Time Exposure, Click Duet 2
“There's just something about Persephone Autumn's brilliant words that had me feeling like it was my own personal journey so I was extra emotional to be honest LOL! So, buckle up for a highly emotional ride as I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMEND!”Jennifer
“This book was amazing. You feel all their sadness, heartbreak, excitement, and happiness. Every step of the way. Highly recommend!!”Trinity
“Gavin and Cora just keep getting better and better! Gavin just captures your heart and you can't help but be rooting for him, the whole time.”Sam
“Cora and Gavin are the perfect couple and their story spans thirteen years and every word that you read brings out every raw emotion and made you feel every ounce of heartbreak, pain, love and laughter that Cora and Gavin felt.”Carmela
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Thirteen years ago, I abandoned the love of my life.
Thirteen years ago, the love of my life vanished without a word.
Fate has given us another chance.
Jealousy is trying to rip us apart.
I refuse to lose her again.
Will he actually come back to me?
Cora said words mean nothing. Not unless I back them with actions.
I will flip my world upside down. Relinquish everything. All for her.
Gavin said he will fix everything. Fix us. His promises are unreliable.
Until I see it with my own eyes, hope is not an option. My heart can’t handle it.
Fate brought us back together, but time and distance change people.
Can we overcome our obstacles? Will our love stand the test of time?
Release date: June 8, 2021
Publisher: Between Words Publishing LLC
Print pages: 292
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Time Exposure, Click Duet 2
“Like I said, I’m Layla. Gavin’s fiancée.”
Fuck, fuck, fuck…
Why the hell is she doing this? What does Layla stand to gain by doing this? By ruining the one chance I have at getting Cora back. What did Alyson offer her in return?
Cora’s eyes grow impossibly wide as her soft green irises darken and tears pool in the corners. Her jaw drops as she stands stoic, eyes bouncing between me and Layla. For a moment, she doesn’t move a muscle or utter a single word. And her stillness scares the shit out of me.
When her synapsis fire again, Cora takes a few cautious steps forward, bends over and picks her shoes up from the floor. I stand helpless, less than five feet away, and observe her as she squats down to sit on the floor and slides the sneakers on. Her movements are slow and measured. She makes it a point to make zero eye contact with me as she ties her laces with precision. The longer she keeps her head down, focusing on the task, the less I breathe.
Every moment we shared over the last week just nose-dived off my balcony. Every word I said, every promise I made, she will now perceive as a lie. After all this time, after everything we have endured, our second chance at forever will be ruined at the hands of two petty, jealous, greedy bitches.
But not if I get a say in the matter.
I rip my arm from Layla’s grip and jerk away from her. Heat and anger boil my blood and explode from my pores as I turn to face Layla. “Fucking leave. Now!” My voice is venomous and louder than she expects and she startles. Her momentary wide eyes twitch before she yanks on her bitter bitch mask.
“What the fuck, Gavin?” Layla bites back. “You don’t want your soul mate to know about us?” The way she rolls soul mate over her tongue is dangerous. Poisonous. Vile.
What the fuck is Layla’s deal? She has never been like this. Never stepped up and blocked me from what I want. Acting like a jealous girlfriend. Or a straight-up bitch. This is a whole new side and it disgusts me.
“There is no us,” I snap. “Your need for attention has no bounds, does it? Get the fuck away from me. Your little arrangement… done. I’m done.”
I shove Layla out the door and her eyes widen once more before I slam the door in her face. Not sure what provoked her to act vindictively, but as soon as I fix things with Cora, I will settle things with Layla.
I walk over to where Cora sits on the floor and hesitantly kneel in front of her. Lowering my head, I try to get her to look up at me. Her head hangs low as her eyes hone in on her shoes. Slowly, she loops and ties them, but doesn’t peek up. I desperately want to reach forward, slip my fingers under her chin and tip her head back so she will look at me. But I don’t. Because it scares the shit out of me to see what is in her eyes right now.
“Cora? Baby? Look at me,” I whisper. My voice is gruff and dry, and I don’t recognize the pitch with my own ears.
Her chin pops up and her eyes snap to mine. “Don’t you dare,” she seethes as she scoots away from me with a finger pointed at my face.
“What?” I ask, confused. “Don’t what, baby?” This won’t be good, but I need her to tell me what she is thinking. What she is feeling. Because fuck, I am scared shitless.
Cora unsteadily rises to her feet and locks eyes with me as I stand. I take a step in her direction and she steps back before lifting her hands to stop me. Tears well in her eyes. Her exposed skin painted in red blotchy patterns. Eyes narrow and straighten over and over as she assesses me. Pain etches the lines of her forehead as her chin starts to quiver.
