Angela Lavelle has been in love since third grade. A heated argument over superheroes left her reeling in the wake of Logan Sawyer and his charming, know-it-all smile. After a lifetime in the same small town, this art geek still feels invisible to the guy she knows is destined for her. Finally, Angela is ready to give destiny a shove.
Logan Sawyer is adored by the whole town, even taking a place next to his father as a sheriff’s deputy, with aspirations of becoming a detective. When a certain redheaded waitress finally catches his attention, he wonders how he’s been so blind to Angela hiding in plain sight.
But there are mysterious circumstances of her father’s death tugging at Logan’s detective instincts. Could Angela be the one to break the case wide open? Or will their secrets destroy any chance at a happily-ever-after?
Each book in the Chaos&Control series is a STANDALONE and can be enjoyed out of order…
* Fearless and Falling
About the Author
SEASON VINING is a writer, a bookworm, a cook, a night owl and always a student. Beautiful Addictions is her first novel. She lives in Louisiana, where she works as a graphic designer.
Read an Excerpt
"Fluff your boobs, he's coming."
I whip toward the front windows of the diner just as Logan Sawyer parks his cruiser. The letters spelling outcrowley sheriff's department are partially covered in mud and caked-on dirt, and I wonder what he's been up to. My lips curl up at the sight of those thick biceps straining against his uniform shirtsleeves. So effortless and sexy, his lopsided smirk makes my insides flutter.
"Time's a wastin', Al." Audrey pops open the top button of my polyester waitress uniform. "Al" is Audrey's nickname for me, made up of my first two initials in "Angela Louise." She says "Ang" or "Angie" reminds her of her second husband's ex-wife and refuses to associate me with that "obnoxious thunder cunt."
I check my reflection in a chrome napkin holder, blow my bangs out of my eyes, and shake my head. I see the same old face that Logan has seen our entire lives. "Does it even matter? If I can't land the town player, then what does that say about me?"
She holds my face between her hands, squishing my cheeks. "All it says is that you haven't even tried. I saw Psychic Sue last night and she mentioned a male whose name starts with the letter R will reappear — and good lord, please don't let it be that no good, cheatin' ass ex-husband of mine, Roger." Audrey pauses, makes the sign of the cross before replacing her hands on my face. "And she also said, 'now's the time to seize any romantic feelings I've been harboring.' Since most of my romantic feelings are for Chris Hemsworth and Flamin' Cheetos, I assume she was seeing something in your future."
"Why would you assume that?" I ask, my words mumbled until she releases my face.
"Because I always bring something of yours when I see Sue, since you won't go. Stole your hairbrush last time."
I roll my eyes. "That's where my brush went? Audrey, Sue is about as psychic as this pie," I say, pointing to a pecan pie sitting in the dessert case.
"First, don't underestimate the power of pie. Second, I just feel it, kid. Today could be the day. Believe me. He'll see you. Really see you. And when he does, your tits will look amazing. Today could be your Page One."
I give her the smile she's waiting for and nod. Audrey thinks that everyone has a story, already written, just waiting to start. Page One is where our destinies begin.
"Plus, I'm forty years old. I might die before you make a move on your own. Now, put some jiggle in your wiggle and be aggressive. B-E aggressive."
She chuckles and slaps me on the ass as I grab the pitcher of sweet tea. We're between the lunch and dinner rush, so the diner is almost empty. Logan takes a seat at the worn counter, where the old gold-fleck pattern has almost completely faded away. He removes his hat and sets it on the vinyl seat next to him before running his hands through his dark brown hair. Logan opens up a menu and looks over the selections — as if he hasn't eaten here his entire life.
"Tea?" I ask with a voice so sweet it makes me want to gag. I straighten my posture and try to channel the confidence and sexual prowess of Black Widow. She uses her sexuality as a weapon of sorts. I'm certainly not above doing that.
"You know it," Logan answers without looking up.
