Lauren Layne Coming Friday July 10th 7pm PST AUTHOR OF: CRUSHED Excerpt of Chapter 1 part 2 today

Lauren Layne
Coming Friday
July 10th 7pm
Well, I'm here to tell you that I do have a favorite of my heroines. Her name is Chloe Bellamy, and I think she's just about the most glorious thing to ever emerge from my writer's imagination. This is her story.
This is the last book in my Redemption series, all of which are new adult "twists" on classic story. Pygmalion (Isn't She Lovely), Beauty & the Beast (Broken), and the The Ugly Duckling ... Crushed.
But I didn't want to do just any Ugly Duckling story. I wanted a fresh, modern and unexpected take on it. The key was Chloe; our "duckling." Chloe is not your conventional romance heroine, true. She's not skinny. Her hair is crazy, uncontrollable curly. She talks too much, laughs too loud, loves too much. But she's not your typical ugly duckling either, because Chloe's confident. And it's that confidence, that unshakable sense of self that is exactly what a wounded Michael St. Claire needs in his life. Only, he doesn't know it. 
But he will. Oh he will.
dare you to read this one without a smile. The banter between these two is some of my best :-)

Growing up in New York, Michael St. Claire never expected to spend his twenties wearing cowboy boots. But that was before he learned about his real father, a total stranger with a family in Cedar Grove, Texas. Once in the Lone Star State, Michael meets Kristin Bellamy, who is exquisitely refined and everything Michael always thought he wanted in a woman. The only problem is that Kristin is dating Michael’s new half brother, Devon.

Kristin’s mouthy, curvy sister Chloe has always been in love with Devon Patterson. So when Michael offers to help Chloe break up Devon and Kristin, Chloe agrees to a deal that seems too good to be true. Before long, Chloe finally gets her man, only to make a startling discovery: She no longer wants the guy she had to fight for—she wants the one who stood by her side.

After all he and Chloe have been through, Michael swears he’s damaged goods. Can Chloe convince him that love is worth the risk?

