You guys, you MUST read the excerpt below from Dear Ava by Ilsa Madden Mills. OMGGGGGGGG, it is so fantastic. Just reading that sneak peek has me COMPLETELY invested in the characters. It makes me feel like if I don’t get my hands on this book RIGHT NOW, I’m going to go crazy. My word, it’s soooooooo damn good. This is a book I need in my LIFE! Dear Ava is a standalone, dark high school romance out Feb 3rd! And let me tell you, I can’t wait to one click this and devour EVERY SINGLE WORD.
PS: Dear Ava is not up for pre-order. Links will be added when it goes live. You can add it to your Goodreads TBR here!
The rich and popular Sharks rule at prestigious, ivy-covered Camden Prep. Once upon a time, I wanted to be part of their world—until one of them destroyed me.
The last thing I expected was an anonymous love letter from one of them.
Please. I hate every one of those rich jerks for what they did to me. The question is, which Shark is my secret admirer? Knox, the scarred quarterback, Dane, his annoying twin brother, or Chance, the one who dumped me…
Your eyes are the color of the Caribbean Sea.Sh*t. That’s stupid.
What I really mean is, you look at me and I feel something REAL.
It’s been ten months since you were here, but I can’t forget you.
I’ve missed seeing you walk down the hall.
I’ve missed you cheering at my football games.
I’ve missed the smell of your hair.
And then everything fell apart that night.
Don’t hate me because I’m a Shark.
I just want to make you mine.
Dear Ava Excerpt: Unedited and subject to change
“Come on, Ava, let’s go upstairs to my room,” Chance breaths in my ear. His hands are on my bottom, palming me as we dance.
Loud music blares from the speakers set up around his den as couples sway around us, lost in the deep thump of the bass vibrations. His parents are out of town for Labor Day, and this is his shindig. Not a Shark party, like their private post game keggers, but a mix of students from Camden Prep. A few from Hampton High. Some townies.
“Be mine for real, baby,” his voice slurs.
“So? Everyone is.”
“I’m not.” Nerves hit me. Maybe I should be—to fit in.
Chance’s hand slips under my peasant blouse and brushes against my stomach. “I promise I’ll go easy.”
I glance around. Nobody is looking at us.
Except for him.
He isn’t dancing, but unbidden, my eyes keep coming back to him, keeping tabs as he sits on a loveseat in a dark corner, his position separate from the rest of the crowd. His figure is shadowy, but the broad shoulders and muscled arms splayed out along the top of the seat give him away. I know he’s there; I feel the authority emanating from him, like a king watching his subjects. There’s a pretty girl standing behind him. Random. I don’t know her. She has her hands in his hair, scraping her nails over his scalp then drifting down and massaging his neck and shoulders, the movements of her languid ministrations sensual as she touches his silky dark hair. Another girl sits at his feet and rubs his upper thighs. Don’t know her either. With a sly look up at him, the girl on the floor moves her hands to the crotch of his jeans.
My heart races and it has nothing to do with Chance’s fingers skating over my bra. I barely notice.
Chance groans. “Don’t you want me, Ava?” He doesn’t wait for me to answer, but picks me up and sits with me on the couch, maneuvering me so I straddle him.
Dammit. I can still see Knox.
He won’t take his gray eyes off me.
I watch with fascination as Knox bits his lower lip, digging in so deep and hard, I expect to see blood bloom on his mouth.
I return his glance, letting him see that no, I haven’t forgotten seeing him nearly naked in that locker room, and yes, somehow he’s crawled inside me, sitting behind me in class, those long looks he gives me at lunch when I sit next to Chance.
The girl at his feet asks him something, and I wish I could hear what she says, but I figure it out when she unzips his jeans and her head lowers.
My stomach drops and a long breath whooshes out of me.
“What are you doing?” Chance asks when I jump up off the couch. My chest rises as I put my hands on the heat I feel in my cheeks. I lift my eyes to Knox, and he’s still watching me, his body a statue, tense and coiled as if waiting to pounce.
“Bathroom,” I mumble and slip away from Chance’s hands when he reaches out to grab me.
“Give me a few minutes,” I mutter and slide away from him, jostling between people dancing to get away.
I march past Knox with my hands clenched, my face turned away so I can’t see his expression, so he doesn’t know he’s in my head instead of Chance.
What is wrong with me?
The bathroom down the hall is empty, and I dash inside and stand for a moment as I stare at my red face in the mirror. I should leave. I should just walk out the door and go back to the group home, but my car isn’t here. I rode with Piper and she’s having a good time. Last time I saw her, she was making out with a guy from Hampton High in the kitchen.
“I just need a minute,” I tell myself in the mirror and shove the shower curtain to the side and step in the pristine claw foot tub. Maybe, just maybe if I hide here long enough, the party will end, Knox will leave, and Piper and I will go back to her house.
I lean back on the rim of the tub and will my body to relax.
Fat chance of that when the door opens. Dang it. I didn’t lock it.
Peeking out from the edge of the curtain, I see Knox leaning against the door, his head thrown back, his breathing heavy. My eyes search for the girls from the den. They aren’t here. My lip curls. Well, that blowjob didn’t take long.
I watch as he walks to the sink, turns on the cold water and splashes his face. Once. Twice. Water drips down his cheek to his tan throat, slipping inside his tight black shirt. He looks up at his reflection and grimaces as his fingers slice down the scar on his face. “Ugly, stupid, asshole motherfucker,” he grunts. “You can’t have her.”
