Falling Sky, the second Blue Phoenix book and conclusion of Sky and Dylan’s story, is due for release on June 10th. I’ve decided to share the first chapter as part of the Teaser Countdown. I hope all the Blue Phoenix series fans enjoy this taster of the book.
FALLING SKY ~ CHAPTER ONE
***DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T
READ SUMMER SKY***
I miss him.
Completely, overwhelmingly, illogically yearn for him.
Dylan Morgan crashed into my life and when he walked away, he tore into my heart and took a part with him. Picking up the fragments and pushing them back together is hard when there’s a crucial piece missing. And after months of ignoring the emptiness caused by someone who never existed, the hole remains.
With Dylan, I fought my heart until love pushed out logic and I yielded to the truth buried deep inside. I gave in to the man who told me things I was afraid to hear because he spoke as if he’d listened to my heart.
In the days after he left, I tried to hold everything inside so nobody would know. The pain wrapped around my chest, leaving me aching and desperate to breathe. I couldn’t tell anybody because nobody knew. We never existed.
I wanted Dylan to be my man from the sea, who existed in the brightness of the dark summer after Grant. I allowed myself to believe he could be more than the cliché, but he was worse.
Dylan never gave me an answer about Lily’s claims he raped her, which screams guilt. Therefore, I have no option but to believe the man I met in Broadbeach doesn’t exist.
After a week, Tara dragged the truth from me and everything spilled out. The emotions exploded in front of my shocked friend, one who’d never seen me like this, even after I split with Grant.
But Grant wasn’t a part of me. We shared time but never each other. Not completely. As sixteen-year-olds, we met and trod the same road, side by side but never together. The idea of all-consuming passion didn’t fit my view of a stable, predictable life. Foolishly, I believed the kind of love I had with Grant was safer.
Now I’ve learnt there’s no safety in love.
I should leave Bristol and all the memories it holds but I can’t let go. My life has changed completely this year with the loss of everything stable in my world; I can’t face moving away from the security of the place I grew up. Not yet. I’m on temporary contracts still, a permanent job doesn’t appeal to me. I convince myself this is because I need time to decide what I want to do, but deep down I know I’m holding back from moving on.
I remember a conversation we had – how we’d help each other toward a new future. In the past few months, I’ve gone backwards and so has he. I’ve returned to safe and boring and he’s returned to the life suffocating him. Dylan’s touring the States, has been for four months. I’m disappointed he didn’t stand up for what he wanted, but then neither did I.
I slump down in my seat, jet lag kicking in as the alcohol wears off. A seven-hour flight from the US and back to England for Christmas. I’m permanently dazed, the tour grind, alcohol, and the Blue Phoenix scene are a huge fucking blur. I toyed with the idea of bunkering down in my LA place for Christmas but I’m drawn back here. And I know why.
On the flight home, Sky pushes into my thoughts again. The savage ache for her returns and wraps around my insides until it fucking hurts.
Sky let down her defences and I broke her mending heart. I walked away to save us more pain but didn’t realise how enmeshed we’d become.
I didn’t leave; I ripped us apart.
I left for LA two days after Sky found out about Lily. The prospect of dealing with all the bullshit and lies surrounding the whole fucked up incident had me running away from the UK. I always fucking run and hide, take the coward’s way out. I told myself talking to Sky was a waste of time, whatever I’d told her she’d hate the man I really am.
Leaving things unanswered was a huge mistake. One I’ve come back to England to fix.
I return to a winter when I left an English summer, hard ground to match my hardened heart. I’m not sure I can face the country estate and the inevitable invasion by the rest of the Blue Phoenix guys so I’m heading for the London place. My model and pretend girlfriend, Cressida, moved on and Myf and her partner, Miles, stay in the apartment while working in London.
Myf is someone else I haven’t seen for months, my old school friend and the band’s first groupie. She even sang backing vocals for us early on, until she got a place at London International School of Performing Arts and took a completely different direction. At least with Myf around I’ll have company. I don’t want to be around the rest of the guys, but I don’t want to be alone.
Can I fix this? What if I’m too late and Sky’s moved on?
I’m not sure I can face her, but if I’m in the same country, I have one less excuse to hide.
Turning my back on Dylan is harder than I realise. I kid myself I’m not doing this deliberately, but I follow the media to see where Blue Phoenix is and what they’re doing, and looking at pictures of Dylan.
His hair is longer, curling and touching his ears. My Dylan has gone, if he ever existed, but the guy with the lost eyes looks like the man I knew and the image hurts my heart.
