What Lies Between Me And You | Courtney Milan, Historical Romance Author
What Lies Between Me and You
What Lies Between Me and You

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Adam Reynolds is:

  • a multi-billionaire—one of the richest men in the world
  • the visionary founder and leader of Cyclone Technologies
  • a man so foul-mouthed that his employees refer to him as “AFR”—and no, the “F” does not stand for “Fred”
But you know what they say. Behind every great man, there is… Well. You’ll have to wait to find that out.

The Cyclone Series Reading Order

1. Trade Me | 2. Hold Me | 2½. The Year of the Crocodile | 3. Find Me
What Lies Between Me and You
4. Keep Me | 5. Show Me

Excerpt

Note: Excerpt is supremely unedited. Two spoilery sentences removed.

Now

It’s raining today.

I can see the grounds from the floor-to-ceiling window—lush, green grass and gray sandstone patios, ringed by fountains and perfectly trimmed bushes. The leaves glisten dark green, and beds of flowers bob wet heads. It should be pretty, but the rain has stripped the groomed beds of all brightness. This place is wearing a fucking mask. Like somehow, if we pretend that it’s a resort, we can make all the hard questions go away.

Maybe it is a resort, of a kind. It costs enough. There are spa treatments, after all, and doctors everywhere. Maybe I should ask if I can get a goddamned Botox treatment.

“Adam?”

The depressing thing is that they might say yes, and where would that fucking leave me?

“Adam Reynolds?”

My acerbic internal diatribe is interrupted by the chipper woman in a white coat who has been given the unenviable task of moderating this… Heh. In keeping with the euphemisms of the day, maybe I should call it a “discussion.”

Yeah. “Discussion” sounds better than “complete and total waste of fucking air,” and today, I’m all about the goddamned medical euphemisms.

“Adam,” the woman repeats, “it’s your turn.”

Eva. Yep. That would be her name.

I look around the room. There are nine other people in this room, sitting in a ring on these comfortable chairs. I wonder how many of them can tell themselves the truth and how many of them are even now hiding behind polite circumlocutions.

“It’s my turn for what?” I ask.

There’s a beat—just a brief one. Then Eva straightens and smiles brilliantly. “It’s your turn to share. Do you want to tell us why you’re here?”

My fellow inmates—oh, my fucking mistake, my fellow spa residents—are watching me with scarcely disguised interest. This is a facility for the wealthy. Some of them, I suppose, have some degree of renown. But the low-level starlet with the bee-stung lips and the warm brown skin is the next closest thing to famous in the room, and compared to me, she’s scarcely even news. Everyone else? There’s a housewife, a bearded dude from some old money Connecticut family, a fucking ophthalmologist… They’re just people with cash in the bank and maybe a fleeting window of fame.

I’m the fucking spectacle. Hell, I’m just four-and-a-half clowns short of a circus.

“They know why I’m here,” I say. “And if they don’t, to hell with them. I don’t need to waste time spelling shit out for illiterate fuckheads.”

The B-list starlet wrinkles her nose in distaste at this and looks away. Even in here, she keeps her hair long and straight, teased with relaxers. Her nails are manicured with glinting, dangerous polish, etched with sparkling crescent moons. Her skin is a rich make-up-smoothed brown, a carefully constructed product of concealers and powders.

Funny; we’ve met before, although I doubt she remembers it. Her father is the head of operations over at CT Communications in Dallas. We crossed paths when she was seven years old. She didn’t roll her eyes back then. But I’ve always liked kids—and I never liked her goddamned whiny bitch of a father.

Her expression of disdain belongs on the silver screen, so at least—unlike her dad—she’s good at her job.

The same is not true for the hapless Eva, who winces as I speak.

“Oooh.” She looks like she’s stepped in horse shit and is trying to pretend it’s perfume.

I almost feel sorry for her. Running this dog-and-pony show can’t be fun. She’s young—maybe in her mid-twenties—and she’s trying not to grimace. “Adam. Please try to remember the ground rules. We watch our language, so as not to make anyone uncomfortable. Right?”

