I am thrilled to announce that my first New Adult Romance novel, Empty Me Out (The Liquid Series, #1), will soon be available at Amazon and other online book retailers. This story has been a real labor of love, garnering a loyal, growing, enthusiastic following since its humble beginnings on Wattpad.com, as well as being ranked among the top five Wattpad reads in July 2015 by RTBookReviews.com.
While I continue putting the finishing touches on the fully edited, e-book ready, formatted product, I thought I would share the entire first chapter as a preview.
As always, I am incredibly grateful to those of you who take the time out of your busy schedules to read my stories and other ramblings. It means more to me than you’ll ever know, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are the fuel to my passion.
Empty Me Out (The Liquid Series, #1)
Most of my friends lived away at college, but not me. I’d heard all the stories of wild campus parties and dorms with co-ed showers. I knew I was in the minority, but that kind of college experience never appealed to me. How anyone managed to concentrate on their studies in that kind of environment, I’d never know. Yup, for me, the decision to commute to school these past few years while enjoying the benefits and comforts of living at home in Quincy, Massachusetts was a no brainer.
“Ughhh!” Bent over the bathroom sink—its edges lined with every styling product known to man—I cursed the mirrored medicine cabinet in an act of reflection rebellion. “Oh, come on. Do something!” I barked at my barely-there curls, extracting the last of the hot rollers failing to live up to their advertised promise of “flounce, bounce, and spring.” After a last-ditch, upside down do-flip and a generous dousing of hairspray, I turned out the light and headed for the stairs. I wasn’t about to let my limp locks flatten my spirits.
For the past several weeks I’d been relishing the time catching up with my friends, most of whom I hadn’t seen since the start of the fall semester. They were home from their respective college campuses, celebrating the winter holiday break and their temporary hiatus from lectures, homework, and exams. My best friend Calista and I had practically been joined at the hip, fitting in as much girl time as possible before she resumed dorm life out in the western part of the state.
“Hey, Kelsey, you gonna be ready anytime this century? I’d like to get there before we lose our reservation.” Calista checked herself out in my front hall mirror, applying another coat of cherry red lipstick while waiting for me to finish putting myself together upstairs. She and I had been inseparable since grade school. Through all of life’s ups, downs, twists and turns, we’d always gone through it together. She was the kind of friend every girl would be lucky to have, and I loved her to bits.
With a hopeful fluff of my one remaining curl, I leaned against the top banister, chuckling as I watched my friend twist from side to side in obvious admiration of her own reflection. “I’m coming, I’m coming. Keep your shirt on, okay?” Slowly, I made my way down the stairs, careful not to take a header in my new, too-high-to-be-functional, black platform heels. I was clearly not in my right mind when I bought the damned things.
“Wow, Kels! You are rocking those heels, hon. I told you they would accentuate those sexy long stems of yours!” Grabbing me by the arm as I descended the last stair, she pulled me toward the front door. “Let’s go already! We’re gonna be late!”
“Hold it! Let me get my bearings. I feel like I’m just learning how to walk for the first time.” I held my arms out to my sides to keep my balance in check. “Why in the world did I let you talk me into buying these…these…stilts?”
“Because you asked me to help you sex up your look, remember? You said you were tired of being single, right? So, let’s get out there and watch the guys take notice!” Calista scanned me up and down approvingly. “You look gorgeous, by the way. You clean up well, girlfriend.” I rolled my eyes in dramatic fashion, while secretly loving the compliment. I was never one to put much thought into my look. I’d had the same shoulder length, straight brown hair since high school and rarely wore any makeup. I also normally dressed for comfort over style, sporting jeans, sweats and T-shirts. But, after a year-long dry spell in the boyfriend department, I thought it was high-time to put some effort into my appearance. I figured it couldn’t hurt, and Calista was more than happy to take on the challenge as my fashion and makeover consultant.