And fuck if I am not losing my goddamn mind because she won’t let me get any closer to her. Won’t let me touch her. Won’t let me connect with and soothe her. The once-old stab wound in my heart slices wide open and the pain of this whole situation lances me.
I cannot lose her. Not again.
“Don’t call me baby.” My term of endearment for her spits out like acid on her tongue. “Not after some woman you’ve never mentioned tells me she’s your fiancée. What the actual fuck, Gavin?” With each word Cora speaks, her volume goes from soft to livid in a matter of seconds.
Cora isn’t just angry with me or this situation, she is fucking furious. Can’t say I blame her, but I wish there was an abbreviated way to explain it. One where she would understand. One where the nightmare we are currently stuck in will transition into your average dream.
Unfortunately, this nightmare is very real. And it won’t go away with the blink of an eye.
Just out of arm’s reach, her frame shakes as she clenches her fists so tight her knuckles whiten. Her jaw tightens as she stares at me and subtly shakes her head. Eyes glassy, but the tears have yet to spill down her cheeks.
I take another step forward and she steps back again. Each step she takes away from me is a knife twisting my heart. Raw and painful and a reminder of the suffering we both endured thirteen years ago. A pain neither of us will survive again.
Holding my hands up in surrender, I gaze into her wet, red eyes. “Baby,” I say, cringing when she grinds her teeth. “Please, let me explain. It’s not what you think. Layla is just a friend. We aren’t actually engaged.”
Cora cocks her head and glares at me, unbelieving. Her eyes lock on mine and study them as if I just asked her to read my palm. She scrutinizes them a moment before eyeing the lines of my face and finally dropping to stare at my lips. I know what she is doing. Because Cora and I don’t have to speak for reality to be stated. So, instead of asking me more questions, she tries to read the truth through my expressions and body language.
And god I hope she sees the truth in my words. Because they are nothing but real.
Layla has never been anything other than a friend. Our relationship has never skirted any line other than friendship. And Layla stating she is my fiancée… there is more to the story than meets the eye. A story privy to me, Layla, and Alyson. A story I hope Cora gives me a chance to explain.
Just when I spot a glimmer of hope, Cora speaks. And her words are far from what I expect to come out of her mouth.
“This can’t happen, Gavin.” She gestures between us. “This is too much. Even if you are telling me the truth now, I can’t deal with bullshit drama like this. Women claiming ownership over you. Women saying vicious things to steal you from me. Why would you hide something like this from me? Because you thought it would never be an issue between us?” She pauses to catch her breath. “I knew this was a mistake. I need to leave.”
No. No, no, no. This cannot be happening. This cannot be fucking happening. I cannot lose her. Not again. And not over this.
She swipes her purse from the table and starts for the door. I freeze momentarily, not wanting to believe this is my reality. That I am losing her again after finally getting her back. It’s like I am sixteen all over again. Like I don’t have a say in the matter. Like what I want doesn’t count and won’t be taken into consideration.
I refuse to let this be how we end. Downright refuse.
The heavy hotel room door slams shut and snaps me back to reality. No!
I bolt to the door and yank it open. Stepping out into the hall, I look left then right before spotting Cora. She isn’t running, but her feet trek along the carpet faster than a steady walk. I sprint after her, giving no fucks that I have just locked myself out of my room.
“Cora,” I yell. “Wait. Please, let me fix this.”
She stands in front of the elevator banks and religiously mashes the down button like her life depends on it. Her teary eyes glance my way and it rips open every suture in my stitched-up heart.
I did this to her. I hurt her. Again.
The elevator car arrives and she steps in, the doors closing just as I approach. Damnit. I smash the down button, hopeful the elevator car she stepped in reopens. Seconds later, the other set of doors opens and I jump in and hit the button for the bottom floor. The car pings as it passes each floor, my heart wrenching tighter and tighter with each second I spend away from her. Not knowing if she has already reached the lobby and is darting out the doors to her car.
When the doors slide open, I dash out and scan the lobby for Cora. My eyes land on her as she weaves between people in the full reception area and I race toward her. As long as she remains in my line of sight, I will catch her. I will not let her go this easily. Not after the strides we have made this week. Not after I got back the only person who matters.
“Cora,” I yell. Instantly, every set of eyes on the ground floor whips my way. “Please wait.”
She peers over her shoulder, tears trailing down her cheeks, and makes a beeline for the exit. Just as she makes it to the door, I catch up to her and grab hold of her arm. As badly as I want to haul her into me, to wrap my arms around her and pin her to my chest, I stop myself. Now is not the time. Although I won’t let her leave without a fight, I won’t be the man who doesn’t give her a choice. After everything we have endured, she deserves to choose what happens next.
“Let me go, Gavin,” she spits out as she tries to yank her arm from my grasp.
