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Authors: Amber Garza

Love Struck

BOOK: Love Struck
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LOVE STRUCK

 

Amber Garza

Cover Models: Brett Patterson and Erin McMackin

Cover photographer:
Juli Losee

Graphic Artist: Lisa
Eneqvist

Author Photo: Megan Squires

Copyright © 2013 Amber Garza

All rights reserved.

 

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or
dead, is purely coincidental. The author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.

 

To anyone who feels they aren’t good enough

Prologue

Ryker

 

 

“Is that Lola?” Pierce nudges me in the side, pointing over my left shoulder.  Hearing her name causes moisture to coat my body like I’ve just stepped out of the shower. Shoving the tall, frosty mug of beer away, I crane my neck and look in the direction of Pierce’s finger.

Despite the beer I was drinking, my mouth goes completely dry at the sight of her. Lola
looks even more beautiful than she did the last time I saw her. At the time I wouldn’t have believed it was possible to look better than she did. Lola is so gorgeous it seems sinful. It’s as if when she was created God accidentally threw the beauty of numerous people into just her. When we first started dating it was unnerving to take her places. I loathed the way people would stare at us curiously, as if we were one of those pictures where you had to pick out the thing that didn’t belong.

Clearly, the thing that didn’t belong was me. Everyone could see that. However, I wanted to be with Lola so bad I chose to believe her when she assured me that we fit together somehow.
And I never wanted anything more in my life.

“Who’s the dude?” Pierce’s wor
ds cut through my thoughts, causing my stomach to clench.

Sliding my gaze off of Lola, I finally see what I’d missed before. The guy
with his arm on her back looks perfect for Lola, with his expensive clothes and perfectly styled hair. Judging by the watch on his wrist and the designer jeans he wears, I’d say he can afford to give her things I could only dream of. And I’m pretty sure he’s not a struggling musician like me.

Turning back
around, I reach for my cold beer. Snatching it up off the bar, I bring it to my lips and down it. It feels good and cold as it swims down my throat, but I know it’s not strong enough to erase what I just saw. I slam it back down on the mahogany bar, and Pierce lifts his brow.


Wanna get outta here, man?”

What I want to do is get shitfaced, but I know I can’t. So I shrug. “Yeah, let’s go.” I
hop off the stool when the scent of coconut reaches me. That one scent has the ability to transport me back in time, and I’m momentarily overcome with emotions. An avalanche of images bury me all at once, and I buckle beneath the weight of them.


Ryker?”

I spin around to find Lola
leaning against the bar, her elbow propped up on it. Her black hair is curled around her face, her dark eyes are lined thickly, and she’s wearing that damn red lipstick that drives me wild. My heart starts its frenetic drum solo, and I have to grip the edge of the bar to keep from falling over. I’ve dreamt of this moment for months, only it didn’t include her showing up at a bar with a strange guy. No, it included her in my arms wearing a lot less clothes than the belted jacket, jeans and boots she currently has on. I clear my throat, forcing the thoughts away.

“Lola,” my voice comes out in a pathetic squeak
, and I think about how Daddy Warbucks over there probably sounds sure and strong when he speaks. The bartender slides two drinks in Lola’s direction and she reaches for them.

“You drink now? When did that happen?” I ask, knowing it’s no
ne of my business. But she’s underage, and even though she’s no longer my girl I still feel protective of her.

“Mine’s club soda
.” Her face holds that guarded expression I’ve gotten to know so well.

I nod in the direction of the guy she came in with. He’s sitting in a booth, looking warily in our direction.
“Is that your boyfriend?”

L
ola nods, biting her lip. “Yeah. Nolan.”

I snort. “Nolan?
What kind of name is that?”


Ryker.” She tosses me a warning look.

I lean in close
. “Do you love him?”

She steps backward, bristling. “That’s none of your business.”

I dart my arm out and circle my fingers around her wrist. She stiffens, glancing down to where my hand clamps over her flesh. “Tell me that you love him, Lola. Tell me that he makes you happy. Tell me that he loves you like I do.” Our gazes collide. “If you can tell me that, then I’ll finally be able to let you go.”

“Let me go?” She furrows her brows in a look of confusion.

“Lola, I know we broke up, but I haven’t stopped loving you. And for the past six months I’ve been hanging on to the hope that maybe one day you’ll take me back.” I release her arm, my shoulders slumping. She makes no attempt to move away from me. “You deserve to be happy, Lola. You deserve to be loved fiercely. If Nolan can give you that, then I’ll walk away.”

“What’s going on here?” Nolan saunters up, his eyebrows knit together.
I feel irrational hatred toward him, and I ball my hands into fists at my side. Pierce shakes his head at me, as if he knows how badly I want to punch this guy.

“Nothing.”
She looks at me pointedly. “Absolutely nothing.” Lola’s gaze shifts to him, her cheeks flushing. She reaches for her glass, the carbonation fizzing to the surface. “Let’s go sit down, Nolan.”

In one fluid movement he picks up his drink as well and then grabs Lola’s hand with his free one.
Watching him thread his fingers through hers causes jealousy to surge through me. Lola doesn’t look back as she and Nolan hurry to their booth. 