Stepping out the door and into the cold night air, a chill went straight through me, instantly making me regret my decision to wear a flimsy dress, and long for my sweats and UGGs. Suddenly recalling how icy the New England sidewalks often got in January, I began mumbling under my breath about the likelihood of my impractical footwear causing me to break my neck before the night was over. Calista pretended to ignore my quiet ranting, but as I snuck her a sideways glance, I could see the irritation on her face. I had to remind myself that we were out to have a night on the town—that it was supposed to be fun. My mood perked back up when I remembered where we were headed—to the latest restaurant hot spot in Boston’s Back Bay. My mouth watered as I began to fantasize about the lobster pot pie I would soon devour.
A short time later, we arrived by cab, not wanting to deal with navigating the confusing one-way and often construction-laden streets with our own cars. As I exited the vehicle, my feet practically slipped out from under me, and I swiftly grabbed onto the door to keep from planting my fanny on the sidewalk. No one ever accused me of being graceful.
Calista exited without incident, no doubt, from her years of heel-wearing expertise. Joining me on the sidewalk, she hooked her arm through mine, knowing she’d probably have to help keep me vertical all night. With her laughing blue eyes, she chuckled at my clumsiness, shaking her head of long wavy blond hair. I couldn’t help but let out a giggle.
Entering the restaurant, we decided to grab a drink while waiting for our table, and we lucked into two empty bar stools side-by-side. Depositing ourselves there, we each ordered a glass of wine, flashing our IDs while the bartender poured merlot into crystal stemmed glasses. Calista and I both turned 21 earlier this year, and it felt good to enjoy an adult beverage in an atmosphere devoid of sticky floors and beer bongs. With drinks in-hand, we clinked our glasses in a toast to “girl power” and engaged in easy conversation.
As we savored our wine, laughing and reminiscing over our summer in Martha’s Vineyard, our girl bonding bubble broke with ruckus from behind us. We turned to see a small, round table littered with beer bottles and shot glasses, surrounded by five rude, obnoxious guys hootin’ and hollerin’ and swearing like truck drivers. The other nearby patrons shot them disapproving looks, but I felt embarrassed for them, really.
Far as I could tell, the guys were all pretty lit, but one was clearly drunker than the rest as his hyena-like laugh and disheveled appearance indicated. Still, I couldn’t help but notice how good-looking he was. Observing me gawking at him and his group of Neanderthals, he gave me a large, goofy smile.
“Seriously, could those dudes be any more annoying? How long do you think it’ll take before they get thrown outta here?” Calista pondered.
“Hopefully sooner than later. I can’t imagine a nice place like this putting up with that kind of crap,” I said, trying to keep my eyes off the group and their shenanigans, but it was like rubber-necking a crash site—I couldn’t help but watch. The super drunk guy was reaching for his beer while staring in my direction, proceeding to knock his bottle over and earning a few choice expletives from his newly soaked drinking compadres. He just continued to look at me, completely oblivious to his pissed off pals—that damned smile still plastered to his face.
Finally turning back toward the bar, I took another sip of my wine with a silent prayer for our table to be ready so we could get away from the train wreck in progress. Apparently, my prayers wouldn’t be answered anytime soon. With a tap on the shoulder, Calista leaned in and whispered, “Looks like you’ve got an admirer…and he’s coming this way.” Uh oh.
I reluctantly turned around again and there he was, standing a little too close for comfort. “Hiiii there. Saw you checkin’ me out. Name’s Mark.” Swaying a little on his feet, he stuck his hand out and waited for me to shake it, that goofball smile still in place.
Wow. This guy was full of himself. “I absolutely was not checking you out. Just simply noticing your state of drunkenness. Such a charming quality,” I said with as much sarcasm as I could muster. Refusing to shake his hand, I left it hanging in midair.
He cackled loudly in my face and his breath practically knocked me over. “Good God, could you go brush your teeth or something? You smell like a brewery,” I spat.
“What? You got somethin’ against beeya?” he slurred, seriously lacking in conversation skills. As he watched me with glassy eyes, I could see him struggling to stay focused.
“No, I don’t have a problem with beer. But you might want to leave some of it for the other customers.” I couldn’t hold back my continued sarcasm.