When he does meet my gaze, his blue eyes shine in the afternoon sun. I pour his tea and try not to stare when his tongue slides over his bottom lip as he reads today's specials. Standing here in this awkward silence is making me sweat. I turn toward the kitchen in time to see Audrey squeezing her boobs together and leaning over the counter. Her jet-black ponytail swings back and forth as she makes exaggerated kissy faces. I laugh because I know these are supposed to be instructions for me, but it's too ridiculous.
"I can't decide today," Logan says, snapping my attention to him. He's looking back this time.
"Well, there aren't any surprises here. I don't think the menu has changed since before we were born."
He smiles and it warms me from the inside out. "You're right. Guess I'll stick with the regular."
"So, cheeseburger and fries?" I ask, already knowing the answer.
Logan nods and folds his menu closed. "Cheeseburger and fries."
He's distracted by a greeting from Mr. Jennings, and as soon as his eyes leave mine, I feel like I can breathe again. I write his ticket and turn it over to KC, our line cook, at the other end of the counter.
"Conversation, Al. Start a conversation." Audrey is already next to me, poking me in the ribs.
"Ouch! Stop that. What am I supposed to say?"
She leans against the drink station and rolls her eyes. "I don't know. 'How's the weather? How about those crop circles?
Would you like a V.I.P. pass to my vagina?'"
"Oh my god," I say with a groan. "Why am I asking you anyway?"
I grab a napkin and silverware and make my way back toward Logan.
"Because I'm older and wider," Audrey stage-whispers.
"I think you mean wiser."
Audrey cackles and heads over to the booths to check on her table, shaking her ass the whole way. Audrey calls herself fluffy, but I just see her as my best friend. Sure she's a curvy lady, but it suits her. Her polyester uniform is one size too small and she likes it that way. I set down the napkin and silverware in front of Logan just as he's waving good-bye to Mr. Jennings.
My brain frantically searches for something clever to say, something impressive. "Late lunch today?" Ugh. I'm such a moron.
"Yeah. Been busy helping set up for the Summer Festival."
"Oh." Where have all my smarts gone?
"Old Man Jennings must have found out I'm a judge in the Miss Crowley contest this year. Came to put in a good word for his granddaughter." Logan looks out the front windows and back to me. "You know he offered me twenty dollars to make sure she's a finalist? As if I could be bought."
I hear someone clear her throat and glance over Logan's shoulder to find Audrey miming humping one of the diner chairs. She points at me so animated, I can't help but laugh.
"You think differently?"
Inside, I'm stuttering, flailing, trying to find the appropriate reply. Then I realize I'm just a frozen mouth-breather who's been quiet for far too long.
"Umm." Get it together, Angela.
"That's all right," he says with a teasing grin. "I'll show you. Caroline Jennings won't make it past the preliminaries."
"I'm sure she won't." I play along.
The bell dings and I know that Logan's food is ready, but dragging myself away now that I've got his attention is too hard.
"Just watch," he says. "Hell, I won't even let her in the building."
"Now you're just being unfair." I lean over the counter, resting on my elbows. The girls are on display and it is not an accident. "Just because her grandfather tried to bribe you doesn't mean you should discount her completely. She should get a fair chance just like everyone else."
Logan's eyes drift to my cleavage before he remembers his manners and meets my eyes again.
I press my lips together to keep from smiling. "I'm just saying, as a judge you're supposed to be impartial," I finish.
I turn to grab his lunch and internalize the squeal bubbling on my tongue. This is the longest exchange we've had since we were eight years old. Returning with his plate of food and a bottle of ketchup, I set everything down and smile. I hope that it's relaxed and genuine and not a reflection of the chaos in my head.
"Impartial, huh?" he says, his eyes holding mine. There's a hint of something playful there and I want to grab hold of it and never let go. "As a man of the law and a judge of local beauty pageants, I am certainly fair."