As they walk away I mull over the possibility that Nolan is
the one she’s supposed to be with.  Perhaps I was wrong all along.

Maybe
it never was me.

 

 

1

Ryker

 

A year earlier

 

I’m standing up from my table, preparing to leave when her voice stops me. Her rich tone washes over me, and I lower back down onto the hard wooden seat. Leaning my elbows on the pub table, I push my empty coffee cup out of the way and watch her, mesmerized. She leans over the keyboard, her dark hair falling down her back. Her hands skim over the keys, her glossy lips purse, and her long lashes cast a shadow over her pale skin. But her beauty isn’t what draws me to her – it’s her stage presence. The whole room is enchanted by her. She must be new here because I’ve never seen her before. There hasn’t been anyone new performing for open mic night at this coffee shop in awhile. Maybe she’s a new student at the college.

The minute her song ends I shake my head as if coming out of a fog. When I see her walk off the stage, I can’t stop myself. I get up and head toward her. There’s no way I can let talent like this slip away.

I step in front of her. “Hey, you were pretty great up there.”

She bites her lip, and her cheeks flush
. “Thanks.”

“I’m
Ryker.” I offer her my hand.

“Star
,” she says, extending hers.

“I like it.” Cocking an eyebrow, I think how well her name suits her
.

“I’m
Lola,” A voice calls from behind Star. I peer around Star’s shoulders and see a girl with shoulder length shiny black hair, brown eyes and dark red lips smiling up at me. My heart stutters in my chest. She’s one of the hottest girls I’ve ever seen. Star has the whole girl next door thing pegged, but Lola looks like a supermodel. She reminds me of one of those pinup girls from the fifties. “Why don’t you join us, Ryker?” Lola indicates the extra chair at their table. 

I’m sure she’d never go for
a guy like me, but I take her up on her offer anyhow, happy to be this near to her. “Don’t mind if I do.” I plop down in the seat.  The sweet scent of coconut wafts from Lola, and once again my heart skips a beat.

When Star sits down across from me
I’m reminded of the reason I came over here in the first place.  The next performer starts playing – a girl who plays here week after week but doesn’t seem to get any better. She’s loud, so I have to lean across the table toward Star to be heard. “I’m in a band, and we’re looking for a female singer. I think you’d be perfect.”

She raises her eyebrows in a look of surprise
. “Like a lead singer?”

I feel bad for getting her hopes up. If only I were better at explaining things.
“No, we have a lead singer. We’re looking for kind of a backup singer, I guess. But there would be plenty of opportunities to feature one of your songs if you wanted to.”

Her face pales and she shifts uncomfortably
. “I don’t know. I’ve never really been in a band before.”

“Why not?
You’re amazing,” I say.

Lola elbows Star in the side
. “I’ve been telling her that for years.”

I lock eyes with Lola and she lifts her lips into a slight smile. It’s so sexy it makes me want to wipe off that
red lipstick with my mouth.  “Smart friend,” I say flirtatiously.

“You have
no idea.” Lola runs her fingertip along the rim of her cup, causing my pulse to spike. I can’t stop staring at her.

“Thanks for the offer,
Ryker, but I’m just not sure about it,” Star yanks my attention back to her, once again reminding me of why I came over here. Man, Lola’s really messing with my mind.

“Why don’t you give us your information and Star can give you a call to discuss it further?” Lola asks.

A girl who takes command. I like it.
  Grinning, I push back from my chair. “Great. I’ll be right back.” As I head over to the counter to grab a pen and piece of paper to write on, I think about how I really want to give my number to Lola. But I know that Star would make a great addition to our band, so I need to follow this through. Besides, maybe if I can get Star to join the band she can put a good word in for me with her friend.

When I return a second later, I hand Star
the slip of paper and then sit back down. Even though I was ready to leave earlier, now I find myself wanting to stay.

Star
glances down at the paper and then peers up at me. “Whose address is this?”

“Our lead singer,” I say. “We practice in his parent
s’ garage. We’re practicing tomorrow night at seven. You should come and jam with us.”

She looks a little nervous about the whole thing. I’m about to say something to reassure her, but then Beckett tak
es the stage and starts singing, his voice drowning out the room. I watch as Star stares up at him in awe. It’s a look I’m familiar with. All the girls are enamored with Beckett.  Hesitantly I peer back at Lola, wondering if Beckett’s charms have worked on her too. I’m pleasantly surprised when I see her looking at me instead. That never happens. Usually when Beckett’s in the room I become invisible.

“Who is he?”
Star asks with her gaze still locked on Beckett.

“That’s Beckett. He’s the lead singer in ou
r band. That’s why it’s called
Beckett
. He has a bit of an ego.” I chuckle lightly, hoping she doesn’t detect the bitterness in my voice.

“I’ll be there tomorrow n
ight,” she says, not that I’m shocked. I’m sure she wants to go just to be near Beckett.

I find myself glancing over at Lola again, hoping she doesn’t fall for Beckett too.
Even though I’m sure I don’t stand a chance in hell with her, I know that I’ve got to try. There’s just something about her; something different.

BOOK: Love Struck
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