It’s been described as, “Beautifully written and full of swoony tender moments, toe-curling chemistry, and delicious, twisty angst . . .”, by the fabulous author duo Christina Lauren, and today I have the great pleasure of giving you an excerpt from Robin York’s upcoming novel, Deeper. This is the first book in the brand new NA Contemporary Romance Caroline & West series, and even though this is Robin York’s debut novel, you might already know this awesome author as Ruthie Knox and from books such as one of my personal favourites, About Last Night. So, sit back and get ready to meet… West. Enjoy! ♥
Expected release date: 28 January 2014
In this New Adult debut by Robin York, a college student is attacked online and must restore her name—and stay clear of a guy who’s wrong for her, but feels so right.
When Caroline Piasecki’s ex-boyfriend posts their sex pictures on the Internet, it destroys her reputation as a nice college girl. Suddenly her once-promising future doesn’t look so bright. Caroline tries to make the pictures disappear, hoping time will bury her shame. Then a guy she barely knows rises to her defense and punches her ex to the ground.
West Leavitt is the last person Caroline needs in her life. Everyone knows he’s shady. Still, Caroline is drawn to his confidence and swagger—even after promising her dad she’ll keep her distance. On late, sleepless nights, Caroline starts wandering into the bakery where West works.
They hang out, they talk, they listen. Though Caroline and West tell each other they’re “just friends,” their feelings intensify until it becomes impossible to pretend. The more complicated her relationship with West gets, the harder Caroline has to struggle to discover what she wants for herself—and the easier it becomes to find the courage she needs to fight back against the people who would judge her.
When all seems lost, sometimes the only place to go is deeper.
It took me ten years to learn how to hate my dad.
He blew through town just often enough to f*ck with Mom’s head until she lost her job, gave him all her money, turned her heart over to him one more time, and then watched him drive away.
That year—that summer when I was ten—Mom cried for a week. I visited the neighbors in our trailer park, telling them what had happened in a way that made it all sound funny, hoping they’d give me something to eat.
In the busted-ass, nothing place in Oregon where I’m from, there used to be jobs in lumber, but now there’s nothing but part-time work, hourly pay, wages you can’t raise a family on.
Where I’m from, women work, and men are only good for two things: fighting and f*cking.
I got good at fighting early. When I was twelve, my cousin’s friend Kaylee took me into the unlocked storage room beside the laundry and showed me how to f*ck.
I got good at that, too, with some practice.
Maybe it should have been enough for me. Seemed like it was enough for everybody else.
But there’s something in me that’s like a weed, always pushing up through cracks, looking for light. Looking for a deeper grip in inadequate soil.
I’m curious. I want to know how things work, fix them if they’re broken, make them better. It’s just the way I am, as far back as I can remember. When three out of the five dryers are sitting broken in the trailer-park laundry, I want to know why. If I can’t get a good answer, I’ll take those f*ckers apart and try to figure it out.
When there’s something I can do, I need to do it.
I think that’s what makes a real man. Not whose ass you can kick or how good you can f*ck, but what you do. How hard you work for the people who depend on you. What you can give them.
That time my dad came around when I was ten—the time I stood up to him and he beat me hard enough that I finally learned how to hate him—he got Mom pregnant before he left.
My sister, Frankie, came into the world with two strikes already against her. Mom hadn’t planned on another kid and wasn’t real thrilled. Frankie showed up early, way too puny. She slept a ton.
Because I’m curious—because I can’t help myself—I read this pamphlet that had come home from the hospital in a bag of free formula. It said babies were supposed to wake up every three or four hours to eat, but Frankie wasn’t. Not even close.
“What a good baby,” everybody said.
Nobody wanted to hear she was starving.
I didn’t want to love Frankie. I just wanted to fix her. But the thing about babies is, you mix up formula for them in the middle of the night—unwrap their blankets, change their diapers, run your fingernail across the bottom of their tiny bare feet until they’re awake enough to eat—and the next thing you know they’ve got their little fingers wrapped around your soul, and they don’t ever let go.