Grant attempted to get back together with me shortly after Dylan left and I kindly told him to go fuck himself. Since then, I’ve seen Grant with another girl so his need to be with me can’t be that great.
Tara continues to support me in ways I never thought she would. She calls me every day and catches up with me a few times a week, even though she’s in an intense relationship with her new guy, Tom. I don’t speak about Dylan or Grant much, but I often catch a look from her suggesting she doesn’t understand why I’m not over this, or moving on.
“Are you getting dessert?”asks Tara.
I blink out of my thoughts and pick up the laminated card menu. We’ve met for Sunday lunch at the local pub, a catch-up before the Christmas party season takes over Tara’s life. “Of course!”I smile.
A large plasma screen on the oak-panelled wall plays music tracks and Blue Phoenix appears with their latest track, ‘Slow Burn’. The papered-over hole in my chest is punched through as I watch and struggle to breathe. Four months and I react exactly the same. The clip has a classic black and white movie feel, a weird artistic interpretation that looks filmed in a small 1950s American town. Digitally cleaned up, Dylan looks more the star he is and less the mess from photos.
Tara twists in her seat to check out what I’m watching and stiffens. She turns back. “How’s Ryan?”
Lonely as the one member of my circle of friends without a partner or kids, I give up and date Ryan the accountant from the latest company where I work. He’s someone to take with me when we all go out, so I’m not the sad spinster in the corner.
With Ryan, there’s no spark, no banter, just average, every day, and comfortable. Read: boring. We’ve been together a month and I already have itchy feet.
“He’s okay,”I say.
Tara arches a perfectly plucked eyebrow. “Okay? By that do you mean his health or your interest in him?”
“He seems like a nice guy. Genuine.”
Yeah, not Dylan.
“He is a nice guy, just not for me, I think.”
Tara leans forward. “Why? What’s he done?”
“I don’t think he gets me. He’s a bit…serious.” The video clip of Blue Phoenix won’t leave my attention and points to the real problem here.
“So are you, recently.”
“And I don’t like his dog.”
Tara chokes on her Diet Coke. “His dog is the deal breaker?”
Ryan has a border collie, Biscuit. Stupid name, stupid animal. Ryan likes to take us on long walks in the park, rain or shine or bloody cold winter weather, he doesn’t mind.
“The dog smells bad. And he keeps trying to jump on me.”I grimace.
“Tell Ryan to keep the dog under control then.”
“I’m talking about Ryan. They both jump on me and I’m not sure I want either of them to. Okay, so Ryan doesn’t smell of wet dog but…I don’t know. I’m thinking about finishing things.”
“Sky.”The exasperation in her voice is clear.
Again, Dylan catches my eye on the screen. He’s unbearably attractive in the black and white close ups. The full lips that were mine, the mouth that did incredible things to me. Why am I taking so long to get over Dylan, a guy I knew for less than three weeks?
Ryan’s athletic and reasonably attractive, but next to Dylan, there’s no comparison. I haven’t had sex with Ryan. Well, almost once, when I was very drunk, but I fell asleep before we got far. Good thing, because I’d have regretted taking that step in a relationship I’m not sure about. Besides, Dylan in my head when I’m in bed with another man isn’t fair. And that’s the big problem. Sex with Dylan has ruined any other man for me, not just due to his obvious skill, but the connection we had.
The connection severed the moment I discovered he’d raped someone.
Every time I see or hear the word, I’m dragged back to the moment in the cafe where Lily told me. Part of me can’t reconcile the man I fell in love with to a man who assaults women. Is this a gut feeling or wishful thinking? I’m not sure.
His half-hearted denial on the phone the day I found out didn’t make sense. The stilted conversation we had a few days later was weird. He denied the rape but said he understood why I didn’t want to see him again. And that was the last we spoke. I wanted to see him, but I knew if I did, he’d drag me into his Dylan orbit and I’d be confused by lies. The ease with which he backed off, when after Broadbeach he pursued me so hard, implies guilt as far as I was concerned.
But on the cusp of asking Dylan to see me again, to explain, he left for the States and I never heard any more from him.
He forgot about me, as I always said he would.
I never saw Lily again, or any of the rest of the Blue Phoenix entourage. Swept under the carpet, and hidden from the public eye, there wasn’t anything to cover up. Dylan and I hadn’t gone public so everything tied up nicely and life went on.
