EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT AND GIVEAWAY: SWEET FALL BY TILLIE COLE

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT AND GIVEAWAY: SWEET FALL BY TILLIE COLE

 Sweet fall is the best book I have read this year.  Tillie Cole has quickly become a favourite author of mine… Sweet fall is part of a series but can be read as a stand alone.  Tillie was kind enough to share an excerpt that is one of my favourite part of the book.  All I can say is Austin…SWOON.

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Synopsis 1

We all have secrets.

Secrets well buried.

Until we find the one soul who makes the burden of such secrets just that little bit easier to bear.

Lexington “Lexi” Hart is a senior at the University of Alabama. Surrounded by her best friends, her loving family and having fulfilled her life-long dream of making the Crimson Tide cheer squad, everything is going exactly as she always dreamed it would. But beneath her happy exterior, demons lurk, threatening to jeopardize everything Lexi has worked to achieve.

When events in her life become too much to cope with, Lexi finds herself spiraling down into the realm of her biggest fear. Lexi falls hard, victim once again to the only thing that can destroy her and, on the way, finds herself falling straight into the dangerous tattooed arms of a guy from the wrong side of the tracks.

Austin Carillo, starting Wide Receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide, must get picked in this year’s NFL draft. He needs it. His brothers need it. Most importantly, his mother desperately needs it. Brought up in a world where the poor are forgotten, the sick are left to fend for themselves and no hero miraculously appears to pull you out of hell, Austin had no other choice but to make a living on the wrong side of the law—until football offered Austin the break to get his life back on track.

But when a family tragedy drags him back into the clutches of the gang he believed he had left far behind, Austin finds himself falling. Falling back into criminal ways and falling deep into a suffocating darkness. Until a troubled yet kindred spirit stumbles across his path, where Austin quickly finds he is falling for a young woman—a young woman who might just have the power to save him from his worst enemy: himself.

Can two troubled souls find a lasting peace together? Or will they finally succumb to the demons threatening to destroy them?

New Adult/Contemporary Romance novel—contains adult content, sexual situations and mature topics. Suited for ages 17 and up.

*CAN BE READ AS A STAND-ALONE NOVEL*

Buy The Book 1

SWEET HOME

SWEET ROME

SWEET FALL

ETERNALLY NORTH

IT AIN’T ME, BABE

 

Excerpt 1

Fifteen minutes later, we entered my hotel room. Lexi hovered at the closed door as I moved to sit on my bed. She swayed on her feet, looking about the standard twin room.

Leaning over to the minibar, I pulled out a Coke. “You wanna drink?” I asked, and Lexi glared at the can of Coke. I actually looked down at my hand to see if I’d picked up something else by mistake.

What?” I asked in confusion.

Lexi wrapped her arms over her stomach. “Do you have water? Plain, unflavored water?”

Nodding slowly, I reached back into the minibar and pulled out a San Pellegrino, holding it out for her to take.

Lexi hesitated, and I laughed at how strange she was being.

Fuck, what’s her deal?

Here, Lex. I’m not gonna bite,” I said as she stood eerily still.

Lexi stared down at the floor, that blank expression on her face again. I noticed she was doing it a lot lately—around school, while we were with our friends… on the sideline of the games.

Lexi?” I said and placed the drinks on the nightstand. But her dark brows furrowed and her hands gripped to the side of her head. Her green eyes closed and a pained look came across her face.

Jumping from my seat, I ran over to where she stood and, not knowing where to place my hands, eventually gripped her arms. Lexi’s eyes opened and panic was evident in her stare. Her hands slipped slowly down her cheeks to rest straight by her sides and her fingers shook the entire way.

Fuck, Pix. You okay?”

Lexi’s bottom lip began to tremble and water filled her eyes.

I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry. It’s a bad day. It’s just a really bad day for me, that’s all.” She repeated the sentence about three more times.

I stared at her, completely not knowing what to do. Was she having an anxiety attack? Was she depressed? Whatever it was, it scared the shit out of me.

Guiding her past Rome’s bed and toward mine, I managed to sit her down. Grabbing the bottle of water, I poured it into a glass, handed it to her, and watched as she checked what I put inside, seemingly relieved when she saw it was just water.

Weird reaction number two.