"Sure you are." I lean my hip against the counter as he takes a bite of his cheeseburger. I'm going for casual, but instead I probably just look awkward and lazy. Straightening my spine, I stand up taller and put my hands on my hips. "You were almost bought off for twenty dollars," I point out.
"No way," he protests with cheeseburger still in his mouth. Logan gives me an embarrassed grin beforeswallowing. "It would take a lot more than twenty dollars to buy my vote."
"A lot more?" I twirl a piece of hair that's fallen out of my ponytail around my finger. "Like what?"
Logan nods. "I like pie. Twenty dollars and pie could probably do it."
I laugh as he throws that crooked smirk my way. The one I've fawned over for more than a decade. The one I pretend is just for me.
"Well, that doesn't seem too steep. I mean, I have pie," I say, motioning to the glass case holding today's desserts. He shakes his head.
"No, the diner has pie," Logan argues. "If you used the diner's pie for your own personal gain, I believe that would be a form of stealing — maybe even embezzlement."
"That sounds serious," I say. My voice is breathy and softer than normal, my body's automatic reaction to Logan Sawyer.
"It is a pretty serious offense. Could involve handcuffs."
I swear my heart stops in my chest at the look he's giving me. It's the look that has dropped panties all over this county, and mine would be no exception.
"Well, then I'd say that the punishment might be worth the crime." Inwardly, I'm celebrating such a brazen comeback. It's forward, but not slutty. It lets him know I'm ready to play, but I won't be conquered.
Logan grins so wide it splits his gorgeous face in half. Blue eyes hold mine and the air between us is electric. There are moments and then there are moments. I can feel this connection brewing, something more than small talk over greasy food. Maybe Psychic Sue was right. This could be our Page One.
The door of the diner whips open with a clatter; the bells tied to the handle bang against the frame. Lizzie Bergeron stands there with her hand on her heaving chest, like she's been running a marathon. All eyes are glued to her.
It's then that she utters the four words I've dreaded for the past three years. The four words that can undo everything I've done today. The four words that stop our story in its tracks.
"Wren Hart is back!"CHAPTER 2
"I had him, Audrey." It's the end of my shift and I've been wallowing in the break room of the diner for ten minutes. The air is weird here, smelling of soap and bleach with a lingering scent of diner food. It's annoying and nauseating. Audrey rubs circles on my back as I rest my forehead against the metal lockers.
"I know, sweetie. I know. If your dad were here, he'd tell you to forget about Wren and go after that boy. But he was like that. Forward. Confident."
"Yeah, well, the apple fell far from the tree," I say. "Because those are traits I obviously did not inherit."
"Your dad was a smart guy, Angela Louise," Audrey says.
"And you're more like him than you realize."
"I can't believe she's back," I whine. "Wren Hart. The ex-girlfriend slash love of his life, picture-perfect, made for Logan Sawyer, Wren Hart. What perfect timing this girl has. I might as well be the Invisible Woman."
"You want me to get rid of her? I got friends who'll do just about anything for a case of beer and some weed."
I spin to face Audrey and shake my head. Untying my apron, I throw it in the laundry bin next to the back door and grab my purse from my locker. "A, what kind of people are you hanging out with? And B, I'm going to go home to eat my feelings and pretend that you didn't just offer to kill Reverend Hart's kid."
"Okay, Al. Have a good night. But the offer still stands if you change your mind."
I give her a wave and push out the back door, heading down the alley and pointing myself toward home. In my car, I turn up the radio so loud I can't hear my own self-pitying thoughts. I can't wait to get to my house and just pretend like this day never happened.
In the comfort of my studio, I put on music so loud the bass vibrates my ribs. The Midwest sunset paints the room in gold as I sit in front of an empty canvas and imagine what it will be. The familiar smell of acrylic paint soothes me in a way nothing else can.
My art is the only thing in my life that makes me feel whole. That creative soul resides inside me, and when I let it free, I feel invincible. The smell of the paints, the way the brush feels in my fingers, how my mind sees the scene before I even start — it all fills me with purpose and joy. It's also another way I feel connected to my dad. I inherited this talent from him and wish that he could be here to see how I've grown.
