Home > Beneath the Stars (Falling Stars #4)

Beneath the Stars (Falling Stars #4)
Author: A.L. Jackson

 

Prologue

 

 

Rhys

 

 

Six Months Earlier


Have you ever experienced a moment in your life that should have been commonplace?

Seemingly inconsequential?

No big deal?

Yet you couldn’t shake the feelin’ that it might change everything? That you were on some path you shouldn’t have been traveling, but you couldn’t stop yourself from doing it, anyway?

I guessed that was the way I was feeling when I sat tucked into a booth at the back of the rowdy, dank bar in my hometown of Dalton, South Carolina, sipping at a beer while I watched Maggie Fitzgerald, the baby sister of one of my closest friends, guzzle the last dregs of her margarita from the straw pursed between her lips.

The girl grinned around it in some kind of drunken ecstasy while I tried to pretend like I didn’t notice how fuckin’ gorgeous she was.

“Ahh, look at you, little miss drunkey drunk. You better watch yourself there, sweetness. You’re looking way too happy right about now,” I told her, voice rough with the tease and the assault of lust that took me over just looking at her. “Don’t want to have to carry you out of here.”

“Mmhmmmm…” Maggie hummed around the straw, barely loud enough that I could hear over the din. “I think I’m in love.”

I itched in my seat, dying to reach out and touch a girl who was so off-limits that just sitting there felt like committing a mortal sin.

See, I wasn’t exactly the type who got an A+ for good behavior.

I loved playing with fire.

But this?

It was different.

This was dancing into treachery. Treading into perilous waters.

It wasn’t like we were doin’ anything illegal.

Okay, at least we hadn’t been until the girl had gotten up to go to the restroom and had somehow managed to return with a full pitcher of margarita and a five-thousand-watt smile on her face.

Way too pleased with herself for being able to swindle some unknowing sucker into buying it for her, but not yet quite as pleased as she was right then.

She groaned around the straw as she slurped up the last bit. “Oh my goodness …why does this taste so good? This is the nectar of the gods,” she sang-slurred as she fumbled to pour the last of the pitcher into her glass.

I stretched my arms out on the back of the booth and pointed at her where she sat across from me. “Come tomorrow mornin’, you’re gonna realize tequila is actually the devil’s poison. Pretty sure you’re gonna be rockin’ a hangover like nobody’s business.”

“Will you hold my hair if I get sick?” She seemed way too eager by the prospect.

A rough chuckle climbed my throat. “You’re really tryin’ to get me in hot water, aren’t you, Mag Pie? Your brother finds out where you’re at tonight, and he’s gonna chop off my dick, and then what am I supposed to do with my life?”

I tried not to grin at the way her eyes bugged out when I brought attention to my cock.

“That would be bad,” she whispered the scandal before her expression shifted to something fierce. “But don’t you think it’s time I started thinking for myself? Started doing what I want to do?”

I knew Royce, Maggie’s older brother, wanted to keep her in a gilded cage, especially in light of the horrible shit that had gone down in her life.

On some level, I got it. I had this crazy need to protect her, too.

The other half of me?

He wanted to open the latch and set her free.

There was no question this girl was itchin’ to fly. Spread her wings, step off the ledge, and soar.

My gaze devoured her where she sat across the table.

Black waves cascaded over her delicate shoulders and ran like a river of seduction down her back.

Her charcoal eyes were big and round, the unique color like the dusting of a pencil across a page, soft and shadowed and somehow piercing at the same damned time.

Maggie Fitzgerald always looked both curious and shy.

But the thing that stood out most about her was she seemed furiously real, which considering I was nothing but a sham and a fake, only amplified the fact that I most definitely shouldn’t be there.

Her nose was sharp, almost as sharp as the defined angle of her jaw, but her cheeks were somehow full and forever pinked, the lips of her sweet mouth three shades darker and verging on red.

There was a tiny dimple in her left cheek that had already driven me halfway to mad.

She was like looking at something magical.

Ethereal.

A siren who had no fuckin’ clue just how dangerous she could be.

She kept staring at me like she actually wanted the answer to the question she’d asked.

“I think you should do anything and everything that brings you joy,” I finally answered, straight-up honest. I took a swig from my bottle, watching her over the top.

The way those eyes traced my movements.

Like maybe she wanted to memorize them.

Maybe become a part of them.

“What if I’m just figuring out what that might mean?” she asked.

“Then you have to trust yourself to make a few mistakes along the way.”

My stomach twisted in a knot of need that I refused to acknowledge. I sure as fuck wasn’t gonna be one of them.

Truth be told?

Tonight’s mission was all kinds of covert and most definitely unauthorized.

Just because the concert was dubbed 18+ didn’t mean this little excursion wasn’t one-hundred-percent illicit. No question in my mind that Royce would have my ass if he found out where I’d taken his baby sister.

His baby sister who was twenty.

His baby sister who was twelve years younger than me.

His baby sister who, since the second she’d come into town to help prepare for Royce’s wedding to the lead singer of my band, had captured me in a way that I couldn’t let her.

“Not sure how I let you talk me into this,” I grumbled the tease.

Her brows lifted in the cutest way. Dark, dark eyes flashed something so sweet that it panged through the middle of me. “What, you don’t want to make a few of those mistakes with me? And here I thought we were friends,” she razzed.

That was exactly how she talked me into this.

That smile that took up the entirety of her sweet face, the one tool in this world that held the power to put a chink in my armor.

Right that second, I knew any ass-kickin’ comin’ my way would be a small price to pay to get to see her expression shine like that.

“Yeah, Mags, we are definitely friends.”

She stretched her margarita glass across the table and clinked it against my bottle. “To making a few mistakes,” she murmured.

Energy zinged through the air. A bolt of lightning. Same feeling she exuded every time she got into my space.

Girl was a jolt of electricity that both soothed and sparked.

Shadows from the bar played across her face. She smiled beneath the flashin’ lights, making that dimple dance and play.

Fuuuuuuck.

I wanted to reach out and touch it.

Taste it.

Gave myself a harsh shake of the head to break me out of the trance that this girl lulled me into with a glance.

Might already be on my way to Hell, but touching her? That would earn me a first-class ticket on a direct flight.

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