I had to do things for Frankie. Whatever needed to be done. I just had to.
So I learned what hours DHS is open. What paperwork you have to take to the office, who to call if you swipe your Oregon Trail card at the grocery store and it turns out there’s no money on it because your mom missed the appointment and didn’t tell you. I learned where to go to get secondhand onesies. Who gives out free formula on what days. How to turn in cans for quarters to pay for laundry, where to find work when people say there isn’t any.
I learned. I’ve got a knack for it.
By the time I turned fourteen, I was making more money than my mom was, and I guess I started to think I was the man of the house. The rock the surf broke over. Invincible.
Then my dad showed up.
If I was the rock, he was the tide. Nothing I could do to keep him from dragging my mom back out to sea. All I could manage was to keep Frankie sheltered, give her somewhere to hide and huddle so he couldn’t drag her under, too.
After that, I started thinking about what else I could do.
Just working and keeping shit together the way I was already—it wasn’t ever going to be good enough. I had to give Frankie a life somewhere else, somewhere better, or she was going to end up like all the other girls, screwing twelve-year-old boys in supply closets, getting screwed over again and again by some worthless bastard she’s decided she’s in love with.
I couldn’t stand the thought of it.
When I was old enough to drive, I got a job at this ritzy golf course twenty-five miles away. I got that job on purpose, because I knew if there was anywhere I could meet the right people, study them, figure out how to become one of them, it was there.
I worked my way up to caddying, which is how I met Dr. Tomlinson. I caddied for him once when his usual guy was sick, and then he requested me and I got to be his usual guy.
This golf course I’m talking about—when I say it’s ritzy, I mean it’s so ritzy that people fly there from all over the world, just to play golf, and once they pick their caddy they keep the same caddy for as long as they want. It’s swank.
So, anyway, Dr. T is rich—an anesthesiologist—and his wife comes from money. I’ve been in their house, high up on a bluff with a view over the golf course. It’s huge, clean, everything immaculate, nothing broken or out of place.
That house looked like everything I wanted for Frankie. A fortress that would protect her from my dad, from pain, from making stupid, f*cked-up decisions and wasting her life.
I saw that house, and I wanted it. I wanted what he had.
I guess Dr. T saw something in me, too. The weediness in me. My willingness to work, to grow toward any kind of light I can find. He said I reminded him of himself back when he was a dirt-poor farm kid in Iowa, desperate to do something with his life.
I make him feel big, is what he means. Show him who he was and how far he’s gotten.
Dr. T made me his project. He taught me how to talk so I don’t sound ignorant. He told me when I was acting like trash, how to fit in among people like him. He and his wife don’t have kids, and he kind of adopted me.
His wife—she didn’t want a kid. She took me out in the woods and told me to lift up her skirt. Took me in the pool. Took me into her bedroom when Dr. T wasn’t around.
She wasn’t the only woman to use me, or even the first. She wanted into my pants. I wanted her money. A fair exchange, I figured.
Dr. T told me they would send me to the college where he’d gone, the best college, according to him. If I could get the grades and get in, they would ship me off to Putnam, Iowa, with full tuition. Room and board would be up to me.
The Tomlinsons would do that for me. They liked me that much.
I didn’t deserve it, but I took it.
I worked my ass off to get in to Putnam. I did things I’m proud of, and I did things Dr. T would kill me for if he found out. I did them so I could get here, and I’m here so I can get a good degree and meet the right people to give me a leg up in life.
I did them for Frankie and my mom.
I’m not ashamed. The world isn’t some flawless place where everything works. It’s a f*cking mess, and if I have to cut corners or break the law to get where I need to be, fine. If I have to trade sex for money, for opportunity, I’m still better off using my dick than wasting my life, losing my heart.
Love is what f*cks people up. Love is the undertow.
My mom taught me that.
At Putnam, I’m not the same person I am back home. Here, I’m a student, a worker, an actor mouthing lines. I’m an impostor, but I’m a good one. I know exactly how I’m supposed to behave, what I can get away with saying and doing, when I need to shut the f*ck up and keep my head down, no matter how much I don’t want to.