This time, I don't sketch first — I just grab a brush and let my emotions lead. Reds and blues fly across the white space, filling every inch. I am mindless and free in this moment, in this place. All the frustration, all the joy of what almost was, flies through me and settles onto that canvas. It is a blur of bright shapes and rough texture, darker around the edges.
When my art is done, I clean my brushes and leave them to dry. I don't study the painting or even look at it again. But I know it has flaws and depth and probably too many emotions to pinpoint. I know that every person who looks at it will feel differently about it. And I know that one day it will find its perfect fit.
* * *
I finish blow-drying my hair and stare at myself in the mirror. I want to feel desired — no, I need to feel desired. I suppose I could get dressed up, drive to Franklin, and find some guy to hook up with. But that's not my style. I'm not that girl and never have been. Frankly, I always envied women like that — like Audrey — who completely own their sexuality, who are comfortable saying, "This is what I want. Are you in or what?"
Twenty minutes later, I'm lying in bed, staring up at my ceiling, when an idea pops into my head. I don't know if it's a good idea or a mistake, but I pick up my phone and text my ex-boyfriend, Danny. I decide to be upfront about what I want, and even though it's been months since we've seen each other, he agrees to come over. Though I don't imagine many guys would pass up a chance at no-strings-attached sex.
I never have sex with anyone outside of a relationship. After Danny and I broke up, we did end up hooking up a few more times. It was a way to sort of soften the blow of ending the relationship out of the blue. And sex with him was always soft and sweet, something I wanted back then. But tonight, my only goal is to feel beautiful and desired. I know Danny will give me that and I know I'll hate myself for it later.
Danny arrives right on time. There's not much conversation. A little bit of small talk before I pull him down the hall to my bedroom. He keeps things fun and light, and fills me with the desire that I am desperately seeking.
I only focus on him and his touch, his kisses, his whispers against my skin. But soon, I begin to feel numb. I try to stay in the moment and enjoy his hands on my body, but they feel like the wrong hands. Guilt pushes in as Logan's face appears behind my closed eyes. He's the one I truly want here with me. He's the only one I want touching me.
Before we even get to the main event, Danny stops and looks me over. When he does, his gaze seems to see right through me and my chest aches with guilt.
"This was fun," he says, lifting my chin to meet his face. "And I loved seeing you again. But you aren't even here — not mentally. I'm not who you want." He stands and pulls his shirt back on. "Please don't call me again." It's not mean or threatening, more like a pleading for mercy. So much guilt squeezes my chest tight and I feel like I can't get enough air. I can't believe I did this to him. "And tell whoever he is that he's an idiot for passing on a girl like you."
He leaves me there, letting himself out and locking the door behind him. I lay back on my bed, disappointed and angry at myself that I made him feel used. That's not me and I wish I could erase it. I thought it would be like seeing an old friend again; instead all I could think about was another man's eyes, another man's touch. Fooling around with him was exactly what I thought I wanted, but it wasn't enough to erase the ghost of Logan Sawyer.CHAPTER 3
I check my reflection in the napkin dispenser and groan. I look like hell and feel like it, too. Getting no sleep before a breakfast shift is the worst. I tried to nap on my break, but the chairs in the back room are so uncomfortable. Giving up on rest, I tie my apron back on and check the clock. Four hours left and then I get to go home.
I'm busy taking someone's order when Audrey starts her shift. We meet at the coffee pot.
"You look like shit."
I roll my eyes. "Thanks."
"Late night, Al?"
"Very late." I cover my mouth as a yawn escapes. My mind wouldn't shut off last night after Danny left, and I stayed up painting my feelings instead of facing them. "I just want to crawl into bed and sleep for three days."
Audrey's eyes become slits as she studies me closer.
"Something is different. Did you cut your bangs?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Fearless and Falling"
Copyright © 2019 Season Vining.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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