Blurred Lines by Jen McLaughlin will be releasing January 26th, but first we have some exclusive content to share. FINNClub team members will be sharing special details from the book this week, in order to share their excitement for the new novel.
Today we have the first chapter from Blurred Lines.
I parked my car in the driveway and just sat there, staring up at the house I shared with my fiancée, Sarah. It was dark outside, and somewhere in the distance, a dog barked. It sounded pissed as hell, but that wasn’t why I didn’t get out of the car. It wasn’t why I was sitting here, feeling empty as hell and just as lost.
The truth was, I wasn’t going inside because I knew my fiancée wasn’t in there alone. I’d seen the car parked down the road, conveniently hidden behind large shrubbery. If I was any other man, it might have worked. I might not have noticed it when I drove by on my way to my next meeting. But I’d know that fucking car anywhere.
It was Sarah’s ex-boss’s car.
The same one she’d once dated.
When we’d met, they’d been freshly split up. He’d broken her heart, and she’d sworn him off forever. We’d dated a suitable amount of time before getting engaged. My parents had liked her, and so had I. It had been an arranged marriage of sorts, but in my circles, that wasn’t such a strange thing.
Our fathers were political affiliates. We were expected to marry. Once upon a time, I’d hoped to have more. I’d hoped to have the kind of love that consumed your soul.
I still hadn’t found it.
So, I’d asked Sarah to marry me. She’d said yes. I’d thought she loved me. I’d been fairly certain I would grow to love her.
But if she really loved me…
Why the hell was her ex-boyfriend’s car outside my house?
Slowly, I opened my car door and made my way up the driveway. My heart thudded in my ears, and I knew what I’d find when I opened that door. There was no doubt my fiancée was naked and having sex with another man.
And yet, I went inside anyway.
The door creaked when it opened, and I froze, half expecting to hear frantic shouting and retreating footsteps. Nothing moved. I crept inside the rest of the way, leaving the front door open. As I walked, I found a man’s sweater on the floor. I stepped on it. Another step and I scored a pair of men’s pants and a skirt.
There was no doubt anymore, if there ever had been, that my fiancée was cheating on me. I didn’t need to go any farther. I had confirmation. But still…
I kept going.
For some reason, I needed to see it with my own eyes to believe it. I’d truly believed Sarah was an honest woman. One who wouldn’t sleep with someone behind my back. I’d thought she would be a good partner for life. A trustworthy one.
I reached the couch. The couch I’d picked out.
Sarah was kneeling between her ex’s feet. She was naked, and so was her ex. The man’s bare ass was on my fucking couch. I didn’t know what upset me more: that, or the fact that she was giving the dude a BJ.
She never did that with me. Said it was undignified.
So was fucking a dude on my couch.
And, yes, I knew that the fact that those two things bothered me just as much as the actual betrayal did was fucked up. But I hadn’t loved her. I’d wanted to…
But I didn’t really know what real love felt like.
Fisting my hands, I cleared my throat. “I’m home early.”
Sarah shrieked and flew to her feet, grabbing the throw blanket off the arm of my couch and covering her body with it.
Which was absurd, really. We’d both seen her naked before, obviously. The man also stood, grabbing a pillow and covering his half-hard dick with it.
“You can keep that now,” I said drily, not taking my eyes off Sarah. She was pale and shaking. I forced myself to remain calm. To act as if this hadn’t completely taken me off guard, even if it hadn’t broken me like it should have. “So, I take it the engagement is off, then?”
“Riley, I’m so sorry.” Tears streamed down her cheeks. “I didn’t want you to see this…”
“Obviously,” I said. “Cheaters rarely do.”
She shook her head, her blonde hair flying everywhere. “No. I’m not a cheater. I just—”
“Seriously?” I threw my arms out. “If this isn’t cheating, what the hell do you call it?”
Her cheeks flushed. “I love him, Riley. Really love him.”
I froze then, absorbing the knowledge that she’d felt the same way about me that I felt about her—and I hadn’t even known it. I’d naïvely thought she actually loved me, instead of just, well, accepting me as a suitable partner. How had I missed that?
“I thought you loved me,” I said softly, scratching my head. “I didn’t know…”
“I do.” She came up to me, resting her hand on my heart. The same hand that had been cupping another man’s balls moments before. That skeeved me out, so I stepped back from her touch. “I love you, Riley.”
“But you’re not in love with me,” I said, swallowing hard.
I might not love her till my dying breath, but the reality of what was happening hit me pretty hard. We were together for three fucking years, and it was over now. We’d just mailed the wedding invitations out last week.
And she’d been fucking him.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, tears falling down her cheeks.
I had no doubt she was. She was always a nice person, which was why this came as such a shock. I never suspected this of her. Hell, we’d made love last night, and she’d spent half an hour talking about wedding dresses and centerpieces.
I locked eyes with her bright green ones. “When did this start?”
She crumbled. “A week ago.”