I know the rules. I know where they bend, and I’m good at bending them, because for a guy like me, bending them is the only way.
But bending is bending and breaking is breaking. Except for that one f*ckup with Caroline, I didn’t break the rules. I broke the law but not the rules.
I guess when I f*ck up, I tend to go epic.
“Get your fingers out of there.”
Krishna is bent over the mixing bowl, poking at the nine-grain-bread dough. I take the towel out of my waistband and snap him across the back of the neck.
“I said get your fingers out.”
He straightens and wipes his hand on his jeans. Flour released from the towel drifts in a cloud around him. “I just want to see if it feels like an ass.”
“That is some perverted shit.”
“You’re the one who told me.”
“No way did I say that. Wash your hands if you’re going to touch it. That’s all I ask.”
“I did before I came over here.”
“You did not.”
“I did too. I always wash my hands after.”
After, in this case, means, after I roll out of her bed. Half the time Krishna crashes my night shift, he’s wasted. The other half the time, he’s just gotten laid.
Tonight, I’m pretty sure it’s both.
“Maybe you should wash your hands before, quit spreading scabies all over campus.”
“Scabies? Dude, that’s sick. My body is a f*cking temple.”
“And I’m sure your women appreciate it, but I don’t know where those fingers have been, so you’re going to wash them again before you touch that dough or I’ll smack the shit out of you.”
He lifts both hands in surrender. “All right, Captain, all right.” Heading toward the sink, he asks, “What crawled up your ass tonight?”
Krishna scrubs his hands. I clean the bowl of the mixer with a scraper and soapy water, then dry it and polish it until it shines.
I like working alone. There’s no one around to make a big f*cking deal of what mood I’m in.
There’s no one to make me notice I’ve been in a bad mood for weeks, because every time I see Nate Hetherington, I want to punch him again.
I must not have hit him hard enough last time. He’s still smiling that smarmy f*cking smile.
Krishna puts both hands in my nine-grain dough and starts massaging it with his eyes closed, his expression all blissed out. He acts like such a dipshit, you’d never know he was some kind of math prodigy.
“I’m not going to let you f*ck it, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“Shh,” he says. “I’m comparing.”
“That girl I was with tonight. Penelope.”
“With the dark hair?” I ask. “Kind of big?”
“Why, you like her? You know if you’d told me, I wouldn’t—”
“Nah, it’s fine. She’s my lab partner.”
“She’s got an ass on her,” he says.
“I don’t want to hear about it.”
It’s not that I care about Penelope one way or the other. I just don’t want to go to lab and have to think about Krishna bending her over a railing or whatever.
He’d tell me all the details if I didn’t forbid him to. Krishna will tell anybody any goddamn thing. Back home, a guy who bragged as much as he does would get his ass beat on a regular basis. When I met him last year, I thought I’d probably kill him inside of a week, and there goes my big chance.
He has a way of making you like him, though. F*ck me if I could tell you what it is.
He smacks the dough lightly. “This doesn’t compare. Plus, it’s all lumpy.”
“It’s the nine-grain. It’s supposed to be lumpy.”
When he thinks I’m not looking, he pinches off some dough and puts it in his mouth. Then he licks his finger.
“That’s it. If you touch one more thing, you’re leaving.”
“You’d get lonely without me here to keep you company.”
“Yeah, I’ll cry all over the baguettes and tell Bob to charge the suckers extra for artisanal salt.”
Bob owns the bakery. He hired me as extra labor for the Thanksgiving rush last November, but I made myself so indispensable that he kept me on, eventually giving me a few overnights a week. He’s close to retirement, and he doesn’t really give a f*ck anymore as long as the place opens and closes and there’s something to sell. He’s been letting me experiment with the bread, make new kinds to see if the customers go for it. It’s a kick.
Plus, the bakery is a great place to move weed. There was already a tradition of Bob selling warm muffins and cookies to college students in the wee hours—stoners with the munchies, students pushing the edge of an all-nighter. I keep up the tradition, but the ones who text me first and slip a wad of cash into my hand get more than a muffin in their paper bakery bag.
