Published by indie author on July 19, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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I wanted to tell him all my secrets, but he became one of them instead.
Chloe Rivers never thought she would keep secrets from her best friend. Then again, she never imagined she would fall in love with him either. When she finally reveals her feelings, rejection shatters her, rendering her vulnerable and sending her straight into the destructive arms of the wrong guy.
Gavin Rhodes never saw the betrayal coming. It crushes him. Chloe has always been his forbidden fantasy—sweet, tempting, and beautiful. But when the opportunity finally presents itself, he makes the biggest mistake of all and denies her.
Now it’s too late . . .
Four years after a devastating tragedy, Chloe and Gavin find themselves crashing back into each other’s lives. Haunted by the past, they’re forced to come to terms with all that has transpired to find the peace they deserve. Except they can’t seem to get near each other without combatting an intense emotional connection that brings them right back to where it all started . . . their childhood treehouse.
Chloe still holds her secrets close, but this time she isn’t the only one with something to hide. Can their deep-rooted connection survive the destruction of innocence?
Friends-to-lovers romance is a favorite trope of mine, so I’m definitely looking forward to getting far enough into my review stack that I can start treading K.K. Allen’s Up in the Treehouse, and I’m hoping it lives up to what I’ve seen of it so far! The book launches today, so click on the buy links above and get your hands on a copy. But if you want to have a quick look-through before you buy, check out the excerpt below:
Excerpt from Up in the Treehouse by K.K. Allen
His face twists, resembling an old string of holiday lights most would have given up untangling years ago. It’s a messy, broken, and hopeless jumble of old memories . . . one that, for some reason, I can’t bring myself to throw out. Just like my relationship with Devon Rhodes.
Devon raises every red flag that exists, yet he could charm the pants off you and make you forget the difference between a red flag and a white one. He’s the type of guy who bends and breaks the rules because the rush is more than worth the risk. The one who’s always sworn he would never be in a committed relationship because—well, what’s the point? The kind of guy—with his million and one problems, his dangerously good looks, and his strength that terrifies me—who somehow chose me. Now he’s my string of hopeless holiday lights to deal with, but I can’t seem to drum up the strength to untangle them again. Or maybe I just don’t want to anymore.
Anger rumbles from his chest and his nose flares as he spouts in my direction, “What the hell is this, Chloe?” Yellowed pages of my journal flap through the air with each flick of his wrist, taunting me from across my bedroom.
How did he find that?
Beer sloshes from a blue plastic cup that I know is not his first—or his last. As the liquid splashes on the old wood floors I can already imagine the stale but sour stench I’ll be wrinkling my nose to in the morning. It should have been a fun, celebratory night filled with bad dancing, neighbors threatening noise violations, and possibly some skinny-dipping. The drunken mess standing before me is the wrong kind of bad I wanted to experience tonight.
I’m still cloaked in my graduation gown, the rough fabric combing my skin, providing a false sense of security under Devon’s heated glare. If only I could tuck my head inside it to avoid another argument. At least the cloth would muffle his words, obscuring his shouts the way tears are threatening to blur my vision. If only.
It’s no use asking him what he’s referring to or why he looks like he wants to throw my journal—and me—across the room. I’m already aware of the passages between the binding he grips with white-tipped knuckles. We’ve been official for four months, and he somehow feels as if he has the right to invade my thoughts, fears, and dreams. I ignore the fact that his anger might be justified because of what he read and focus on what he did wrong.
“You read my journal?” I explode. “Why?” My voice won’t stop shaking no matter how hard I try to control it. I know I have to get ahold of myself. Devon can sniff weakness from a mile away, and he will use it to his advantage.
He glowers at me in response, spilling hate with every breath. I might hate myself too for letting it come to this point. His anger has always been a beast, ready to unleash if I make one wrong move, and alcohol only gases his fire. Devon has never hit me, but certain situations have caused me to imagine what a blow would feel like. It wasn’t long ago, during one of our bigger arguments, that his fist came close. So close that I felt a rush of air skim my cheek before slamming into the wall. He wasn’t aiming for me. I don’t think. But I remember squeezing my eyelids together for so long my vision took a terrifying amount of time to return. During my darkened state, I imagined his fist connecting with my jaw, anticipating it like that would somehow lessen the pain when it did come.
Devon is a big guy, an athlete, and six-foot-three—almost a foot taller than me. He steps closer, casting a shadow over me, reminding me of my inferiority. He enjoys this: demonstrating he could hurt me if he wanted to. I think he wants to.
The only difference between now and the past is that I’ve been through this enough, and nothing about him scares me. Not anymore. Not even the fact that we’re trapped in the same room together. Alone. By now, Devon knows I’m not the passive weakling he wants me to be.
