Welcome back to a special POV edition of the Tuesday Tease!
First, I really want to thank all of you for your amazing support with EPHEMERAL (The Countenance). Several characters from EPHEMERAL are in both parts of TOXIC, so I’m thrilled that you’ve had a chance to get to know them. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your feedback and reviews as well. So, a BIG hearty thank you FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART!
TOXIC is due to land back into my hands from the editor this week! And as soon as I get it I’ll start in on marathon edits until that bad boy is polished.
Here’s a quick Marshall snippet, then I’m offering up a Gage POV. It’s the scene from EXPEL where everyone is shown the infamous DVD. I’ve included Skyla’s POV from the book just after his in the event you’d like it for reference. Logan’s POV is next!
*(Marshall speaking with Skyla)
“I’m amused by your show of prowess—and by the way, do feel free to bring such heated aggression into the bedroom. In fact, I say we establish the first rule of our union—spirited disagreements are only to be conducted sans clothing and held underneath the sheets.” He picks up my hand and gives a kiss as if to sound the gavel on his pornographic solution to martial discord.
GAGE’S Point of View:
Chapter 31 (EXPEL)
Skyla and I pull up in front of Chloe’s house in the middle of a downpour. It seems to rain harder here than any other place on the island. Figures. Probably due to some demonic force field residing above the Bishop house. Wouldn’t surprise me.
I look over at Skyla. We set the bowling alley on fire tonight with those hotter than hell kisses she kept delivering. The girl can melt a glacier with just one look.
Her hair is still beaded with rain from getting in the car and her eyes glow like street lights. We should be anywhere but here. If Skyla hasn’t learned her lesson about “befriending” Chloe by now—one of these days Chloe is going to lead her into a dumpster and set the damn thing on fire before bolting down the lid.
“Are you sure this is how you want to spend Saturday night?” I ask, turning off the engine.
“I’m sure. Besides, Ethan begged me to come, so did Brielle. Ethan’s got something up his sleeve,” she whispers. “He’s not as quick to forgive as Chloe believes.”
“And why are you?” I lean into her, soaking wet and in the mood to continue the conversation our bodies were having at the bowling alley. The last thing we need to be doing is hanging out with Ethan and Chloe. We should be doing other things, like showering together.
“I’m not,”—she exhales—“I just, I think deep down inside I want to believe her. Everyone’s redeemable right? We all make mistakes, huge, horrible mistakes and in the end when we wake up to what we’ve done—most of us are sorry.”
“Chloe doesn’t have a heart, Skyla.” I offer a kiss to try and change our plans for the evening. “And the fact yours is too big is the reason I love you most.”
She leans in and melts her lips over mine. She flicks her tongue against mine until I catch it gently with my teeth—she chases my tongue until she does the same. I like these little games we play. She moans when we kiss like she wishes it would string out forever. She pulls back slowly and swallows hard. Her eyes widen as she takes me in.
She presses her lips to my ear and whispers, “I love you so much. I don’t think I could breathe without you.”
No sooner do we step through the door than the smell of chocolate chip cookies light up our senses.
I take in a deep lungful and close my eyes a moment wishing away the next hour. The last place on earth I want to be is at Bishop’s house with Skyla by my side. Feels wrong, like running through a thorn bush naked. Makes me feel as if my balls are in jeopardy, they probably are.
Logan nods over at me while Michelle wraps herself around him like a serpent. I pump my lips at him without the benefit of a smile. It’s weird watching Miller drill her tongue in his ear—something’s off about him lately. He would have welcomed Michelle on her knees once upon a time, but with Skyla in his sights I’m not buying it. He’s been a dick so I’m leaving it alone for now.
Skyla detours us into the family room where Drake and Brielle treat us to a demonstration of how they made their baby.
Everyone’s here, but it still doesn’t make me want to stay.
Chloe snags my eye. She glances my way before dipping her hand between Ethan’s leg and I avert my gaze. We both know who she’s really propositioning. Chloe’s goal in life is to give me a hard on.