But through the anger toward Dylan is concern, which confuses the hell out of me. I remember the Dylan from the sea who desperately struggled to get away from the life that has a firm grip on him now. The pictures of him in the media show the trapped Dylan I met in the country lane, but magnified. He looks ill. Conflicted over caring about a rapist, I push the Dylan I thought belonged to me out of my mind. What’s the use of obsessing about who and what never really was?
“So for Christmas, what are you doing?”asks Tara when she returns from ordering our desserts.
I drag my gaze from Dylan to her. “I’m not sure; I might go to Spain to visit Mum.”
I plan to spend Christmas alone, and don’t want a pity party where Tara feels the need to drag me to her family Christmas. She thinks I can’t possibly want to be alone at Christmas and drops hints about me going with her every time we meet. Okay, I don’t want to be alone, but that’s beside the point.
“You booked tickets yet? Christmas is only a couple of weeks away.”
“I might drive,”I lie.
Tara eyes me doubtfully. “Well, you’re welcome to join Tom and me if you like?”
“I’m okay, Tara, but thanks for asking.”
Tara wrinkles her nose and the concerned look reappears. I shift my gaze to my drink.
“I’m worried about you being on your own at Christmas,”she says quietly.
“I said I was going to Spain!”
“You said maybe, and I don’t believe you.”
“I’m not worried about Christmas, Tara. At least I don’t have to spend another Christmas with Grant’s parents and extended family listening to them fighting and getting drunk, I can do my own thing.”
“Alone. So stop making me feel like there’s something wrong with that!”
She rubs her forehead. “I worry about you, you don’t seem to be…right, still.”
I reach across the table and close my hand over hers. “I’m fine. Honestly.”
“Well, me and Tom leave on the 13th; if you change your mind, let me know.”
I look back to the plasma screen behind, hoping Blue Phoenix is still up there. They’ve gone.
I groan as I open the door to the flat. Tinsel hangs from every available place, covering the walls. A huge-ass Christmas tree sits in front of the panoramic window, blocking the view of the Mayfair skyline. I fucking hate Christmas; shit always happens in my life – Dad leaving, Mum’s death.
The aromatic smell of curry fills the air. Myf springs out from the kitchen and wraps her tiny figure around me.
“Dylan! Welcome home! I’m cooking and Miles is going to be late home, want something?”
She touches my face. “You look like shit, Dylan.”
I stare back into her chocolate brown eyes. She never ages. She’s never cut her long dark brown hair, and still wears it in the same style as at school. Or maybe because my lifestyle aged me so much, she looks younger to me. “Thanks, Myfanwy. Nice of you to say.”
She scowls at me using her full name. “Want to wear your dinner?”
I’m too tired for banter, and her smart mouth reminds me of Sky. Sky, who hasn’t left my head or heart in four months and probably never will. Landing back on English soil has magnified my awareness of the part missing from my soul, and edged me toward contacting her again.
“I’m going to shower,”I say and her face pulls into concern. I haul my bag into the bedroom before she can say anything else.
Half an hour later, freshly showered in clean jeans and shirt but not feeling any less zombie-like, I head barefoot into my flat. The smell of spices whets an appetite I didn’t think I still had. There are two plates on the table and a bottle of water. I pass Myf in the kitchen and pull a bottle of red wine from the rack in the corner. Then I remember Sky likes red wine and put the bottle back. I wander into the dining area and pull a bottle of whisky out of the huge black cabinet, tipping myself a generous glass.
“I’ll get my own drink, should I?”Myf asks, placing the bowls on the long, glass table taking up the majority of the room.
“Oh. Sorry.” I look around for a second glass.
“You’re always a self-centred bastard when you come back off tour.”
Smirking at her admonishment, it strikes me again how similar Myf and Sky are in personality. Was that the attraction when I first met Sky? That she reminded me of my best friend from my teen years? I never wanted anything more than friendship with Myf; despite a brief teen hook-up, we’ve stayed firm friends. She’s made a good job of keeping me in my place over the years, but in a different way to Steve. She kept in my mind where I came from by being the girl from that past.
We eat and Myf chats about her latest role; she’s singing in a West End show and has the opportunity to head to Broadway next month. Her relationship with Miles appears serious, which is great. I’ve unwittingly scared off a few of her past guys that I haven’t liked, but I approve of him. Myf doesn’t agree with me vetting her prospective partners and I often get a mouthful if I interfere.
“You never told me what happened?”she asks cautiously after we finish the meal.