Instead of glowering or slamming my lids closed again, I stand taller and meet his furious scowl. If he’s going to hit me, I want him to see that I’m undaunted by his threats. “It’s a journal, Devon. It’s not like Icheated on you.”
He doesn’t know I’m aware of his escapades, but my comment gets his attention. There’s a flash of worry in his features before he catches himself and stands taller, puffing out his chest with laughter. I think his laugh hurts more than his fist ever could. He doesn’t admit his own deceit—not that I need him to, since I found a pile of empty condom wrappers in the center compartment of his Honda last month. Sure, they could have been from before we dated, but the feeling in my gut told me what my heart didn’t want to believe. And honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wanted me to find them. Always a hothead, Devon loves a good argument.
He’s still steaming when he finally speaks. “Wouldn’t that be classic? You won’t give it up for me, but you would for him.”
My face flames with mortification. I’ve never given it up for anyone, which is one of the many reasons we argue. Devon thinks he owns every piece of me because we’re dating, always telling me how lucky I should feel to be with him, insisting if I cared for him I should show him. No matter the argument, it always ends the same. I say “no” and he casts threats, telling me he’ll leave me, cheat on me, anything to get his fill. He hopes these arguments will help me see how badly I want him.
He doesn’t know me at all.
“I didn’t do anything.”
I have no desire to defend myself, not for lack of energy, but because I’ve run out of reasons to continue trying. It’s been a long four months of a relationship that should have never been. The moment romance got involved, everything changed . . . and I mean everything. We were better off as friends, but there’s no going back to friendship. Not after this. Devon Rhodes can go screw himself and whomever else he wants because he’ll never get near me again. He expects me to grovel, to feel as if I’m the one who betrayed him. Not going to happen.
“I think you should leave.” My final request does something to him. The fierceness in his eyes loses its flame, and with a flick of his wrist he tosses my journal to the corner of the room. Then he backs away with his hands up, a gesture that releases all tension from my body. He’s giving up. Finally.
I don’t need to look up to feel the heat escaping his body; it fills my room, creating a humidity we could drown in. Maybe we have been drowning, and every moment with Devon is my life flashing before my eyes. That would explain the suffocation I feel every time I’m with him.
He begins to exit my room, undoubtedly heading toward the party next door to relieve his frustrations on the first girl that will spread her legs. Turning, he makes sure to deliver one final blow before crossing the threshold and slamming the door. “Go to hell Chloe, and take my brother with you.”
The ball in my throat can’t decide whether it wants to sink deep into the pit of my stomach, weighing me down with guilt, or climb out my throat, clearing way for my scream of relief. It’s just there, taunting me, reminding me I had the power to end our relationship sooner. Instead, I let it come to this, and I can only take responsibility for my own mistakes. Unfortunately, I’ve made a lot of them.
In seconds I’m peeling off my gown and throwing myself onto my bed, in no mood to go back to that party. No celebration for me tonight.
Now that Devon’s gone, I want to let it all out. Everything my heart has endured in these months of torture. I can’t remember the last time I cried, but I have a sense it would feel good to let go right about now. As I smash my face into the flower-stained bedspread and clutch it with all my might, I practically have to force a tear from my eye.
A slow knock on my door jerks me to a sitting position. That’s a knock I haven’t heard in a while, but I know who owns it. I stand and straighten my dress, then slide a finger across the single tear I was able to muster.
“Come in,” I say.
Gavin pokes his head in hesitantly, as if testing the waters, before the rest of his body follows. He shuts the door and leans against it, a look of concern etched into his face. He must have seen Devon. Shame floods me, and I have to tear myself from his gaze.
“He looked pretty pissed this time. Are you okay?”
My swallow overshadows my nod.
“The usual,” I answer dryly. I watch him. He’s silent, observing me as he waits for a better response. Gavin has always had the ability to read me, no matter how hard I try to hide the truth. “What?” I demand. “He’s drunk.”
When Gavin tenses up he does this strange thing with his jaw, as if he’s clenching his teeth to keep from saying something he might regret. “What happened, Chloe?” he asks again.
Out of the corner of my eye I see the brown leather cover of my journal and sigh. Not wanting to attract attention to it, I turn back to Gavin, who’s slowly approaching. “I can’t do it anymore. He’s impossible to be with. Even when he’s not drunk, he’s yelling at me or accusing me of cheating on him.” I leave out the part where he threatened to leave me if I didn’t have sex with him. I’m not sure if Gavin knows this side of his brother, and I don’t want to be the one to tell him.
Gavin’s face twists, conflicted, and he places his hand on my forearm. “You two were never right for each other, Chloe.”
The lump in my throat sinks and latches onto my heart. Fixing my eyes with his, I whisper, “I know.”