Lexi took small sips from the glass, and she gradually seemed to come back to me. When only a quarter of the water was gone, Lexi put down the glass on the nightstand and nervously looked my way.

I’m so embarrassed,” she whispered, and I kneeled on the floor before her.

What was all that about?” I asked, and she turned her head away from me.

Gripping her chin between my thumb and finger, I brought her back to face me. “What was it all about, Pix?”

Lexi began pulling the sleeves of her black dress over her palms and dipped her eyes to avoid me. I tilted her chin again.

No, Pix, don’t look away. You were there for me at the hospital a few days ago. Let me be here for you now. What is going on with you?”

More silence. That just pissed me off.

Why the war paint, Pix?” I pushed.

She shook her head and tears sprang to her eyes. “Don’t, Austin. Please don’t ask me that anymore. I can’t stand it!”

Bowing my head, I gave up.

I’m tired,” Lexi suddenly said, and she stood up abruptly.

Quickly standing to meet her, I reached for her fingers, lacing them through mine. “Then lay down.” I gestured to the bed behind me.

NO!” Lexi said, a bit louder than I think she intended, and I raised my eyebrow at her response. “I need to go back to my room,” she said, wide eyes darting to the door.

But I didn’t want her going back to her room. Something was up, and her alone, acting like this, made me feel pretty damn uneasy about letting her outta my sight.

Stepping closer, I released her hand and cupped her cheeks. “Stay with me. Just stay with me here. We’ll just lay down and talk. Get to know each other, remember? Why the fuck are you running off?”

I could see the indecision in her gaze. I leaned forward to put my mouth to her ear. “Stay with me. I promise I won’t even touch you if you don’t want me to. I just can’t, in good conscience, let you go when you’re like this.”

As I made that promise, I realized I did want to touch her. A lot. The little pixie was getting under my skin.

If you promise to keep your distance, I’ll stay a while longer,” Lexi whispered back, and, releasing her face, I sighed in relief.

So she didn’t want me touching her? At least something was clear in this mess.

Walking around Lexi, I climbed on my bed, laid my head on the pillow, and faced her direction. She looked so fuckin’ cute standing in the middle of the room, staring at me sprawled out on the bed—her dress too big for her five-foot-nothing body, her boots too big for her skinny-ass legs, black hair curled and molded to her face like a 1920’s flapper, and her bright-red lips puckering in nerves.

I felt like some evil beast trying to lure an innocent virgin into his lair.

Pix, I ain’t gonna do anything you don’t want. So come on, get on over here and lay the fuck down,” I said and, even to me, my voice sounded hoarse.

It looked like she was walking the green mile as she took four steps forward and kneeled on the mattress beside me. Positioning her legs straight, she lay opposite me, her eyes never leaving mine.

You comfortable?” I asked.

Nodding her head, her lip twitched. “Yeah.”

You ever been in bed with a guy before?” I smirked as she blushed.

No. Never. Never really been around guys, period.”

What about at high school?” I asked. She must have been a cheerleader then too. That means a shitload of football players were around her all the damn time.

Her eyes fell. “I was homeschooled for the last couple ‘a years of high school. The cheerleading was put on hold until just a few months ago.”

I frowned. “Homeschooled? Why the hell would you wanna be homeschooled?”

Lexi snorted out a humorless laugh. “I didn’t wanna be homeschooled, Austin. I was forced to be. School was… too difficult for me. It was the only realistic option.”

Inching closer, I pushed. “Were you bullied or some shit?”

Lexi shook her head and she began fiddling with a piece of white loose linen off the bed sheets. Reaching out, I grabbed her finger, but her eyes never lifted once to meet mine. She was holding something back. Something I really wanted to know.

Look at me, Pix,” I demanded sternly.

Sighing, she did as I asked.

Were you bullied? Is that why you never went to school?”

Lexi didn’t say anything in response. So I waited. Waited for about two minutes, two long minutes, still gripping her hand, watching as she worked herself up to an explanation.

I had some issues… in school,” she eventually confessed. Her explanation wasn’t enough. I wanted details. I wanted to know how she was hurt and, preferably, who was responsible for it. I was feeling all kinds ’a protective over the little emo pixie. A strange development for me to take, but true nonetheless.