Pierce struts by and Skyla goes rigid. I wrap my arms around her waist and drop a kiss into her neck until she relaxes into me. Her whole body sighs when I touch her. I run my tongue up to her ear and feel her shudder, her neck rolling back with pleasure. We could be doing so many mind-blowing things right now. What the hell are we doing at Bishop’s?
She turns her head into me. “Guess what?” Her voice is low and husky, and the bulge in my jeans perks up to attention. “I want to talk to you later about something super important.”
Talk? We’re definitely not on the same page. “Does this ‘super important’ topic require a hotel and protection?” My lips curve as I try to hide the fact I’m hopeful.
“No.” She lowers her lashes. “But we could talk about that, too.”
Skyla crashes into me with a kiss. She dives her tongue deep into my throat, washes in and out of my mouth like a promise, a preview of things to come, and God I want things to come.
“All right,” Ethan booms.
I bet Chloe wrenched his ball sack until he interrupted the love fest between Skyla and me. It was either him or a bullet.
Ethan continues, “Let’s get this movie going before it gets too late.”
Chloe twitches a smile in my direction. She thinks I’m in too deep with Skyla and it pisses her off brilliantly. “Brace yourselves girls.” She pops a DVD into the player. “It’s three glorious hours of battleships and tanks—Ethan’s pick. He won the wrestling match.” I’m sure it was more like a cage fight. “Next time, I assure you, the cover will be pink, and there will be hot shirtless man-candy to drool over for two hours straight.” She licks her lips while looking right at me.
“I’ll give you some man-candy to drool over.” Ethan knocks into her with his hip before gnawing on her face.
“I think he’s chewing on her,” I whisper to Skyla.
“He is. But in his defense, one doesn’t get a whole lot of practice kissing when they’re dead.”
She’s got a point. I, for one, am definitely not dead, and I plan on blowing Skyla’s mind later with some smooth moves of my own. I take in the scent from her hair, cinnamon and roses. I press my face into her curls before lacing our fingers together.
“Let’s do this.” Pierce lands a hand over Nat’s shoulder before reaching down and tweaking her boob. Nice. Rounding out second base in front of a dozen different people. It’s Kragger’s pornographic fantasy—we’re all just living in it.
I would never do that to Skyla. And she would never dive her hand into the front of my jeans like Chloe’s done to Ethan twelve times already. Skyla and I know better. We respect one another. She’s fallen in love with me, so deep and so hard there’s nobody else for her. I can feel it.
The lights dim. The monster television that expands across the wall, flickers on and off like a flare.
Skyla pops on the screen, smiling her gorgeous smile while music blares in the background.
Knew it. Chloe’s got it locked and loaded to humiliate. I squeeze Skyla’s hand and start lifting us up to get the hell out of here.
Skyla sucks in a sharp breath. “What the—”
Dudley explodes on the television and I fall back into my seat. He’s got his mouth over Skyla’s like he’s giving her CPR and her shoulder is turned into him like she’s enjoying it.
“This one’s for you, Gage,” Chloe spouts off.
It goes on for what feels like hours. Dudley on Skyla—Logan with his face pressed into hers, his hands locked over her bottom, fingers digging in. Ellis springs on the screen with his jeans twisted down by his ankles and Skyla on her knees in front of him.
Harrison? Holy shit.
Skyla freezes solid as I let go of her hand. Neither of us moves, we just watch the train wreck unfold at record speed. My body explodes with heat as Skyla wrenches a knife in my gut with her actions. And here I thought she only wanted me—loved me. What a joke.
Dudley and Skyla light up the room, going at it in bed. She’s wearing lingerie, and all she ever wore for me was a T–shirt. Then it’s the Logan and Skyla highlight reel, all faces, tongues like leashes, her hands sunk below his waist. No wonder he’s been such a prick. Michelle is a just a ruse, someone to kill time with until I free up Skyla for him. It all makes sense.
