Don’t Deny Me

Don't Deny Me

They had it all—until he broke her heart.

Now he’s back, and the heat between them cannot be denied…

Don’t Deny Me, now available for the first time as a complete novel, from bestselling author Megan Hart.

Alice and Mick had it all: the happy days, the heartfelt evenings, the hot, slow nights. Mick knew she was too much, too good, more than he deserved…and when Mick couldn’t give her what she needed, in a moment of crisis, they lost everything. Torn apart, Alice tries to pry him out of her life and move on—until a not-so-chance meeting at an old friend’s party brings them face-to-face once more. Now they’re talking again, Alice can’t escape the burning in her chest whenever he’s near, the way his eyes still follow her around the room…but she won’t repeat the mistakes of her past. Because people, and relationships, can’t really ever change.

But if Alice does decide to let him back into her heart—and into her bed—will Mick be ready to show her the man that he’s become…and take a chance on love? And can Alice ever trust him again?

Part 1:

He’s back, and the heat between them cannot be denied…

Part One of the passionate new e-serial novel from bestselling author Megan Hart.

Alice and Mick had it all: the happy days, the heartfelt evenings, the hot, slow nights. But Mick couldn’t give her what she needed, and in a moment of crisis, they lost everything. Torn apart, Alice tries to pry him out of her life and move on—until a not-so-chance meeting at an old friend’s party brings them face-to-face once more. Now they’re talking again, Alice can’t escape the burning in her chest whenever he’s near, the way his eyes still follow her around the room…but she won’t repeat the mistakes of her past. Passion alone is nothing to build a life on. Or is it?

Part 2:

They had it all—until he broke her heart…

Part Two of the new e-serial novel from bestselling author Megan Hart.

From the moment he sees the girl in the green dress across the room, Mick is spellbound. He knows she’s too much, too good, more than he deserves…but he’s also sure that Alice is worth everything he’s got. So why is it that the more he tries, the more he seems to fail? Mick can’t figure out where he’s gone wrong. Alice needs something that he still can’t figure out how to give. And when it matters most, will Mick find a way to be there when she falls? The only thing he knows for sure is that he’s not going to lose Alice without a fight. . .

Part 3:

Have the flames finally gone out—or will they burn brighter than ever before?

Part Three of the new e-serial from bestselling author Megan Hart.

Mick is determined to be the kind of man who is worthy of Alice…and vows to hold on to her and never let go. But can people, and relationships, really change? If Alice does decide to let him back into her heart—and into her bed—will Mick be ready to show her the man that he’s become…and take a chance on love? And can Alice ever trust him again?

 

Excerpt Part One:

This is how it works, at the end of things. You stop finding reasons to talk. You make excuses to avoid each other, or worse, to fight. All the funny quirks and flaws you used to find endearing and charming, the bits and pieces that made you fall in love so hard and fast, they all start to curl your lip. In the beginning, you never want to leave, and in the end, all you do is struggle to stay.

And eventually, you stop struggling.

—Alice to Mick

* * *

Alice Clark hadn’t been to Bernie’s place in about ten years, but nothing outrageous had changed. The slim saplings planted in perfect formation in the backyard to be used as bases for the softball and kickball games had turned into thick-branched shade trees. The garden had been expanded. The furniture in the living room had been rearranged but contained the same comfy, overstuffed chairs and sofas with plenty of tables for the placing of drinks. The floor-to-ceiling shelves still overflowed with books. The kitchen had been updated with new appliances, but the center island around which they’d always all gathered was the same, as were the wine and spice racks and the scent of something delicious simmering on the huge six-burner stove.

“Hello, beautiful girl.” Bernie greeted her with a kiss on the cheek and a lingering hug. He handed her a glass of red wine and pointed to the platter of meats and cheeses on the island. “Help yourself.”

“What can I do?” As the first to arrive, Alice felt it was the question to ask even though it was well known that she didn’t know a paring knife from a potato peeler and could burn water if given the chance.

“You can sit and drink wine and stay out of my way,” Bernie told her. “Cookie’s getting changed. She’ll be out in a minute. Sit, Alice.”

Alice sat and sipped the wine with a grateful sigh. She closed her eyes for a moment, relishing the thick, rich flavor. Bernie had exemplary taste in wines. Well, in everything, really. Including his taste in women, she thought as Cookie floated into the kitchen with a warm grin and open arms.

“Alice! So good to see you! It’s been forever. I mean, literally, it feels like forever.” Cookie hugged Alice hard and ran a hand down the length of her hair. She stepped back to look her in the face. “Your hair is so long!”

“That’s what happens when you don’t cut it.” Alice laughed.

Cookie patted her own cropped cut. Her hair had gone completely silver in the past ten years, but it suited her. “I couldn’t stand the upkeep for mine anymore. I went pixie a few years ago. What do you think?”

“It looks great.” Alice looked to Bernie, who was busy chopping shallots at the counter. Though she’d been in regular contact with both of them, she hadn’t seen either of them in a few years, and she hadn’t been to their house in much longer than that. “You both look great. The house, everything. I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve been here.”