Leaning over the sink, he clutches the edge with one hand while he unzips his pants and takes out his shaft. It’s long, thick, and hard, like the rest of him. My breath hitches when he strokes himself, groaning, eyes fluttering against his chiseled cheeks. He grabs his mushroom-shaped head and twists it, rubbing the drops of white at the tip down his length. “Hades and Persephone. Fuck that,” he mutters almost angrily as he shoves his jeans and underwear further down his legs. Slick, so slick and wet, he thrusts inside his hand in a greedy way, a flush starting at his neck and working it’s way to his face. Every second he groans stretches out and lingers, every tick of the clock passes, the air dense and thick with anticipation. I bite my lip before the sound I want to make escapes.
Seeing the head Shark jack off shouldn’t mean a thing.
Just hormone overload in the den, the music, the alcohol, him watching me, the girls who touched him.
Yet, it’s everything.
My pelvis gets warm, desire curling. Holding my breath, my hand shoves inside my jeans, rubbing at the soft mound between my legs. My sensitive nipples pebble, as if he’s right here with me, touching them. What would his caress feel like? Soft or hard?
Wiggling, I move lower, pushing at my jeans. Fire burns inside me when I slip my fingers under my panties and touch soaked skin. A shuddering moan passes my lips, and I freeze, coming back to reality when I sense a change in the air, a quiet tension replacing his sounds.
Did he leave? I didn’t hear the door open—
The curtain is ripped back and he looms over me, his throat working soundlessly as he rakes his eyes over me. He stumbles back, falling on the floor.
“Ava! What…” he hurries up to his knees, his face horrified. “Shit, shit, shit, what are you doing in here?”
I can only imagine what I look like lying here in the tub, my hands inside my panties. “Same as you apparently,” I mutter and stand up shakily and try to maneuver over the rim of the bath, but I forgot my pants are at my knees, and I end up falling.
He springs then, moving to help me as I simultaneously tug at my clothes to get them back up. He wraps his arms around my waist to steady me, but we end up tumbling down on the tile with me on top. His chest presses against mine, and I’m barely keeping myself from melting, wanting to curl into him. His thick erection is between us, and my body throbs with something I’ve never had, for a sweet pinnacle, to feel that elusive release, and now—
“You can’t be in here with me,” he grinds out, his hands on my upper arms. His grip is hard enough to bruise, but I don’t care.
I wrench out of his grasp and reach out to his face. He thinks he’s ugly? Never.
“Chance,” his voice scratches out raggedly as he shoves me aside. He looks shaken and a little wild, and it’s the most revealing emotion I’ve ever seen on his face.
“Why didn’t you say something when I came in?” He scrubs his face, scooting further away from me, his back pressing against the door.
“Does it make me a voyeur to say I was enjoying the show? Most definitely a deviant.”
He glares at me. “You don’t even like me. I frighten you.”
“I’m not so sure about that.”
He tucks himself back in his underwear, wincing.
Still on the floor, I bring my pants up and zip them. My heart thuds painfully, my movements jerky, unfilled.
Voices outside the door move him to action and he jumps to a stand with athletic grace, yanking his jeans up and buttoning them. He goes back to the sink and splashes more water on his face.
“Get up, Ava. Go. Before anyone knows we’re in here.” He clings to the edge of the counter.
He isn’t going to get rid of me so easy this time.
“Why were you staring at me out there?”
“I want to know!”
“Then tell me. What’s going on with you?” With us.
I pull myself up. Oh, I admit he makes me nervous, the darkness I sense in him, the opposite of Chance, but it doesn’t stop my mouth… “Did she give you a blowjob?”
I’m tormented by the image.
His stormy eyes swirl with emotion as he glares at me from the reflection of the mirror. “No,” is ripped from him.
“You want me.”
“You’re the charity case. Why would I want you?”
“As usual, you didn’t answer the damn question.” My voice is eerily calm despite the heat surging in my body.
Silence reigns as he seethes. He flips around and stalks over to me. “Get out. You belong to Chance.”
“I belong to myself.”
“Have you fucked him?” His hands clench.
“No.” Something is holding me back.
“You will.” A pause as his jaw pops. His normally cold gaze pleads with me. “And he’s my best friend.”
I eat up the expressions on his face, so unused to seeing vulnerability on his face.
“I’m good enough to be with him tonight, but he’s never asked me out for a real date. I’ve never met his parents. I’m his little secret at school.” Oh, he’s been sweet, but Chance is embarrassed of me. “I’m not Shark worthy apparently,” I grumble.
“Break up with him.” His words are flat, but his eyes…
But I know he doesn’t mean break up with him so you can be with me, because that isn’t Knox’s style. He cares about his teammate, and he’d never in a million years pick up where his best friend left off. Goes against everything he believes. Loyalty screams from every bunched up, tense muscle in his body right now.
Dipping my head, I rub my eyes.
Something twisted and dark that resides in me yearns for him.
And I don’t even know when it snuck up on me.
The real me gravitates to broken people, the way they stand in a crowd and look around and feel alone. I wonder who gave him his fragmented heart, this cracked sense of how he seems himself. No one at this party really knows him.
“I’m sorry,” I mumble, and I guess I’m sorry for not being strong enough to say these words to his face.
“Nothing’s happened between us, Ava. Get that sad look off your face.”
I’m not sad for wanting him when I shouldn’t.
I’m sad because he’s out of my reach.
He swallows thickly. “Shit, don’t break up with him. I shouldn’t have said that. He’s in love with you.” Then, “Just stay away from me,” he pushes out, his voice gravelly and rough as he turns to the door, and I sense him gathering himself, fortifying, building up his force field.
His chest heaves with a long exhale.
He puts his hand on the doorknob. “What?”
“You’re not ugly. You’re beautiful.”
He pauses for a second, then opens the door and slams it shut.