The music rises in decibel. The grand finale’s coming I can feel it. A part of me says leave now—don’t give anyone the satisfaction. Then I see it. The Mustang gyrating hot and heavy like it was powered by hydraulics. It’s parked in the dark lot just above Devil’s Peak. It looks private, abandoned, perfect place to…
The camera zooms in. There they are, Logan’s bare ass is pumping into Skyla with his arms above her shoulders like he’s strangling her with passion. Skyla bites her lip as Logan buries his face in her neck. Her lids tremble. Her lashes blink open—her eyes roll back into her head just the way I imagined they would if she ever gave me the chance to love her like that—the way she looks in my dreams when I do.
The television fades to black before a loud pop goes off and smoke blows from the back of the unit.
Figures. Logan and Skyla were too hot to handle, literally. I guess not even technology can deny chemistry like that. She probably uses Dudley and Ellis for target practice. And, Ellis? Really?
I'm numb. My heart is drained from every emotion I ever let it feel, shredded to pieces in less than a few minutes.
A roll of nausea pushes through me as I head for the door. I had a feeling I’d have my balls handed to me on a silver platter if I showed up tonight, I just never imagined it’d be from Skyla.
If Chloe’s intent was to teach me a lesson for getting too close to her pet project, she wins.
Chloe was right.
Skyla was never that into me.
SKYLA’S Point of View:
Gage and I drive over to Chloe’s house after pulling a shift at the bowling alley together. I love working with Gage—stealing a kiss in the office, the crazy noise infused kisses in the dark arcade, the cool lingering of his lips in the walk-in freezer.
“Are you sure this is how you want to spend Saturday night?” He kills the engine, observing Chloe’s house through slotted lids as if it were a looming threat.
Rain beats upon the windshield like a thousand tiny hands imploring me to reconsider.
“I’m sure,” I whisper. “Besides, Ethan begged me to come so did Brielle. Ethan’s got something up his sleeve. He’s not as quick to forgive as Chloe believes.”
“And why are you?” Gage smoothes his thumb over my hand, lowers his head until his brows sit low on his forehead like two ebony birds.
“I’m not,” I sigh. “I just,” I shrug. “I think deep down inside I want to believe her. Everyone’s redeemable right? We all make mistakes, huge, horrible mistakes and in the end when we wake up to what we’ve done—most of us are sorry.”
“Chloe doesn’t have a heart, Skyla,” he presses into me with a kiss. “And the fact yours is too big is the reason I love you most.”
Gage and I consume ourselves in a sea of endless kisses. Time stretches out, loses its grip on us, ushers us into something eternal that we were designed for right from the beginning.
“I love you so much,” I whisper soft in his ear. “I don’t think I could breathe without you.”
Inside, the Bishop home holds the scent of fresh baked cookies. The dim lighting and consistent spasm of cackles give the night that Ellis-esque feel.
It feels quasi-safe with Brielle and Drake here. Emily, Lexy, Michelle and faux Logan add a certain air of comfort to the environment. The roll call of bitchiness is complete with Nat as the honorary member, and Pierce, who has become as his namesake suggests, the constant thorn in my side.
Michelle is joined at the hip with Logan which weirds me out because despite being Holden, in nature, he’s still staunchly locked in Logan’s congenial framework. I know deep inside that in no way what Holden does with Michelle reflects on Logan, but I can’t help but feel a stab of jealousy at the same time. It looks like Chloe was right. Holden is a lust slave to Michelle. He follows her around like a Golden Retriever, happy to fetch her every need.
Pierce glares at me from across the room.
I’ve been carrying that stupid cease and desist letter around in my purse to circumvent it from accidently landing in Mom and Tad’s hands. Of course Pierce doesn’t want to go to juvy over the stupid shit I accidentally did while hopped up on Michelle’s rose of terror, but then, really, neither do I.
Holden pats him on the back as he makes his way into the kitchen. I’m sure Pierce has been apprised of the fact his brother incarnate is in the vicinity.
I think the entire Kragger clan owes me big time, and I don’t mean by way of threatening legal action at every turn. Pierce should cease and desist his presence from my life as a thank you even if Holden’s state of being is temporal.
I pull Gage deeper into the family room, wrap my arms around his waist and swoon into him dreamily. We’re here together at Chloe Bishop’s house of all places. It all worked out on its own. I didn’t have to sleep with Marshall to get Chloe off our backs.