I lean back in my seat. “Who the fuck do you mean, we?”

“You signed the agreement. Everyone here did.”

I have a vague memory of glancing through some censorious bullshit. I shrug. “I crossed that part out during intake, so…no. I didn’t.”

Her smile broadens to plastic falseness. “I know you must be feeling upset,” she says. “That’s a normal feeling. An honest feeling. Hopefully you’ll understand soon that there’s no need for this kind of belligerence. Now why are you here?”

There are a thousand answers to that question.

I’m here because I spent three days in the hospital a few weeks ago. I’m here because I’ve been spiraling out of control for the last year, unable to hold onto the things that used to matter. I’m here because it was part of a goddamned legal agreement with the government.

I run my finger along the chain around my neck. None of them can see it’s there; my shirt hides it. But the weight of the ring hangs ominously, a promise I can never keep.

“Fuck this,” I say. “I’m here to get a grip, not to tell you fuckers my life story. It’s pretty fucking basic: I have a company. I also have a fucking cocaine issue. There. Satisfied?”

Eva winces once again at the language. “And how do you feel about that?”

“My feelings are none of your goddamned business. I don’t do groups.”

“Adam.” Eva puts her fingers to the bridge of her nose. “Try to take this seriously. Every study out there says that formation of peer bonds is crucial for long-term sobriety.”

“Bullshit. If you have a field where every study agrees, it’s an understudied field, and so I say fuck the studies, and fuck the formation of peer bonds. These people aren’t my peers, last I checked. I’m sui-fucking-generis.”

“Swee what?” Eva looks perplexed.

But Lana LaRoux, the starlet with the glittering moons on her nails, rolls her eyes again. “Aw.” Her smile is all knife. “Aren’t you a special, sparkling little snowflake.”

“Now, let’s not be judgmental!” Eva trills. “Adam’s expressing anger, and anger is an honest emotion. A natural emotion. Let’s work to get Adam past his anger.”

Fuck me. I put my head in my hands.

On the other hand, I’ve finally figured out how rehab works: It annoys the shit out of you until you give the fuck up in desperation. And I’m paying forty-five grand a month for this.

“But these people are your peers,” Eva continues. “You made mistakes, just like everyone else here, and I’m sure you’ll climb out of the dark hole you’ve built for yourself, just as hundreds have before you.”

“First,” I say, “you dig holes; you don’t build them. And second, I don’t make mistakes like them.” I fold my arms. “I’ve only made two mistakes in my life.”

“Really?” This is from the bearded guy. “Because I seem to recall owning the first ever Cyclone music player, and—”

“I’m not talking stupid shit like taking the wrong turn onto a street or fucking up a product. I mean big shit, the shit you can’t unwind and move away from. I’ve only ever made two mistakes.” I glare at them all.

“And do you want to tell us about those mistakes?” Eva asks.

“No,” I say gravely. “I really fucking don’t.”

I can barely even bring myself to think of them. I haven’t whined about them to anyone. Why would I tell these losers?

“Maybe tomorrow.” She smiles brightly—fakely—and turns to the bearded guy in the front. “Well, Herbert. Let’s talk about you.”

“It’s Laz,” he says. “Not Herbert. I’m Laz Walker.”

“Why are you here?”

Laz shrugs and looks away. “My parents staged an ‘intervention.’ This is my third time in rehab. I promised I would give it an honest try, so.” He doesn’t look too convinced. “I’m here because heroin’s a bitch.”

“Laz. Please watch your language.”

He shrugs. “It’s cool. There really isn’t any way out.”

“Laz is feeling hopeless,” Eva says. “Hopelessness is an honest emotion. We’re going to work to help Laz out of his hopelessness, aren’t we?”

Fuck me twice. They call it hopelessness because there is no help available. Because some pits are too deep to climb out of, and some mistakes are unforgivable. Those of us who are left behind have to cope with that cold truth. You can’t talk your way out of reality.

All you can do is experience it a second time, reliving memories until there’s nothing left but a bitter taste in your mouth. You can play them back again and again, but nothing ever changes.

Reach for help all you want; you’ll never get anything but air.