What kind of issues?” I prompted.

Lexi’s eyes squeezed shut, and when they reopened, she said quietly, “Body issues. I had a few…” She sighed and added, “I had some body issues.”

Taken aback, I looked down the bed and scanned her tiny frame, trying to think how someone like her could have body issues. She was petite… She was trim, athletic, but she looked damn good, maybe a bit too thin, but pretty fuckin’ special, regardless.

Lexi, seeing my interest in her figure, ripped her hand from mine, crossed her hands over her stomach, and curled up into the fetal position. Her green eyes grew wide with fear.

Lexi? What the fuck—”

Don’t look at me like that! I can’t bear to be looked at like that!” she said kinda hysterically.

I wasn’t!” I said through gritted teeth. Her eyes narrowed at my lie. “Well, okay, I was. But I was trying to work out why the hell you had issues! I wasn’t scrutinizing you, Pix. I’m not that much of an asshole.”

Her lowered eyelids and flushed face told me she didn’t believe me.

Shifting closer again, I was almost right against her body. “Pix, tell me why you were homeschooled.”

I can’t—”

Tell me why you were homeschooled.” I interrupted.

No, I can’t—”

For fuck sake, Pix, tell me why the hell you were homeschooled!” I shouted a little too loud.

Because I was anorexic! There, are you happy!” she screamed and fisted my shirt. “Because I was anorexic,” she said a second time, water filling her eyes. “I was anorexic…” She trailed off and those threatening tears began pouring from her eyes.

Anorexic?

Fuck. I had no clue what to say to that shit.

Lexi’s forehead met my chest, and she cried into my shirt. I wanted to hold her, but I’d promised not to touch her. But when Lexi sobbed, I couldn’t resist. So, lifting my hands, I slowly wrapped them in her hair and held her real close.

Lexi hadn’t even flinched at my unwanted touch. That kinda made my heart swell in my chest.

Shh, Pix, calm down. It’s okay,” I soothed.

It’s not, Austin. None of this shit is okay,” she whispered. “I’m getting too sick of fighting it off. Of fighting him off! I’m about done.”

That made me freeze and, pushing her head back from my chest, I met her bloodshot eyes. “Fighting what off? About done with what?”

Lexi hiccupped from crying too hard and said, “The temptation of the inner voice… the desperate temptation to go back there, to freely give over the reins.”

Panic ran through my veins at the desolate tone of her voice. “You mean you’re still fighting this shit? When you mentioned high school, I thought you meant you were cured.”

Lexi’s face frosted over and she hissed, “There’s no such thing as cured. I hate that godforsaken word! I’m not cured. Not with this, this goddamn awful disorder.”

But—”

Just like you and the Heighters. Your connection with it never ends. You got into that gang young and it stays with you for life. You said so yourself.” Her statement stopped me short. “What was it you said when I mentioned lasering off your tattoos, about ridding yourself of the Heighters? Oh yeah, it don’t work like that. It’s the same with me and eating. The temptation to avoid food is always there. And will always be there.”

I thought back to Lexi’s weirdness with Cass about her hug after the game. At her reaction to my offer of a drink and, specifically, the way she stared at the bastard Coke can.

The Coke,” I whispered out loud, and Lexi huffed out a small laugh.

Yeah, the Coke. Twelve ounces of soda. One hundred sixty calories. Zero grams of fat, but forty-two grams of carbs and forty-two grams of sugar. If consumed, it would take twenty minutes of hard jogging to work it off. But I wouldn’t just stop there. I’d have to jog another ten minutes more just to be sure I hadn’t calculated anything wrong. Plus, then I’d be about one hundred calories in the negative. Because ten minutes of jogging roughly works off one hundred calories, and the more calories burned means more pounds off the scale. I live by the measure of that scale.”

Stunned, my hands slipped from Lexi’s head, and she smiled coldly at my reaction, lifting her hand to cover her mouth with the pulled-down sleeve of her shirt.

Great isn’t it, Austin? Living with that. Thinking like that over everything: food, drink, exercise, every part of everyday life, forever. Hating brushing your teeth every morning and night because toothpaste probably has calories, doesn’t it? So after brushing your teeth, you drop to the cold tile floor in the bathroom and do fifty push-ups and fifty sit-ups just in case a few wayward calories slipped into your stomach and jeopardized your goal.”

