I loved you once. A love I thought irrevocable. A love I mistakenly believed could transcend both time and circumstance. Under the influence of my dimwitted, naïve, traitorous heart, I became intoxicated with what I now know was simply a figment of my self-indulgent imagination. So drunk on the feeling, I couldn’t see what was right in front of my face. So foolishly enamored, I blindly followed my heart into the depths of an emotion that would ravage me.
Years later, I know now what I wish I knew then. I am stronger. Smarter. Tougher. I will not allow myself to be broken again.
I loved you.
I raged for you.
I wept for you.
And now, I’m letting you go.
Author’s Note: Under the Influence is the journey of two childhood friends that spans the course of five pivotal years in their lives. It is a story about their discovery of true friendship as it blossoms into first love, their experience of crucial sacrifice and ultimate betrayal, and their endurance of agonizing heartbreak on the way to finding lasting redemption.
Releases: May 11, 2015
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All that remains is the orange in the sky and the sweet scent of the angel lying next to me. Nothing else.
We watch in silence as we always do until the sun finally sets, then both breathe out a long sigh before I turn to face her. “I have something for you. It’s not much, but I saw it and thought of you.”
Her eyes widen with excitement as an equally joyful smile spreads across her beautiful features. I reach into my pocket and pull out the item I spied just a couple of days ago, buying it as a gift for her birthday, but it turns out I really suck at surprises. Who knew?
Dangling the long strand of black beads in her face, an unexpected rush of anxiety races through my system. I’ve never given anyone anything. Ever. I find it extremely unnerving.
Her grin widens further as she extends her hand, uncurling her fingers and exposing her palm. I lower the bracelet and watch as it coils into her grasp. My eyes rise to meet hers and I swallow deeply, trying to rid the nerves constricting my throat. “It’s uh … They’re onyx—the beads. I read that they offer protection for the person who wears them. I just…” I clear my throat. “I wanted you to be protected even when I’m not around.”
Her smile is hindered as her teeth graze her bottom lip. I fight the urge to take that pouty lip in between mine, breaking my stare from her mouth and bringing it back to the bracelet before glancing back to her sky blue eyes.
She turns to fully face me, the bracelet still secure in her clenched hand. Her expression timid, she inquires, “Put it on me?”
I nod and slowly uncurl her grip, allowing my touch to linger on the soft pads of her fingers with each one drawn away. She shivers in response and I breathe a light chuckle through my nose, still amazed each time I elicit those involuntary reactions from her. Once the bracelet is pinched between my fingers, she turns her wrist and waits patiently as I hook the ends together. Releasing it, I watch as it slides gracefully along the skin of her arm to land across the bones of her wrist. My hand instinctively rises and my fingers trace its traveled path, raking over the bracelet as I clench her hand in mine and press a soft kiss in the center of her palm.
Her breath shudders before she whispers, “I love it, Dalton. It’s…perfect. Thank you.”
I feel my face warm with her compliment, so break my eyes away from her to focus on the stars. After a couple of moments of peace-filled silence, I inquire, “If you were a color, what color would you be?”
Taking her eyes away from the bracelet, she giggles and twists to look at me. “What color would I be?”
I nod. “Yeah…” I stall, stunned with my need for honesty. “It’s just, sometimes I feel like a chameleon, you know? Forced to change my colors based on where I am in my life.”
I release a weighted breath. “Lately it feels as though I change them so often, I’m nothing more than a fucked-up version of an impressionist painting.”
Glancing to the side, my heart lurches as she crinkles her nose in confusion, my absolute favorite of her expressions. My eyes linger the light scattering of freckles on the bridge of her nose before once again seeking comfort in the obscurity of the night sky. “To those far away, I project a solid, recognizable image. But in reality, I’m comprised of nothing but a series of angry, incoherent brush strokes in every color imaginable. Disjointed.”
I twist my neck and pin her with my stare. “Broken.”