The dude finally spoke up. He took a step forward. “Look, man, I’m sorry, but—”
Without thinking, I cocked my fist back and punched him right in the fucking face. He’d broken her heart, and now he was going to do it again. She might think he’d changed, but any man who would fuck another man’s fiancée on his own couch was not a changed man. He was scum, pure and simple.
And she’d fallen for him again.
“Don’t speak to me,” I snarled. I went after him, even though he stumbled backward and tripped over a fallen pillow.
“Don’t you ever fucking—”
“Riley, don’t!” Sarah called out, sobbing. “Please. Don’t hurt him.”
I fisted my hands, my breathing coming out harsh. She’d cheated on me with this lowlife, and she was worried I’d hurt him?
I whirled on her. “If you loved me, even if you weren’t in love with me, you wouldn’t have done this, Sarah. Not to me.”
She covered her face and cried. “I’m sorry.”
“Yeah.” I shook my head. “You made a big mistake, Sarah. I would have treated you right. I never would have…never…I wouldn’t have done this.”
“But you don’t love me,” she whispered. “You never have.”
“I care about you. I respect you.” I looked at her again. “I would have treated you right. That’s more important than love. And it’s safer, too.”
“I know,” she said, shrugging hopelessly. “I wanted more, though.”
And she thought she’d find it with this guy? I looked at him again. He sat on the floor, butt-assed naked and shaking.
Pathetic. Turning my attention back to her, I forced a calm smile. My lawyer smile, as I liked to call it.
The one that said: I have no problem with taking your ass to court and whooping it publicly, so you better enter a plea bargain. I’d never given it to her before.
“Well, then, I wish you the best of luck. Goodbye.”
Sarah stumbled after me, grabbing my arm. “Wait. What will we tell everyone?”
“Tell them whatever you want.” I shook off her hold. “I don’t care.”
She grabbed for me again, but I pulled back. “But—”
“I said I don’t care, okay?” I held my hands up. “You were right about one thing—I never loved you. So, I don’t give a damn what you say to them.”
She covered her mouth and cried. I felt nothing. Not really.
But I didn’t want her touching me. Not anymore. This was the second time I’d found my significant other in bed with another man. The first time had been in college, and it had hurt like hell. I’d actually loved her…or I’d thought I had, anyway.
Now I was starting to think I was incapable of love.
Sure, I’d loved a girl once, but she hadn’t loved me back. She’d been in love with her now-husband, and they were the only couple I knew actually in love. Like, the kind you see in movies. Finn and Carrie had it, but I never would. Not in this lifetime.
I stumbled out the door, tugging on my tie as I went. It felt tight. As if it had come to life and decided to choke what little life I had left out of me. I was tempted to let it.
I was stuck in a job I hated, at a firm my father owned, and now I was single, too. And for the second time in my life, I’d been duplicitously cheated on.
Was it something I’d done? Something that was missing in me that made my women look elsewhere? Maybe I was broken.
Maybe I should stop trying to find a partner and just accept the fact that I was better off alone.
Maybe I should just stop trying.
But first? I’d call off the meeting that I was already late to…and I’d get drunk as hell as quickly as possible. I’d get so drunk that I’d forget all about Sarah and the naked man on my couch. So drunk that I’d forget all about how broken I was, because instead of being heartbroken over her betrayal, I was angry that we’d have to deal with the mess she’d made.
I was mad I’d have to tell my mother that I was no longer marrying the woman she’d handpicked for me, and deal with the drama that came with it all. But I wasn’t upset I lost her…
Not at all.
Finding my fiancée naked on my couch might’ve been a good thing, if her ex-boyfriend hadn’t been with her. For the past eight years I’ve been a witness to the power of true love, but after getting burned I’d decided there wasn’t any hope for me finding it for myself. Until I met Noelle Brandt in a hotel bar. Maybe it wasn’t the most romantic meeting, but the moment I met her I knew I had to have her. The more I learn about her, the more I know I’ll do whatever it takes to keep her.
I’d already found the love of my life, but I’d lost that love forever. And I’d been lost ever since. But one night a wounded man makes all of that go away. He makes me laugh, live, and feel alive. When he tells me he has no intention of letting me go, I finally begin to believe in the power of true love again. That is, until I find out who he really is…and by then, it’s far too late to correct the mistakes we’ve already made. By the time we both know the truth, the lines have already been blurred beyond recognition.
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Jen McLaughlin is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sexy New Adult books. Under her pen name Diane Alberts, she is a multi-published, bestselling author of Contemporary Romance with Entangled Publishing. Her first release as Jen McLaughlin, Out of Line, released September 6 2013, and hit the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal lists. She was mentioned in Forbes alongside E. L. James as one of the breakout independent authors to dominate the bestselling lists. She is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.
Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal-clear water. Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal-clear water. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her four kids, a husband, a schnauzer mutt, and a cat. Her goal is to write so many well-crafted romance books that even a non-romance reader will know her name.