The girl nods in the direction of Kristin. “She’s already done her senior year. Next year she’ll be doing it again.”
I glance toward Kristin and see her giving the other girl a death glare.
They clearly know each other.
I give the new girl a second look. She’s about Kristin’s age, but looks nothing like her. There’s a book on the bench next to her hip, but right now both of her hands are occupied with an M&M’s bag. She fishes out a candy and pops it into her mouth as her eyes move between Kristin and me like we’re the world’s most fascinating spectator sport.
“Cute,” the girl says, gesturing between Kristin and me. “If you two copulate, I’m calling Pampers to tell them I know where their next baby model is coming from.”
“Friend of yours?” I ask Kristin.
Kristin sighs. “Sister.”
Disbelieving, I look more closely at the chocolate-munching creature.
Instead of Kristin’s smooth dark ponytail, this one’s hair is a mass of wild curls, sort of gold and brown, and maybe some red.
She’s got the same big eyes as her sister, except somehow they’re too large on her, and blue instead of brown. She also has her sister’s full mouth, but it’s too obvious, somehow. And whereas Kristin is slim bordering on skinny, this one is, well . . . lush.
“I know, I know,” the other girl says in a weary voice, tilting the M&M’s bag to her mouth and munching the last of the candies. “I’m the pretty one. Don’t tell Kristin; she’s sick of hearing it.”
I hear another tiny sigh from Kristin. “Michael St. Claire, this is Chloe Bellamy. My mom insisted she come along and watch in hopes that this will be the summer that she’ll actually want to take part in some of the more active elements happening at the club.”
“Um, did you not see the way I kicked the ass of that vending machine?” Chloe asks, giving her sister an incredulous look. “And if Mom had ever seen me pursuing a midnight snack, she’d know just how active I can be.”
I stifle the unfamiliar urge to smile even though I can see right through her.
Her curvy figure isn’t fashionable . . . not in places like this, where celery sticks qualify as dinner. But she’s smart about it; she’s joking about her weight before the rest of them can.
Annoyance flashes across Kristin’s face, but before she can open her mouth, I clear my throat, hoping to break up a sibling fight. “Ready?” I ask Kristin.
With a last warning glance at her sister, Kristin gives me a bright smile. “Totally. But go easy on me. . . . I haven’t played since our lesson last week.”
“You’ve gone a whole week since trying to swat a fuzzy green ball?” Chloe makes a dramatic, despairing noise behind us. “Why, God, why? Why is life so hard?”
Kristin inhales long and slow. The sound is practiced, as though she’s done it before to cope with her annoying younger sister.
I don’t have siblings, but growing up with Ethan and Olivia in my back pocket, I know that sometimes pretending the other person’s not there is the best way to stave off a fight.
Kristin brushes at the hair near her temple, and I notice it’s curling a little in the afternoon heat. It’s cute. Unlike her sister’s curls, which are . . . crazy.
Kristin moves to one side of the net and I move to the other, ignoring the wolf whistle from Chloe as I walk by her.
I pull a ball from my pocket, lobbing it easily over the net. Kristin moves into place, sending it back in my direction with near perfect form.
This goes on for several minutes until I hear a noisy, fake snoring noise from the spectator on the sidelines.
Kristin pauses long enough to glare at her sister again. The ball goes sailing past her and I see her frown.
Not exactly the flirtatious foreplay I’d been hoping for today.
But since I can’t make the annoying sister go away, I figure the least I can do is to engage her in conversation so she quits bugging Kristin.
“You play tennis, Chloe?” I call out as I pull out another ball and serve it to Kristin, harder this time.
“Do I look like I’m all about cardio?” she calls back in a cheerful voice.
“What about when you were younger? You didn’t take lessons?”
“Um, that’s a negative,” Chloe says around a mouthful of chocolate. She has a candy bar now. “Some of us were reading Harry Potter like normal kids.”
“Ignore her,” Kristin says sharply, delivering a sharp forehand in the direction of her sister.
It misses by several feet, but the aim was not accidental, I’m guessing.
Chloe apparently takes the hint, because for the next several minutes, she seems to settle down with her book. I start to forget she’s there, except for when she occasionally shouts out a request for me to flex, or to “circle real slow-like so I can see the goods.
I do my best to ignore her.
It’s not easy.
Kristin’s serve is sloppy today, which I’m guessing has something to do with her sister’s distracting presence, but I’m not really complaining. It’ll give me a chance to touch her as I correct her form.
“You’re using too much wrist,” I say, nabbing the ball she’d just sent over. “Let’s work on it.”
I start to head over to the other side of the net, and our eyes lock as I make my way toward her, but then her eyes move over my shoulder and widen in surprise and something else before a huge smile breaks across her face.
I freeze for a split second, the name splintering through my consciousness. It’s possible there are other Devons, of course, but not likely.
And the Devon I know is dating Kristin Bellamy.
It’s the reason I’m after her. Well. That and the body.
I turn slowly, waiting to get my first glance at one of the very reasons I’m in Cedar Grove, Texas, in the first place. But even though I think I’m prepared for it, his features are still a shock.
This kid is a dead ringer for Tim Patterson.
I realize that I’m not dead inside like I’ve been thinking these past few months.
I watch as Kristin’s arms go around Devon’s neck, and my fingers tighten on the handle of my tennis racket.
I wait for a stab of jealously.
I feel nothing.
This had been the plan all along: Use Kristin to get to Devon.
Then use Devon to get to Tim.
I let them have their moment. The game I’m playing is a long one. No need to rush things.
As I go to grab a bottle of water, my eyes inadvertently fall on mouthy, messy Chloe Bellamy.
I pause.
Gone is the snarky, don’t-give-a-shit Chloe who’d been hollering smart-ass remarks just a couple minutes before.
Her eyes are locked on her sister’s boyfriend, and the look on her face is painfully familiar.
I know that look.
I know that look better than I’ll ever admit to anyone.
Chloe Bellamy is in love with her sister’s boyfriend. I’ve got a pretty damn good idea how shittily that’s going to work out for her.
Chloe rips her eyes away and stares unseeingly down at her book. Her eyes squeeze shut.
I shift my gaze back to the couple, who are now kissing in earnest, and the anger starts creeping in, mingling with the jealousy and causing a hot stab of resentment to lodge in my chest.
Objectively, I know that I’m watching Kristin and Devon, not Ethan and Olivia.
But it’s the same, isn’t it?
The perfect fucking couple, completely blind to the people around them.
Only this time, it’s not the guy who’s like my brother who has the girl.
It is my brother.
My eyes flick back to Chloe.
Maybe Kristin’s not the only path to Devon after all.

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