Her mouth dips at the corners before she turns on her side and tucks her hands under her cheek, her blue eyes sincere. “Do you think Renoir and Monet didn’t know what they were doing? That they didn’t purposely place each stroke of their paintbrush in order to create their envisioned masterpiece?”
She tightens her gaze. “You are a work of art, Dalton. Your own masterpiece, regardless if you choose to acknowledge it or not. Every experience that paints your picture is a stroke made just for you. Each one of them is essential in order for you to grow, to learn, and to teach.”
She shrugs her shoulders. “You ask me what color I would be? Well, I would be every single color I could because to me, those colors are emotions. Feelings. And life would mean absolutely nothing without the many colors that surround us. The many … experiences we live through that propel us forward into the people we are meant to become.”
Mother of three little girls…wife of one loving man…writer of hopefully A LOT of romance novels.
I just finished my first book…Running on Empty. While promoting it, I will be writing Running in Place.
I started this blog to reach out to my readers on a personal basis. To provide updates for my writing, but also to write about life as it happens. The good, the bad, and the ugly. All of it.
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Review by Michelle:
L.B. Simmons is one of those authors that I will drop everything to read. A book by this author is sure to be emotionally charged with uniquely loveable and compelling characters. Needless to say I have been impatiently awaiting the release of Under the Influence for months. There is nothing better than eagerly anticipating the release of a book and as you begin reading it you feel the pull, the undeniable draw that sucks you in, enthralls you, and mesmerizes you. Much to my delight, this is exactly what happened once I cracked open Under the Influence.
I was enchanted by Dalton's story, the double life that he led, and his beautifully poetic and incredibly powerful feelings for Spencer. Upon meeting Dalton I was completely transfixed and itching to know more. I was immediately sucked in and from there never once given the opportunity to tear myself away or come up for air until I had reached the very end.
My favorite heroine is snarky and even cynical. This in no way, shape, or form was Spencer Locke , but with her endless positivity and her selfless nature she was a ray of pure sunshine you just can't help but love. A heroine that was just too cute to deny and irresistibly endearing.
Spencer and Dalton had an incomparable friendship which makes for an unshakable, solid relationship if embraced, but what they also had by the truckload was chemistry. A simple touch between the two even in friendship was electric and unresolved feelings constantly simmered beneath the surface. As these two friends contemplate the possibilities of becoming something more the tension between the two was often palpable and heart racing.
L.B. Simmons has a remarkable way with words. Her prose is exquisitely lyrical, eloquent, and expressive. She can also unleash a torrent of emotion at a moment's notice with just a few simple words. As always I was immersed in the characters, their story, and their feelings and utterly consumed by the emotions that it all evoked. L.B. Simmons is a true master at making you feel and Under the Influence brings all the feels; the joy, the pain, the love, the lust, and everything in between.
To say this book ran the gamut of emotions is an understatement. One minute I was basking in the joy of Dalton and Spencer's bond and the next Dalton had me twisted up in knots praying that the devastating decision he was forced to make was the right one. The letters and the extensive passage of time was absolutely brutal while the possibility of one or both characters moving on during this time was positively nerve wracking. Finally the clever way in which the story came full circle had me tearing up all while wearing a contented grin.
Even the secondary characters in this story are magnetic. Between Spencer's mom, an altruistic, caring soul who always had plenty of love, support, and sage advice for her daughter, and Kirk Lawson, Dalton's compassionate mentor who demonstrates what being an officer of the law is really all about, we are shown the definition of savior, guide, and the type of guardian and protector all children should be entitled to. Then there is Cassie, Spencer's feisty, in-your-face bestie who is true to herself no matter what and loves and supports Spencer unconditionally. Individually each of these characters would make this book worthwhile, but taken as a whole, this entire cast of characters makes this story fun, lively, meaningful, and truly memorable.
Under the Influence is yet another beautiful, emotional, significant story under L.B. Simmons' belt. I was once again left in awe and sad to leave these characters behind. I sure would love to read more about any of these characters, Cassie in particular.
Rating: 5 Stars