanced over at Ben, hoping he would at least take notice of my presence. No such luck. Annoyed, I threw my head back and downed the drink, ignoring the burning sensation that had erupted in my throat.Oh man, I really hated the taste of alcohol.I handed the glass to Nate. “Are you going to drink that?” I asked, pointing to the other glass.Nate leaned in, sliding the glass across the table, far out of my reach. “Is there something you want to tell me? Because you’re slamming down drink after drink, and that isn’t like you, Sweetheart.”I glanced over at Ben, silently admitting what had been bothering me. Nate followed my gaze and wrapped his arm around my shoulder. “Ah, I probably should’ve figured as much.”“You act as though it’s obvious,” I said, shooting him a look.Nate moved in closer, his mouth mere inches from my ear. “Believe me when I say the only person oblivious to how you feel is my idiot cousin.”I’d thought my emotions were all over the place before. Yeah. Clearly I hadn’t realized just how bad the night was going to get.I thought that I’d done a fairly good job at keeping my emotions in check over the years. Apparently Ben hadn’t been the only clueless one.“How long have you known?” I slid down in my chair, leaning my head back to look up at the ceiling, trying to immerse myself in the loud music blaring throughout the pub.Nate didn’t say a word. He reached for the glass he’d shoved away and tried to hide the grin tugging at the corner of his lips. Downing the glass, he looked over at Ben before turning to face me. “Come on.”He reached for my hand, pulling me to my feet and away from the table. “And where are we going exactly?”Nate pulled me along behind him through the crowd, stopping only once we’d reached the jukebox near the back. “We’re dancing.” I rolled my eyes as he pulled me closer to him. “Relax, I’m going to behave. I promise.”“Are you feeling okay, Nate? I’m not used to you being this nice.”He wrapped his arms loosely around my waist, the lights from overhead cascade down upon him, highlighting his stunning eyes.“Like I said, Gems, I may not be Ben, but I’m really not that bad of a guy.”I didn’t doubt that. Even with his humongous ego, I knew that underneath the cockiness, there was a sweet guy eager for something more. I just wasn’t used to being on the receiving end of that Nate.Usually I found myself trying to run from him, but in that moment? With the way that his arms wrapped around me? I actually felt comfortable, although that could’ve been a result of the numerous drinks I’d downed in the span of a half-hour.It was ridiculous to be this upset. Ben and I were best friends, and sure, he joked with me sometimes, but that was it. We were platonic friends. I couldn’t get mad at him for a random bar hook-up just because he was the star of my x-rated fantasies.Nate pressed a light kiss to my forehead. “Are you alright?”I let out a soft sigh, resting my head on his chest. “I’m just peachy. Incredibly warm, and a bit unstable, but perfectly peachy.”He chuckled in my ear. “Can I ask you something?”“I suppose.”I wrapped my arms around his neck and glanced up at him, trying to ignore the look of sympathy in his eyes as he stared down at me. “Why haven’t you told him?”I rolled my eyes. “You wouldn’t understand.”And that was the truth. No one ever seemed to understand.There was only so much heartbreak a person could take, and I was rather close to reaching my limit. But heartbreak was far more bearable than losing him.Ben had become an integral part of my life throughout the years; my sanity when I’d found myself on the verge of a breakdown. He was the one stability I’d had in my life, and I wasn’t willing to throw that away.When my brother passed away from a drug overdose a year ago, he was the one that helped to piece me back together again. I had collapsed within myself, allowing my pain to drown out all reason to want to live, and Ben had found a way to pull me out.He had saved me from myself. And over time, I’d convinced myself that, if I told him how I felt, I would only end up chasing him away, and I couldn’t stand the thought of losing him as a friend.“Try me, Sweetheart.”“Call me Sweetheart again and I swear I’ll punch you,” I teased.Nate broke out into a fit of laughter. “You’re an amazing girl, Gemma, but I don’t think you realize it.”“If you’re trying to charm my pants off of me, it isn’t going to work, Nate.”At least, that was what I kept telling myself.After all, I was single and I did have needs. And the fact that he was gorgeous certainly wasn’t helping to keep my mind from considering his earlier proposal.And this is why you don’t drink around Nate, I told myself.“Get your mind out of the gutter, Gems, geez,” he joked. I dropped my hands from his neck and shoved him gently in his chest before he grabbed my wrists, pulling me back towards him. “I’m serious. You’ve convinced yourself that my idiot cousin can do better than you; that you can’t compete with the other girls, but it is bullshit.”“It’s not bullshit, it’s called accepting the reality of the situation,” I said matter-of-factly.“You’re so much more than those other girls, Gemma. I only wish that you could see that,” he said. A sincere smile spread upon his lips and he released his hold on my wrists. “Don’t let your fear keep you from trying. Sometimes the things that scare us the most are exactly what we need.”