Krishna’s running the finger he licked around the lip of the giant mixing bowl. I go for the towel again, but he sees it coming and grabs it out of my hand. I let him. I’m not fighting over a hand towel.
“I’ve got work to do, you know.”
“What have you got to do? Watch dough rise. This is the most boring job in the world.”
Since he got here, I’ve been washing dishes in water hot enough to scald his never-worked-a-day-in-his-life skin.
I don’t know why I keep him around. He skips class, doesn’t have a job, drinks too much, sticks his dick in anything that moves. I shouldn’t like him.
He just kind of stuck himself onto me.
I’d planned to live by myself this year. I found a basement apartment for cheap and got permission from the college to live off campus, which saves a fortune on room and board.
Krishna saw the lease on my desk and begged me to take him with me.
He ended up finding a bigger place, above a shop, and promised to pay the rent if I’d lease it and let him take a room. I agreed, because he’s good for it. Krishna’s parents are loaded.
He dusts off the countertop with the towel, hops up on it, and draws a grid in the flour on the cool metal surface. “Will it cheer you up if I tell you your girl’s sitting out front in her car again?”
I look up, which is just stupid. First off, I can’t see her from back here. I can only see her if I walk to the other side of the room and look out the front window—and then she can see me, which I don’t want her to.
Second, she’s not my girl.
“Ha!” Krishna says. “You’re so easy.”
Yeah. That’s the third thing. He picked up on my Caroline fixation real quick last year, and he taunts me with it.
Ever since I hit Nate last month, she’s been parking at the bakery a couple of nights a week. She doesn’t come in. She just sits out there when she’s supposed to be sleeping.
I saw her at the library today, bent over her notebook, writing something. The sun was streaming in over her table, making her hair and her skin glow gold. She looked fragile. Tired.
I can’t stand her being out there. I want her to go away.
I want to not have to think about her.
Of course, maybe she’s not even out there. Krishna could be yanking my chain. He’s hoping I’ll ask, and I don’t want to give him the satisfaction.
“You know anybody Vietnamese?” he says.
“I need to find somebody Vietnamese to teach me how they play tic-tac-toe. I’m working on this combinatorics thing—”
“Is she out there or not?”
He grins. His teeth are blinding. The grin is at least 50 percent of the reason he gets so much tail. “Yeah, she’s out there.”
“Did you talk to her?”
“You told me to leave her alone.”
I put the yeast away in the fridge and look at the list of stuff I need to get finished before my shift’s over.
I glance at the clock.
Krishna’s still talking about tic-tac-toe.
My phone buzzes in my pocket. I pull it out, see my mom’s number, but the text sounds like Frankie.
What r u doing?
I text back. Working. Why are you awake?
Cant sleep, she writes. Sing 2 me
It’s after ten back home. She should have been asleep hours ago. She’s only nine.
Why not Mom?
That’s what I was afraid of.
What song do you want?
So I type out the first verse of “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” line by line. She sends me a smiley face.
Go to sleep, Frank.
When I put my phone back in my pocket, it feels heavier.
I don’t like Frankie texting me after ten o’clock.
I don’t like that my mom’s not home or that she emailed me asking for five hundred dollars this morning but didn’t say what it was for. I tried to call Bo, mom’s boyfriend, who they live with, but he didn’t pick up and he hasn’t called back.
A couple thousand miles away from them, I can only know what they tell me, and Mom only tells me what she thinks I’ll want to hear. I’m supposed to have faith they’ll all be fine without me.
When you’ve had my life, faith is in short supply.
And God damn it, I don’t like knowing Caroline is out there in the dark, alone, awake when she should be sleeping.
I’m sick of f*cking worrying about her all the time.
That’s the worst thing about Caroline—the endless nagging worry of her. It was bad enough last year, when I met her and fell for her and swore to myself I’d never touch her again, all in the same day.
It was bad enough when I started dreaming about her, waking up with my cock hard and jerking off in the sheets, thinking about her mouth on me, her legs wrapped around my waist, what her face might look like when she comes.