“When?”Like I don’t know what she means.
“I never got to meet Sky; you guys imploded before I did, and then you ran off to America.”
I turn my head toward the darkened skyline, the orange glow of the city illuminating buildings like a panoramic painting. “I was touring, I had to go.”
Myf pushes a strand of her long, dark hair from her face. “Those few weeks, you never explained what was happening. I only saw the two of you at the party that night Sky was there, and you were cut up then. What happened?”
Am I ready to open the gate I’ve trapped all the emotion behind? I take Myf’s plate and stack it on mine.
“It’s over with, Myf.”
“I hope you’re not going to disappear again? You scared the hell out of us!”
“I don’t know. I’m living day to day.”She’s pushing at the gate; I knew she would. I’ve skirted around answers to the questions in her demanding emails, but there’s no hiding anything from Myf now we’re face to face.
As I carry the plates to the kitchen, Myf follows me. “Are you on medication?”
I freeze. “What?”
“You left some in the bathroom…”
“What the fuck were you doing in my bathroom? There’re two at the other end of the apartment where you’re staying!”
She raises and eyebrow at my reaction. “Shit, Dylan. Calm down. I was looking for some spare towels.”
What do I say? No one else knows about the pills. I go to different doctors every time; they give me different shit depending on how bad I am. I’m taking meds but have no idea which tablet does what anymore, but if I take enough, they do the job.
“I have trouble sleeping,”I say.
“The ones I saw are for anxiety, Dylan.”
“Okay, I have difficulty sleeping because I’m fucking anxious.”
Myf holds both palms over her delicate features and studies me, then drops her hand to touch mine.
“What happened?”she asks.
“Which bit?”I ask gruffly; she’s pissed me off now, delving too far into the hidden.
Since the day Sky left, I haven’t told anyone outside of Jem and Steve why. Letting people think I’d got bored of her was easier than raking through the shit again. Because I’d poured everything out to Myf that night at the party, there’s no way she’d believe Sky meant nothing.
I turn and lean against the granite bench, gripping the edges until the cool stone bites into my hands. “Lily.”
Myf straightens. “What do you mean ‘Lily?’”
“She spoke to Sky.”
So many more words fight to escape, but I don’t want to let out the frustration and anger I know will come with them.
“And I suppose she lied again?”Myf’s lips thin.
“She told Sky that I raped her.”
The words are out. I squeeze my eyes closed, swallowing down everything else. Lily. Jem. Sky. The whole fucking mess.
“You told Sky the truth, right?”I don’t respond. “Dylan?”
Taking a shaky breath, I open my eyes. “What would be the point?”
“Umm, that you didn’t rape her? Fuck, Dylan! Why didn’t you tell that to Sky?”
“Because I feel like I did do it.”
“No. That’s bullshit and you know that. You didn’t touch her that night.”
“Not that night.”
Myf rubs her temples. “I know this is complicated and that I don’t know everything that happened between the three of you, but I sure as hell know you didn’t rape her. This is Lily’s sick revenge on you, accusing you of something you didn’t do!”
“Myf, I just had a long flight and a fucking long four months. I don’t want to get into this now.”
She grabs my arm as I turn to leave. “You didn’t even fight for Sky?”
“What’s the point?”I shrug her off.
We face off; Myf’s small figure is drawn up to her full height, but she’s still a foot shorter than I am so the stern look is amusing rather than threatening. The concern glistening in her eyes disturbs me, the truths I need to face spilling between us. I shift my gaze to pristine white kitchen walls, if I keep looking at Myf she’ll pull more out of me.
“Dylan. I think…”
I hold a hand up to indicate she needs to stop talking and she huffs, stepping back and crossing her arms over her chest. A door slams at the opposite end of the apartment; Miles’s arrival home saves me from a Myf lecture.
I leave for my bedroom before Miles appears; I don’t feel like chatting. My half-packed black rucksack lies on the floor, dirty clothes strewn across the pristine cream carpet. The room is gleaming clean, neat and everything in its carefully organised place. If only my life could be the same.
Why didn’t I fight for Sky? I’ve asked myself the question over and over, and at the heart of why is fear. A fear of resurrecting the past I deny and pulling myself back down.
I’m scared of seeing hatred in the eyes of the girl who believed in the person I could be.
On the day when Sky discovered who I really was in Broadbeach, the Dylan she met was wiped away and replaced by a different man.
But the real Dylan Morgan isn’t who she met in Broadbeach, or the person she accepted into her life afterward.