Resisting an irresistible force wears you down and turns you out.
I’ve been doing it for years.
I may not have a musical gift of my own, but I’ve got a nose for talent and an eye for the extraordinary.
And Marlon James – Grip to his fans – is nothing short of extraordinary.
Years ago, we strung together a few magical nights, but I keep those memories in a locked drawer and I’ve thrown away the key.
All that’s left is friendship and work.
He’s on the verge of unimaginable fame, all his dreams poised to come true.
I manage his career, but I can’t seem to manage my heart.
It’s wild, reckless, disobedient.
And it remembers all the things I want to forget.
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I wanted to keep this pain locked away, private. Until now. Until Grip. His eyes rest on my face. I feel his compassion, and it weighs so much I want out from under it. I turn my head to escape the honesty between us for a few seconds. Just for a reprieve. As soon as I look over the side, I realize my mistake.
“Oh, God. We’re so high.”
Breath charges up my throat, panic pushing out the last few minutes of peace. My heart jackhammers. Blood rushes to my head, and the world spins. I grip my head to make it stop.
“Hey, hey.” Grip scoots closer, eliminating the distance between us. “Put your head down as far as you can.”
The safety bar keeps me from putting my head between my knees, but I don’t think it would help anyway. Nothing helps. It’s irrational. I know I’m safe, but fear mocks me and makes me its bitch. I hate it, but I can’t stop it.
“My mom used to tell me to recite things,” Grip says from above me. “Like to distract myself when I was scared. To give me something else to focus on.”
It only makes me more anxious that I have nothing I can recite. Fear jumbles all my thoughts together, so discombobulated that I can’t even assemble the digits of my phone number.
“I can’t think of anything.”
“Okay. Hold up.” He rubs my back in soothing strokes that don’t soothe. “I’ll do it. Just listen to my voice. Focus on what I’m saying.”
I can’t focus. I can’t stop the encroaching darkness, blurring my edges and knotting my interior. It’s never been this bad, and it would happen right in front of Grip.
“I’ll recite “Poetry” by Pablo Neruda. My favorite actually.” Grip’s voice is warm but disembodied as I press my eyes closed. “It feels like he was writing my life story. Like he knew there would be this kid who needed something bigger than himself, and he wrote this to guide that kid to a different path. This has always felt like more than a poem. It’s personal. It feels like my prophecy.”
The emotion, the honesty in his voice compels me to hazard a glance at him. In the faint light of the moon and the bright lights of the carnival, I see his face. Beautiful and bronzed, a sculpture of bold bones and full lips. His eyes are intent, never looking away from mine as he begins.
His deep voice caresses Neruda’s sentiments of how poetry called him from the street and away from violence. Of how writing saved him from a certain fate and opened up a world he’d never imagined. And Grip’s right. The poem could have been written for him . . . could have foretold the story of a boy called, not from the streets of a Chilean city, but from the streets of Compton.
Passion weaves between his words and conviction laces every line. He means these words. He loves these words. Amazingly, as he’s reciting a poem I’ve never heard before, someone else’s words illuminate Grip to me. I see him clearly. A man deeply committed to his craft and who views his gift as a miracle of circumstance. As cocky as he is, I see him humbled by the means to escape a path so many others never leave. And if the poem tells his story, his eyes are a confession, never straying from mine, holding mine in the moonlight, his voice liquid poured over something sweet. As he approaches the end, my fears are forgotten, but I’m still stuck on a Ferris wheel under a darkened sky, and nothing has ever been more fitting than the final words, in which the poet says he wheeled with the stars and his heart broke loose on the wind.
There are too few perfect moments in this life. Far too few of us get them, but I am privileged to have this one with this man. When he empties his chest of his heart and empties his body of his soul for me under a starry sky on a Ferris wheel. And I know. In this moment, I know that I’m lost to him. It has been a matter of days. It has been a string of moments. It has not been long enough to tell him, but in my heart, I know I am lost.
“Did that help?” he asks.
He searches through the dim light for my fear or my panic, but they aren’t there anymore. He leans closer, so close his breath whispers over my face. I don’t know when he realizes that fear has gone and that something else has come, but I see the change in his eyes.
I think he might be lost in me, too.
The inches between our lips disappear. At the first brush of his mouth on mine, I know this kiss will never end. It will live on in my memory for the rest of my life. His lips beg entry, a tentative touch that blazes through my defenses and hastens the rhythm of my heart. I clutch his arm, skin and muscle, satin over steel. A thousand textures collide. The hot silk of his mouth. The sharp, straight edge of his teeth. The firm curve of his lips. The taste of him. God, the taste of him makes me moan. He cups my face, fingers spearing into my hair. I press so close the heat of his body burns through the thin fabric of our shirts.
“Bris.” He says it against my lips before trailing kisses down my chin. His mouth opens over my neck, hot and wet, and I arch into him, the pleasure like a train in my veins. Rushing. Vaulting. Exploding.
“Oh, God.” I’m a panting mess. My hands venture under his shirt, desperate, nails scraping at his back. “Keep kissing me.”
He’s back at my lips, devouring, our tongues dueling, dancing. This kiss has a cadence, his head moving to the left and then right, on beat, a syncopation, a simultaneity of lips and tongues. His mouth slants over mine, hot and zealous, and I link my fingers behind his head, clinging, afraid this will end. Afraid to lose the enormity of this moment. At the top of the world, so close we could almost touch the sky and with only the stars watching, I found out what a kiss should be.
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***Also, before Grip releases, you can read the prequel novella for FREE on February 25th!***
In 8 years, Marlon James will be one of the brightest rising stars in the music industry.
Bristol Gray will be his tough, no-nonsense manager.
But when they first meet, she’s a college student finding her way in the world,
and he’s an artist determined to make his way in it.
From completely different worlds,
all the things that should separate them only draw them closer.
It’s a beautiful beginning, but where will the story end?
FLOW is the prequel chronicling the week of magical days and nights that will haunt Grip & Bristol for years to come.
GRIP is the full-length conclusion of their story.
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Kennedy loves to write about herself in third person. She loves Diet Coke…though she’s always trying to quit. She adores her husband…who she’ll never quit. She loves her son, who is the most special boy on the planet. And she’s devoted to supporting and serving families living with Autism.
And she writes love stories!
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