Mark laughed again, and despite the eye-watering effect of his booze breath, I noticed he had beautiful teeth—a gorgeous set of straight, white choppers. “Heeey, you’re fuckin funneeee,” he said, taking me in from head to toe. “And sexy as hell toooo.” Now feeling extremely self-conscious in my little black dress, I suddenly wished I could throw on a big, baggy sweatshirt.
“Alright, cool it, Lover Boy. Leave my friend in peace and let her enjoy her drink, okay?”
At those words, Mark abruptly turned toward Calista—as if he hadn’t even noticed her until now. “Ooh heeey there.” He stuck out his hand, the one I refused to shake just a moment ago. “I’m Mark.”
After a brief hesitation, Calista relented, extending her hand to quickly give his a shake. “Hey, Mark. I’m Calista. Listen, we’re trying to have a girls’ night, so if you wouldn’t mind leaving us to it—”
“—Soooo Carla, what’s your friend’s name?” Mark interrupted, turning to gesture in my general direction, limply flailing his right hand and stumbling slightly. The movement caused his longish black hair to fall forward, covering one of his light brown eyes. He lazily raked his hand through it, moving it off his face while giving him the appearance of having just rolled out of bed.
He was a hot mess.
“Uh, listen pal, you can’t even get my name right, so why should I tell you hers? Not to mention, my friend is not into guys with drinking problems.” Glancing down at her watch, Calista took longer than necessary to check the time, dropping a big, obvious hint that she wanted Mark to get lost.
“Heeey…I don’t have a problem. Just havin’ fun…knockin’ back a few with the guys.” He motioned toward me again with a floppy hand. “This chick was checkin’ me out and…” Pausing in a lost train of thought, his expression morphed into one of deep concentration as he reached for the rest of his words. “I-I-I’d like to take her back to my place later for a nightcappp.” He overemphasized the “p” in nightcap, resulting in a bit of spittle dribbling down his chin.
Somehow, I miraculously resisted the urge to throw my glass of wine in his face. “Did you just say nightcap? Who the hell says that—what are you, sixty?” The way he continued to ogle me made me uncomfortable, so I threw him a stern look. “I’m afraid I’ll have to pass on your offer because you are clearly wasted and talking out of your ass. But don’t worry, tomorrow you won’t even remember me or this conversation.”
“Ooohh, I’ll remember you, babeeee. Never forget someone with a bod like that.” And with a maneuver that was likely intended to be suave, he casually crossed one leg over the other while leaning onto the bar with his elbow, misjudging it entirely and instead, plowing right into me, nearly knocking me off my bar stool. My wine glass tipped into my chest, spilling its dark red contents down the front of my dress.
So far, I was having myself an epic night.
Suddenly, I felt Mark’s body like dead weight on mine, his paws unintentionally groping me in places normally reserved for the bedroom as he sloppily tried to right himself back up. By the time he stood up straight on his own two feet, I had to readjust my dress into place, which was no easy feat considering how wet and sticky it was.
Distracted by my movements, Mark muttered, “You’re sexy as hell.”
“I think you covered that already, Casanova,” Calista retorted on my behalf, frustration at the evening’s turn of events apparent in her voice.
One of Mark’s Neanderthal companions from the drinking circle made his way over in an obvious attempt to rescue his pathetic friend. “Mark, buddy, I think you’ve had enough, huh? Why don’t we get outta here and let these lovely ladies enjoy their evening.”
Upon closer inspection, this guy actually appeared sober, unlike the others. Perhaps he was the designated driver? Looking over at Calista and me, he shook his head apologetically. “Sorry about my friend. He had a few too many, but he’s really not a bad guy. We’re going to head out now so he doesn’t bother you two anymore.”
Sighing in relief, I smiled at him, grateful for being rescued. “Thanks for saving us, uh….I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.” When he offered his hand, I didn’t hesitate to shake it.
“Brett Jones. No problem—happy to help out a couple of gorgeous ladies.” With that, he winked specifically at Calista, causing her cheeks to flush.