Bad enough, but fine. Whatever. I can ignore that kind of shit forever. I could jerk off a million times thinking about Caroline and still not need to talk to her.
The problem with Caroline isn’t that I want her. The problem is that I want to help her, want to learn her, want to fix her, and I can’t do that. I can’t get caught up with her, or she’ll distract me and I’ll wreck everything.
I’ve got too much at stake to let myself fall for some impossible girl.
I’m not going out there.
I look at the clock again.
Krishna sticks his head in the big industrial fridge. “You have any cookie dough in here?”
“No. It’s time for you to take off. I’ve got to start baking soon.”
He cocks his head and gives me an assessing look. He has a streak of wet gunk on one cheek and a drift of flour in his hair.
“You’re trying to make me leave because you’re gonna go talk to her, aren’t you?”
F*ck it, I am.
I am, because I can’t not do it anymore. I’ve been not going out to talk to her for weeks.
“I’ll bring you some breakfast later,” I tell him. “What do you want, one of those lemon poppy-seed muffins?”
“Bring me one of those ones with chocolate chips.”
“You can have all the f*cking chocolate chips. Just get out of here.” I push him toward the back door, into the alley.
“Far be it from me to get between you and your lady friend.”
“You know it’s because you say things like ‘lady friend’ that I’m making you go, right?”
“Nah, it’s because you’ve got serious privacy issues. You could be a serial killer, and nobody would know. Or, like, a secret stripper.”
“As if I have time for another job.”
“That’s true. You’d have to stop sleeping. But it might be worth it to have chicks shoving cash in your jock.”
“They do that, anyway, whenever I go out dancing.”
“Oh, yeah?” Krishna’s face lights up. “You got moves?”
I don’t dance. If I need to get drunk, I do it at the bar in town that doesn’t card.
If I need to get laid, I find somebody who doesn’t go to the college, take her home, make her happy, and clear out. Townie women don’t expect anything from me.
“No,” I say. “I don’t need moves. I’ve got tight pants and an elephant dick.”
“You’re not driving, are you?”
“I walked. I can knock on her window if you want. Send her your way.”
“Thanks, but no.” I turn him in the other direction, pointing him toward the apartment. It’s only two blocks, and I’ve never heard of anybody getting mugged in Putnam.
“Don’t forget my muffin,” he calls as he turns the corner.
After Krishna’s gone, the kitchen is so silent it seems to echo. This is my favorite part of the night, what comes next—the part when I dump out the proofed dough, weigh it into loaves, shape it, fill the pans, and fire up the ovens. It’s an act of creation, and I’m the god of the bread.
I look at the clock and measure out the minutes. Ten.
Ten, at a minimum, before I go look out the window. Maybe she’ll be gone, and I won’t have to do this. I can rule over this tiny world, messing with temperatures and proofing times, how much flour and how much liquid, how many minutes in the oven. It’s like pulling levers. Up or down. More or less. Simple.
I wish Caroline would let me do it—let me be the god of the bread and leave me alone. But she’s out there, messing up my kingdom, and I’m afraid of how much I want to go talk to her.
I think of Frankie on the phone. Of the money I sent my mom this afternoon.
I promise myself I won’t go to the door for fifteen minutes.
F*ck it, twenty. I won’t go for twenty.
I can’t give in to this, because the worst thing about Caroline is that I’ve never promised her anything, but she’s here, anyway. It’s as if she knows.
She doesn’t know. She can’t.
She can’t know that when I make a promise, I keep it.
Or that I’m afraid if I start promising her things, I won’t ever be able to quit.
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For the next (and last) serial instalment, make sure you check Angie’s Dreamy Reads on 28 January…
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Robin York grew up at a college, went to college, signed on for some more college, and then married a university professor. She still isn’t sure why it didn’t occur to her to write New Adult sooner. Writing as Ruthie Knox, she is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance, including RITA-finalists About Last Night and Room at the Inn. She moonlights as a mother, makes killer salted caramels, and sorts out thorny plot problems while running, hiking, or riding her bike.