Bernie glanced over his shoulder. “You’re here now. That’s what counts. The others are coming along later. And on Sunday, the picnic is going to be epic. Cookie told me we didn’t have to invite every single person we ever knew, but I told her that of course we did.”

“But only the ones we love the best are invited to stay over! We’re so glad you decided to come share our celebration with us,” Cookie said. “It wouldn’t be the same without you here.”

“It’s like old times,” Bernie added.

Old times, Alice thought with another sip of wine. Some of them good. Most of them, actually. It was just that the bad times tended to overshadow all the other memories.

“I’m sorry,” she said abruptly.

Cookie, who’d been delicately loading a thin slice of crusty bread with a layer of shaved ham and brie, looked at her. “For what?”

“Alice means because it’s been so long since she came for the weekend.” Bernie flourished the knife and pushed the chopped shallots into a sizzling pan. The smell was immediate and glorious, and he added a splash of white wine.

The best part of having good friends was how easy it was to slip back into that friendship, no matter how long it had been since you’d seen each other. And how you forgave each other for that distance. Impulsively, Alice hugged Cookie again.

“Thank you for inviting me,” she said. “Over and over again, until finally I stopped being stupid and agreed to come.”

Cookie looked solemn. “We wanted our twenty-year anniversary to include everyone who’s been an important part of our lives. That’s you, Alice. And others, of course. But I’d have understood if you felt like you couldn’t come. . . . You’ll be all right. Won’t you? I mean, it’s been years. And we wouldn’t have invited both of you if we thought it was going to be . . . painful.”

Oh, it would be painful, Alice was sure of that. There was no way around the past, no forgetting how it had felt to love and lose and hate and grieve. But it would be the pain of memory, bittersweet and easily borne.

“It’s been a long time,” she said simply in way of response, and sipped wine.

Excerpt Part Two:

“I don’t like it when you don’t call me back,” Alice said after a second or so.

Her voice had been matter-of-fact and low, not confrontational or bitchy. Still, it set him back a little. Mick’s fingers twitched on her bare skin.

“Okay,” was all he said.

Alice was silent.

“I can’t always get back to you right away,” Mick said after another few seconds had passed. “I mean, sometimes I’m busy.”

She shifted to look at him. “Well, yeah. I know that. I’m just saying that in general, I don’t like it when you don’t answer me. I know sometimes you’re busy, we all are. But when you just don’t answer me at all, well, that’s not cool.”

“I always answer you.” Defensive, Mick moved away from her a little bit.

“You didn’t today. I called and left a message for you, and you didn’t answer.”

He thought about that, knowing she was right but still not willing to take blame for what he didn’t think needed it. “I would have called you tomorrow, Alice. You know that.”

“I hope so,” was all she said and tucked herself back against him.

Shit. This wasn’t an argument, but it had the flavor of one. He thought of a comeback and discarded it. Then another. He listened to the soft sound of her breathing slow and felt her relax against him. She was falling asleep, but now Mick was wide-eyed. Not quite with indignation, that was too strong a word for it. But definitely irritation.

“I always answer you,” he said again. “Maybe it takes me awhile, but I do.”

Alice’s breathing caught, and she twitched. Her voice, thick with sleep, rasped. “You didn’t today, and we could’ve had lunch together or something, because you were in York, but you didn’t call me back.”

“I was busy working, Alice, I didn’t have time for lunch.”

She pushed away from him this time to sit up. She rubbed at her face. “Well, I didn’t know that. If you’d called to let me know, I wouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.”

Mick sat, too. “What’s the big deal? I don’t get it.”

“It’s just that . . . I was missing you. And when you IM’d me, I got excited, I thought maybe we’d get to see each other in the middle of the week, and I wouldn’t have to wait until Friday or Saturday.” She paused. “If you’d called me back and told me you were too busy with work, I’d have been disappointed, but I’d have understood. But you didn’t.”

“We still got to see each other,” Mick pointed out. “You’re here now.”

“Because I called you! Because Jay asked me out for happy hour, and I was close enough to stop here! That’s the only reason!”

This was not the kind of conversation he wanted to be having at nearly two in the morning. And he definitely didn’t want her to start crying or some shit like that, but there were tears in her voice. With a scowl, Mick ran his hands through his hair to keep himself from saying something he’d regret.

“Never mind,” Alice said sullenly. She moved to the edge of the bed, her back to him. “I’ll be out of here by five or so.”

Mick lay back, staring at the ceiling, jaw clenched. Beside him, too far away to touch but close enough he could still feel every move she made, Alice was as still as a corpse. Maybe she’d been able to fall asleep, but there was no way Mick was going to.

She was right. He had not called her back, nor had he intended to. Well, sure, he would’ve called her the next day, but he really hadn’t returned her call today on purpose. No special reason, other than she’d caught him when he was busy and by the time he got home all he wanted was to eat dinner and watch a few hours of TV and crash. He’d thought about calling her, but in the end, he’d been unable to muster the energy for a conversation.

“I needed a break,” Mick said aloud.