Surprisingly quiet during my and Brett’s exchange, I noticed Mark was looking a little green. “You okay?” I asked, because I wasn’t completely heartless.
“Yeah…just a little dizzy. I’m fine.” He sounded unconvincing.
“Want a glass of water or something?” When I turned to get the bartender’s attention, Mark stopped me with a clammy hand on my shoulder.
“Nah…I’m good. Gonna go outside and get some air.” His greenish hue now replaced with a pale gray look of death, he stood with one hand on the bar to hold himself up. His eyes closed for a moment—then suddenly flew back open, darting around the bar frantically, seeking out the nearest exit sign. When they landed on their target, Mark rushed through the bar—losing equilibrium and knocking into several tables along his flight path, until finally, he was gone.
“Well, I better go make sure he’s alright,” Brett said with some reluctance, his eyes still fixed on Calista. “Nice meeting you both.” Waving a casual farewell, he turned on his heel and strode through the bar after Mark. The remaining three from the booze brigade quickly followed suit, making cat calls and whistling at us as they departed. Classy.
“Oh. My. God. Brett is so yummy!” Calista proclaimed, her gaze lingering on the exit long after Brett left. I couldn’t argue with her, Brett certainly was a good looking guy, with his sandy blond hair, crystal blue eyes and athletic build. And I could tell the attraction was mutual for him, the way he’d looked at Calista as though she were the only woman he’d ever laid eyes on. I, myself, preferred tall, dark and lean. It did not go unnoticed by me that Mark happened to possess those physical traits. Too bad he was such a tool. My thoughts drifted to how sickly he looked when he left the bar, and I wondered if he was okay.
Snapping myself out of Mark la-la-land, I turned to Calista. “Brett’s a cutie, and I think he likes you, Cali,” I said with a raise of the eyebrows. “He was checking you out like he wanted to rip that green velvet dress right off you!” I laughed.
“You really think so? Dammit, I knew I should’ve offered my number!” she sighed, kicking herself for missing out on her chance with Brett. Resolving not to dwell on it, she muttered, “Oh well, c’est la vie, right? Let’s go find out what the hell is taking so long with our table.” She took a peek at her watch. “Shit, our reservation was for over an hour ago!”
Now sitting in a damp, black silk dress reeking of merlot, I just wasn’t in the mood for this kind of night out anymore. “Hey, would you be pissed if we didn’t stay for dinner after all? I’m all sticky and gross, and maybe it’s best if we just cut our losses and head home.”
“Oh, come on Kels, don’t let that douche Mark ruin our night. Please.” Clearly disappointed, I felt bad for Cali, but my mojo had left the building. I just wanted to go home, get comfy in my fleece PJs, and stuff my face with junk food.
“I’m sorry, Cali. I know I’m being a total buzzkill, but I’m just not into it anymore. Do you hate me?” My expression turned pleading.
“Ugh. Fine, we’ll go, but can I at least chill with you at your house for a while? We can watch movies, or just hang out, or whatever.”
Calista was the best friend ever.
“Of course you can hang out with me! We can eat Ben & Jerry’s and talk about your future boyfriend, Brett.” With a wink, I hopped off my bar stool. “Thank you so much, Cali. I owe you one.” I gave her a quick hug.
She returned the hug affectionately. “Damned straight, you owe me big—and you will repay the favor at a time and place of my choosing.” With a mischievous smile, she retrieved her purse from the bar and headed for the exit. I quickly settled our tab—one measly glass of wine, each—before following her out. As we grabbed our coats in the restaurant foyer, my mind wandered again to Mark, which frustrated me because I couldn’t figure out why I was even thinking about him.
He was kind of a jerk.
Bundled up and ready to brave the winter night, Calista and I stepped outside. Pulling my cell phone out of my purse, I was about to call us a cab, when I noticed a male form slumped over to my right, hurling onto the sidewalk. Pedestrians tossed him disgusted looks as they passed by the vomitus display. I recognized immediately that the figure was Mark, and that his friends had seemingly abandoned him. Nice friends.