Of course, we could have done without the Mustang turning his insides to pulp and killing Logan. I’m still convinced Chloe was behind the scene of that crime. Speaking of which, I haven’t heard Gage cough all night. I bet he’s plenty recuperated for me to fill him in on the bizarre turn of events regarding his dearly departed uncle slash cousin. I hate keeping secrets from Gage.
“Guess what?” I whisper into his ear.
He moans into me while massaging my back. It feels so good I can melt into a puddle right here at his feet.
“I want to talk to you later about something super important,” I breathe it hot in his ear.
“Does this super important topic require a hotel and protection?” A devilish smile plays on his lips.
“No, but we could talk about that, too.” I tweak my brows.
I press a heated kiss into Gage right here in Chloe Bishop’s living room and miracle of all miracles I don’t end up with a knife in my back.
“All right,” Ethan begins corralling everyone into the family room. “Let’s get this movie going before it gets too late.”
God—he even sounds like Tad.
“Brace yourselves girls,” Chloe warns as she makes her way over to the entertainment unit. “It’s three glorious hours of battleships and tanks—Ethan’s pick. He won the wrestling match.” An image of the two of them going at it bounces through my mind. “Next time, I assure you,” she continues, “the cover will be pink, and there will be hot shirtless man-candy to drool over for two hours straight.”
“I’ll give you some man-candy to drool over,” Ethan bumps her with his hip.
Ethan and Chloe really do look and act like a couple. They shared a soda at dinner, and she ate his pizza crust. Now they’re nauseating us with an awkward display of questionable kissing.
“I think he’s chewing on her,” Gage whispers.
“He is. But in his defense, one doesn’t get a whole lot of practice kissing when they’re dead.”
“Let’s do this,” Pierce barks, wrapping an arm around Nat.
I feel Kate’s absence most when Nat’s around. It infuriates me that Marshall used me to do his dirty work. Chloe is right. We’re nothing more than pawns on some giant celestial chessboard.
Gage and I sit on the loveseat, squeezing in next to Brielle and Drake while Chloe dims the lights.
The television in Chloe’s family room eats up an entire wall.
I have to say I’m impressed with this rather odd gathering. It’s sort of a nice break from Ellis’ rambunctious affair with nary a red Solo cup in sight, which most likely implies there won’t be any puking later with the exception of maybe Brielle.
The TV blinks, and my smiling face pops up on the screen. A sappy country song aggregates through the speakers and offensively begins twanging in our ears.
“What the—” Before I can get the words out, Marshall ignites the screen with his lips secured over mine.
Chloe glares in my direction. “This one’s for you, Gage.”
An entire montage of me kissing Marshall—kissing Logan enfolds. Even Ellis is thrown into the mix with his pants down, me kneeling before him. Never mind the fact he was putting out the fire on my hand, it looks entirely lewd from the angle the video was taken.
A stale breath is caught in my lungs that I may never let go. Gage sinks limp into the seat beside me. I’m too afraid to look at him, to look at anyone.
It goes on for an eternity.
Marshall and me, rolling around on the bed at the Pine Pole Lodge—me in my corset, his hands caressing my bare waist. Logan loving me at the bowling alley, the house, the school—everywhere a lip-lock. The lust written over the two of us could combust the room into flames.
The music comes to a roaring crescendo, the Mustang gyrates overlooking Devil’s Peak.
Time feels as though it’s picking up speed. My stomach does a hot revolution because I know what’s coming.
The camera pans in a tight clear shot of Logan writhing over me, the haunted dress Marshall gave me for the winter formal, bunched in a mess around my hips. The passion on my face is undeniable. My lust for Logan burns a hole through the air, electrifies the atmosphere until the universe sizzles from our searing affection.
A stone sinks in my chest, obliterates my heart to nothing.
It’s over between Gage and me. What I’ve done is unforgivable.
I glance over at Chloe in disbelief. My sins recanted for everyone to see. This was her plan, her pleasure.
She hid the blade in her tongue—in her deceit to lure me over.
I was the enemy, the feast, the sport—the entertainment.
And I never saw it coming.
Hope you enjoyed it~! Logan’s up next!