From the edge of the bed, Alice made no sound but the subtle, hesitant shift of her breathing.

“I was tired, and I knew if I called you back that you’d want me to meet up because I was so close, and I didn’t have time for lunch, so I figured you’d angle for dinner, and I really just wanted to get home.”

Quietly, smoothly, Alice sat. In the dark, she was only a silhouette, which meant he didn’t have to see her face. Mick wasn’t sure he wanted to.

“I see,” she said.

“I was tired.”

He heard her swallow. “Okay.”

“I would’ve called you tomorrow, Alice. You know I would have.”

“I don’t know that,” she told him, and shit, she was crying, he could hear it. “I hope that you would, but I don’t know that you would. Not really. Because I thought you’d call me back today, and you didn’t. And I thought you’d call me back last week, but you didn’t then, either. So, I get it. You needed a break. Sorry. I shouldn’t have come over—”

“Don’t,” he said as a way to cut her off before this got out of hand.

She shrugged off his touch and got out of bed. “Don’t what? Go home? If you need a break so bad, I shouldn’t be here, right? Let me give you a break.”

“No, Alice, c’mon, that’s not—”

She was already taking off her borrowed clothes, searching for her own, but with only the light coming in from the window, she was having a hard time. Mick watched her for half a minute, then got out of bed. He tried to take her by the arm, but she pulled away.

“I guess it’s fine when your dick is in my mouth,” she snapped. “Then you don’t need a break, huh?”

“That’s a shitty thing to say!”

She whirled on him, wearing only her panties and clutching the rest of her clothes to her chest. “It’s true, though, isn’t it? When I try to make plans with you, you can never manage to give me more than a day’s notice or so. You don’t return my calls or texts sometimes, and now I find out it’s because you need a break. A break, Mick? I see you once or twice a week, and I haven’t ever asked you for more than that, because we live just far enough apart to make it kind of a pain to get together. But guess what, I would make the effort to see you, even if I have to get up at five a.m. to get to work the next day. Or even just for dinner and then we both went home. I’d make it work to see you, Mick, because to me, it’s worth the effort.”

She’d stopped fighting to get away from him, but she didn’t let him pull her closer. His fingers had dug into her upper arms, and he relaxed his grip. He let his hands slide down her arms, then let her go.

“When you love somebody, you should make them worth the effort,” Alice whispered.

She looked at him, waiting. He knew what she wanted to hear, but he couldn’t say it. He could tell her he loved her a dozen times, and it probably wouldn’t be enough, because that was how love worked. You fell into it like a deep, dark pit, and you couldn’t get out.

Mick frowned. “I took you to see my family. Isn’t that making an effort?”

“I liked meeting them. Yes, it was.” She put her clothes on the chair and slipped on her shirt, buttoning it over bare flesh. “And when we are together, Mick, we have a good time.”

“I have a good time with you, too.”

She looked at him. He could barely make out her features, but he could see enough to know that she wasn’t crying. At least there was that.

“It’s not how it feels when we’re together, Mick. It’s how it feels when we’re apart.” Here she gave a low and bitter laugh. “When I’m not with you, I’m never quite sure if you’re thinking about me. Or how you feel about me. If you like me or love me or just want to fuck me, I have no idea. And I shouldn’t have to guess that. Not ever.”

“Why does it have to be all or nothing with you?” The words came out angry, and yeah, he was kind of pissed, but more than that, disappointed. Stung. “Why can’t we just have fun?”

“Because this isn’t just fun for me!” Alice’s shout shoved him back a step. “Not anymore. Dammit, Mick, I’m not asking you to tell me you love me if you don’t, but don’t play with my feelings this way. That’s not fair.”

“I do love you,” Mick said slowly. “On some level.”

Trivia:

  1. Crane Lake is fictional, located in a nebulous, magical area between Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Don’t try to find it on a map. You won’t. (But if you do, tell me how to get there!)
  2. When writing Don’t Deny Me Part Two, I had to research timeframes for when texting became really popular. Because it feels like it’s been around forever, but ten or so years ago…it was NOT as cheap or prevalant! Oh, technology.
  3. Alice is named Alice because when I was writing it, I was watching The L Word, and I really liked the name Alice.
  4. Mick and Alice were frustrating characters to write, because both were stubborn and kind of immature. But they felt very real to me (as most of my characters do.)
  5. Between the time I wrote this story and the time I edited it, I’d forgotten a particular scene, so during revisions, I re-read it. And then it was like punching myself in the face over and over again. I hated myself for being such a dick to myself. But hey, fiction.
  6. I always knew in my head what Alice’s house looked like, but I could never really picture Mick’s house.
  7. Mick’s mom grew up in the town where my mom grew up. 🙂
  8. Alice wears a bikini because, to be honest, I never really have, and hey, if you can’t vicariously wear a bikini through your characters, what CAN you do?
  9. I love the relationship between Alice and her sister. I love strong family relationships in romances! I write a lot about messed up families, so writing one in which everyone loves each other was satisfying.
  10. Mick and Alice’s messages to each other kind of broke my heart.