Fuck, Pix,” was all I could offer in response to her outburst. She seemed breathless with the exertion of her confession.

Welcome to the freak show, Austin. I’m here all week,” Lexi said sadly.

I stared at her in sympathy. “You’re right. You are a freak,” I said bluntly, and the hurt that transformed her face almost cut me.

Lexi moved immediately to jump off the bed, but I reached out and grabbed her arm. It was the first time I noticed how frail it was under my hand. I could clearly feel the bone beneath my fingers, and not that much flesh around it.

I said don’t touch me!” she shrilled, jerking back her arm, and, losing my shit, I jumped off the bed, staring her down, and proceeded to rip off my shirt, baring my chest.

What… what are you doing?” Lexi asked, petrified, as her eyes fixed on my chest, then back up to my hard stare.

Grabbing her hand, I smashed it to the skin of my torso and leaned in until I was a hairsbreadth away from her mouth. “Yeah, I said you’re a freak.” Lexi flinched at my words, but I added, “But so the fuck am I.”

Gasping, Lexi’s eyelashes fluttered in nerves. I began pushing her hand along the plains of my stomach, my chest, and slowly ran them down to my hips and across to the skin just above the waistband of my jeans.

A pink blush spread on Lexi’s cheeks, and I said softly, “I got scars, a whole fuckin’ lotta them.”

Taking her index and middle fingers, I ran them just under my Day of the Dead tattoo on my ribs. “Slashed with a pocket knife by a rival gang at age fifteen for encroaching on their turf.” The pads of Lexi’s fingers drifted over the raised scar, and she sucked in a shocked breath.

Moving her fingers over my chest to the outside of my left arm, I said, “A bullet wound from a drive-by. Age sixteen. Skimmed the outside of my bicep. I was lucky. Another crew member wasn’t.”

A breeze of warm breath flowed over my chest, the source: a sharp exhale from Lexi’s slightly parted lips.

Finally, I ran her fingers down the hills and valleys of my abs and came to an abrupt stop just above my waistband. I left them there for a second and squeezed my eyes shut. My neck strained as I fought to control my breathing. Little Pix was making me real fuckin’ hard, and I was trying like hell to calm down.

Austin?” Lexi whispered, and I opened my eyes once more, retaking her fingers and running them across the three-inch long scar across my lower stomach. “Attacked by a tweaker junkie with a piece of jagged glass, all for a line of coke. I was sixteen.”

Austin…” Lexi said almost silently as a single tear dropped from her eye.

So you see, Pix, I have scars too. It’s just mine are on the outside where everyone can see.”

Taking me by surprise, Lexi launched her arms around my back and her cheek lay flush against my torso. Her nails were digging into the flesh of my back, and I tentatively laid my cheek on the top of her head.

She smelled so good.

Felt so good.

I wasn’t sure how long we just stood there like that, two fucked-up emo kids confessing our sins, but it was enough time for me to realize one thing: I was falling hard for the little dark pixie.

Real. Damn. Hard.

It had come on so suddenly. I felt blindsided by the emotion.

Feeling the heat from Lexi’s closeness infusing my body, I whispered, “Pix, I really need to kiss you now.”

Every part of her body tensed, and she whispered, “I’ve never been kissed before. Never done anything with a guy before,” like it was the most embarrassing thing on Earth.

My eyes squeezed shut and I felt like a dick. Of course she hadn’t been kissed, hadn’t been fucked. She hadn’t been around guys most of her teenage life, too busy starving herself to be thin.

I was such a grade-A fuckin’ dick.

But then I felt her soft lips brush against my sternum, and I just about lost my mind.

Slowly guiding her head up with my hand, my lips ghosted across her hair and down along her cheek. “Pix, I need you,” I rasped out once more.

Tilting her chin, she replied, “I think… I think I might need you too.”

About the Author 1

Tillie Cole Author Pic

Tillie Cole is a Northern girl through and through. She originates from a place called Teesside on that little but awesomely sunny (okay I exaggerate) Isle called Great Britain. She was brought up surrounded by her English rose mother — a farmer’s daughter, her crazy Scottish father, a savagely sarcastic sister and a multitude of rescue animals and horses.

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