“No, baby. Please, let’s talk about this,” I beg. “Please let me explain everything. I wasn’t intentionally keeping this from you. And, like I said, it’s not real.”
Her soft, sad bloodshot eyes stare up at me, pleading with me to let her go as nonstop tears spill down her cheeks.
This pain, her pain… what she is experiencing in this very moment. If it is even remotely close to what she felt when I left thirteen years ago, I hate myself. I hate myself for doing this to her. For letting her experience such heartbreaking emotions. Again. No one should have to undergo this form of torture—once, let alone twice.
“Please, Gavin,” she mumbles, her eyes darting around the room. Embarrassment creases her brow as she squeezes her eyes shut. “Please just let me go.” When she opens her eyes, a new emotion paints her expression. Disparity and numbness. An emptiness that has me stumbling back, physically and mentally. “Can’t you see?”
See what? That I have inflicted the worst pain on the sole person I live and breathe for. Yes, I see it. I hate that I see it. But something twists in my gut and stabs at my heart. And I have a feeling her words have an ulterior meaning. Definition unbeknownst to me.
“See what, baby?” I ask, terrified to know the answer. Terrified of what she will say next.
I ache to touch her. Yearn to embrace her and pepper kisses on her hair, her temples, her forehead. But I fear the worst. That she will pull away. Reject me. And her rejection would sting worse than any words. So, I keep my hands at my sides and imagine all the ways I wish to right my wrongs.
“Isn’t it obvious?” she asks, not waiting for me to answer before she continues. “It’s like the universe is trying to tell us something.”
Cocking my head, I narrow my eyes in confusion. Is she suggesting what I think she is? That we don’t belong together. That as much as we love each other, we aren’t meant to have each other.
How could something so perfect not be meant to exist?
The universe isn’t trying to tell us shit. And if for some nonsensical reason she believes fate is telling us we don’t belong together; I will grab fate by the balls until it comprehends the truth. That Cora and I belong together. Always have and always will.
And until I fix this, nothing else matters.
“Baby, I have no idea what you’re thinking, but it better not be anything along the lines that we aren’t meant to be together. Because that’s bullshit and you know it.”
Cora turns away from me and walks out the exit with me hot on her heels. Her pace picks up and I jog to keep up with her. She darts past the valet and heads for the lot where she parked her car.
I will not suffocate her. She needs time to mull things over. But she has to know things between us won’t get better if we don’t discuss them. She needs to hear the whole story.
When she reaches her car, her hands dive in her purse and shove stuff left to right as she searches for her keys. She pulls out the fob and unlocks her car as I jog up to her.
“Baby, please don’t leave. Let’s go back up to my room and talk about this.” We need to talk, that is the only way to resolve this.
“No, Gavin. As much as I want this, as much as I want us to be together, it feels like the world is against us. And I can’t do it. I can’t fight anymore. I fought for so many years. Cried a million tears until my eyes couldn’t do it anymore. And it’s happening all over again. My heart fell in love with you all over again and I let it. Stupid, stupid girl. As soon as I allowed myself to be vulnerable, I got crushed. I feel like the earth is swallowing me whole, like it’s clawing at my insides and eating me alive. And I can’t deal with it. Can’t deal with you. Not now.”
Her words paralyze me. Make my limbs numb and my heart hollow. Pain spills out of her and infiltrates me like liquid poison. Slithers in my veins and takes up residence. And it doesn’t just hurt. It kills.
The first time we were separated, it was against what I wanted. Against what either of us wanted. But I had no say or power to stop my parents from moving us across the country for my mom’s promotion. Although I was older, I was still just a child.
Now, I may no longer be a child, but I inflict her with the same heartache and torture. Except this time around, our emotional state has evolved. We understand love and hope and pain and anguish. We grasp fear and hopelessness and sorrow and dejection. And in the blink of an hour, I have given all of them to her.
I have never hated myself as much as I do right now.
I step into her, a tear slipping down my cheek as she steps back and bumps into her car. But I ignore her retreat and reach up, framing her face in my hands. This will not be the last time I see her; I won’t let it be. This is not how our story ends.
“I fucked up, and I’m so sorry. So, so sorry. But I will fix this. I swear to you, I will fix this. And when I do, I’m coming back for you. You can count on it. Because, Cora” —I pause, pinching my eyes shut— “you and I belong together. No matter what obstacles come at us, we belong together. I love you. And I will always love you. Until my last breath. Until my dying day.”
I lean down, press my lips to hers and kiss her softly. Our tears blend at our joined lips and I don’t know which are hers and which are mine. When I break the kiss, I lick our tears from my lips and step away. She stares at me a second as hundreds of thoughts invade her mind. Then she rushes to get in her car, starts the engine and drives away.
Away from me. Away from us.
I will give her time, but I won’t go down without a fight. Not this time. Never again.
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