I’ve only made two mistakes in my life, but they were enough.

~ divider ~

Then

I was twenty-five years old when I nearly made what would otherwise have been the biggest mistake of my fucking life…

 

And here the excerpt ends, because spoilers.

~ divider ~

Code name

The code name for this book is: Crocodile Wings. Because:

“Don’t look at me like that. I’m not a fucking sparrow with a broken wing.”

“Yeah,” Blake agrees cheerfully. “You’re a fucking crocodile with a broken wing.”

And also because other reasons.

~ divider ~

A short Q & A about Adam’s story

Q. What is What Lies Between Me and You?
A. It’s a story in five parts, spanning twenty-five years. Each part is probably going to be somewhere between 40-60,000 words--in other words, longer than novella length, slightly shorter than a full-length book.

Q. So it’s a serial.
A. Enh. If you want to call it that. A lot of things that get called “serials” these days are really just books chopped up into multi-chapter blocks. This isn’t that. Each part has a distinct beginning, middle and end. I wouldn’t say that they stood alone, but they are definitely each a distinct story. I will also say that there isn’t any retreading: you won’t have Part 4 going over emotional ground that we covered in Part 1.

Q. Why did you write it this way?
A. If someone had sat me down two years back and said, “Hey you’re going to write an epic five-part series that starts in 1991, and does X, Y, and Z” I would tell them to shut up and stop telling lies because it’s a terrible idea and I’m smarter than that.

But I am not smarter than that.

When Adam Reynolds showed up in Trade Me for the first time, he ended up being complicated. Far more complicated than my first vision of him, which was basically a Type A personality (he is that) who owned a massive corporation (he kinda does that, although ownership of a public company is complicated, and Cyclone isn’t closely held) who was going to just be pushing his son around because that’s what Type A personalities do (nope). I hadn’t planned the relationship between Adam and Blake, but it just…happened. And I ended up knowing a lot about what was going on behind the scenes with Adam in Trade Me…things I had not expected, but that just made sense. The end result is that Adam has a long, complicated backstory, very little of which shows up in Trade Me.

When I started thinking about Find Me, I did something that I often do: I decided to write out one or two scenes of backstory so that I could really nail down exactly what was happening with Adam. (I did this with Richard and Smite in the Turner series as well.) About 20,000 words later, with no end remotely in sight, I realized this wasn’t a couple of scenes. There was an entire story in the backstory.

Actually, there were two stories in the backstory—the story of 1991 and the story of (mostly) 2013. I started working on the second one with trepidation, because it was something I absolutely did not want to write. It was terrible—after all, writing the story that explains precisely how Adam Reynolds ends up where he does at the end of Trade Me, which was a very, very dark place for him, was painful. But I had to figure out how Adam got there, because if I wanted to get him out, I needed to know where he had been.

I managed to convince myself that I could not get Adam out of that place into a triumphant ending. Not believably. Not well. Not ever. There was not a person on earth who could help him get there.

And then I managed to convince myself that I could. But it took me 100,000 words to bring Adam to the point where even I couldn’t see any hope. It was going to take more than that to get him out.

When I first started writing this, and for months after, I assumed that the thing I was writing would never be published, and that I was writing it just so I would know. It took me probably five months to realize that I wasn’t writing backstory that would never see the light of day. I was writing one overarching story.

Q. So you spent months writing something painful and agonizing that you assumed would never see the light of day?
A. Apparently. I also spent two months rewritng the first part from the point of view of the other person, and I have no idea what to do with that at this point. It’s like another 45,000 words that doesn’t even fit into what I have here.

Q. Why? Are you stupid?
A. Yes, apparently. In my defense, it was painful, agonizing, and utterly compelling. So. There’s that.

Q. Is this a romance?
A. It ends with an HEA for Adam. At some point shortly before release, I’ll put up a spoiler page for those who want to know more. I would say more about why this is needed but at this point that would be a spoiler for Find Me.

Q. So is this going to be about Adam getting together with Blake’s mom?
A. Nope. That is never going to happen.

~ divider ~

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