Cali and I exchanged the look of two mind readers: We can’t just leave him here.
Unsure how he’d react to our presence in his current state of upheaval, I took a deep breath and approached him slowly. But being the graceless creature that I am, my heels made contact with a long, narrow patch of ice, sliding my feet in opposite directions, nearly sending me awkwardly into the splits. I finished off the move by landing on my ass, cheeks kissing the cold cement beneath. I heard Cali trying to stifle her laughter from behind me.
Mark looked up from the ground, no doubt curious who the klutz was, and when he saw that it was me, he rose to his feet. Wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his leather jacket, he unsteadily shuffled over, offering his hand to help me up.
I didn’t leave him hanging this time.
When I put my hand in his, he somehow managed to pull me to my feet. I looked up, noticing how tall he was—easily a foot higher than my petite, five-foot-two-inch frame. “Thanks,” I mumbled, embarrassed by my show of clumsiness.
With a sad smile, he sighed. “Sorry about bein’ a dick.” Now that he’d sobered somewhat, his douche-y attitude was gone, probably due to his recent purging episode. He seemed to consider something for a moment before continuing, “Maybe I could make it up to you some—” As an apparent wave of nausea cut him off, Mark leaned over, knees slightly bent, hands resting on his thighs, head hanging low.
Calista piped up on my behalf. “The only way to make it up to her is to let her forget this night ever happened.” When I shot her an angry look for her rudeness, her expression turned regretful. “Sorry. That was a bit harsh. I get really bitchy when I’m hungry.”
Mark chuckled weakly as he slowly straightened back up to look at me. Maybe Calista had a point and we should all try to forget about this night and put it behind us. And I knew I shouldn’t care about Mark’s feelings in all this, especially after his offensive actions at the bar, but… He just looked so sad and alone out on the sidewalk, coming down off his booze-induced stupor, with nobody to help him. Before giving myself a chance to rethink things, I stuck out my hand to Mark. “We were never officially introduced. My name is Kelsey…Kelsey O’Reilly.” And then I shocked myself by adding, “And, yes, I’d like that…you making it up to me sometime.”
As a wide smile replaced his sad expression, he took my hand, but instead of shaking it, he brought it up to his mouth, softly brushing his lips across my knuckles. “Nice to meet you, Kelsey O’Reilly.” The gesture was sweet, so I tried not to dwell on the fact that he’d tossed his cookies out of the same mouth that just touched my hand.
Cali was looking at me like I had completely lost my mind, and maybe she was right. But I couldn’t explain it. There was just something about Mark. I wasn’t exactly sure what, but…something.
Then it dawned on me that he probably didn’t have a way to get home. “Your friends leave you high and dry?” I asked in disbelief. I did not have a very high opinion of his friends right then. Mark, however, didn’t seem the slightest bit pissed about it. “Yeah…I deserved it, though…you don’t need to hear ‘bout it.”
“Okay, if you say so.” I wasn’t sure what he meant, and I didn’t want to appear nosy, so I dropped it. “Well, you can’t just stay out here all night alone, and I can tell you feel like shit, so let me call you a cab so you can get home in one piece.” Pulling my cell phone back out, I made the call without waiting for his answer.
Looking a little green again, Mark ran his hands over his face before nodding. “Thanks, Kelsey. You’re a sweetheart.” When his cab pulled up a few minutes later, I stayed with him until he was safe inside. “You remember your address, right?” I asked innocently.
“Yeah…I remember.” He looked a bit insulted. “I’m not that far gone.” Waving me off, he closed the door to the cab, and I watched through the window as he slunk into the backseat. As the taxi pulled away from the curb, speeding off down the street and out of my line of vision, I just stood there, wondering where he lived, or how he was ever going to make things up to me…
We’d never even gotten around to exchanging numbers.
Cali walked over to me, draping her arm around my shoulders. “What a night, huh? Let’s get out of here and see if we can salvage what’s left of it.” She had taken it upon herself to call us a cab while I’d dealt with Mark, and soon, we were on the road, headed back to my place.
Copyright © S. A. Healey