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.
Shannon’s 5 Star Review:
REVIEWED FOR STORIES AND SWAG!
5 STAR REVIEW
The prologue – that prologue had me hook, line, and sinker. I knew I wouldn’t be able to set this book aside until I was finished with it. What I didn’t know was that it was going to haunt me for days after I finished it. The writing, the storyline, the characters. THE FEELS! This book put my heart in a vice like grip and held on til the end.
Dalton had a rough rough childhood. He bounced from foster home to foster home until he finally found a home of sorts with Spencer and her mother. Upon their first meeting, which we get both POV’s of, they had a connection that bound them for life. Their connection was the best thing Dalton had going for him. He began being an errand boy for Silas Kincaid, the local mobster, which eventually grew into more and led to Dalton leading a secret life that only his friend, Rat, knew about. It took him to different places, had him involved in very dangerous and deadly situations.
Spencer has loved Dalton since she was a young girl, she felt that connection on their first encounter. She often wondered where Dalton went and what he was doing when he would disappear for days. She always wanted more with him but knew that he didn’t feel the same about her. Her best friend decided the best way to test that theory was to set Spencer up on her first date.
That first date has to be the worst in first date history. Dalton stalked her and then almost pummeled the life out of the boy. He needed it, but that’s beside the point. The point is he didn’t like her being with another guy so he decided to stalk her and when given the chance he took out the other guy.
When push came to shove Dalton kind of proved that he had feelings for Spence but she needed more. She pushed him beyond his comfort zone and they both finally admitted their feelings for one another and Dalton let her in on his secret life. With the truth and the secrets revealed they are connected on a much deeper level; one feels the others darkness, pain, and helplessness.
Under tragic circumstances Dalton realizes he needs to leave the secret life behind but is unsure of how to bring that to fruition. The one thing he does know is that he has to keep Spencer and her mother safe. It takes drastic measures and quite a few years but Dalton has to do what’s best for Spencer.
Will Spencer overlook the past secrets and the private life or will she walk away from the one that helps her to breathe? Will time be kind to them or will it pull them apart?
Dalton’s voice is thick as he begins to speak. “I’m sorry, Spence. I know I hurt you—”
I shake my head dismissively. “You didn’t hurt me. I’m just tired.”
The corners of his mouth dip downward and he lifts his hand, placing his palm against my cheek and swiping the moisture with his thumb. My heart would typically melt at the tenderness of the gesture, but now I find it only aggravates me. I narrow my eyes and shove his hand away from my face.
“Don’t do that. Don’t do something you don’t mean.”
Channeling my sorrow, anger begins to churn as I step away and turn my back on him. My bare feet carry me to the wooden rail that lines my porch and I brace my good hand against it, leaning forward and inhaling deeply.
Dalton growls with frustration. “What the fuck? Of course I mean it. The last thing I want to do is hurt you, Spence. I’m trying to apologize here.”
I laugh humorlessly and turn to face him. “For what, exactly? For stalking me on my date tonight?”
His blue eyes now heat with a different emotion as they slice to mine. “The date in which you were being manhandled by some fucking loser who asked you out for no other reason than to get back at me?” He scoffs openly. “You should be thanking me.”
I cease the fight to hold back my tears, permitting them to flow freely as I respond. “I handled it, did I not? I don’t need you to protect me, Dalton. I can take care of myself.”
He chuckles, unsmiling, as he removes his cap and throws it to the ground, dragging his fingers through his hair in irritation. My glare hardens as I continue my rant.
“And yes, he asked me out to get back at you. Are you apologizing for that? Or are you apologizing for the fact that because of your stupid crusade against me dating anyone EVER, I was so excited to be asked out that I accepted a date with said fucking loser because I wanted to know what it would be like to actually be wanted for once?” Not entirely true, but true enough to make my point.
My breaths are heavy and my pulse is thrumming rapidly through my entire body. I angrily wipe away the tears as I inquire, “Why is that, Dalton? Why is it that you don’t want me, but no one else is allowed to have me?” I shake my head in frustration as I stumble on my words. “I just…I don’t understand.” My voice trembles and my chin quivers with the admission.
Dalton heavy boots sound as he stalks across the porch. I avert my gaze, but once he’s in front of me, he curls his fingers around my chin and pulls my face into his line of sight. His eyes burn into mine as they narrow in earnest. “You think I don’t want you? Goddamn it, Spencer,” he bites, “I want you so much I can’t fucking breathe when I’m not with you. Every single time I force myself to walk away from you, I feel nothing but agony as the anger that simmers here,” he breaks to pound his closed fist on his chest, “breaks free and chars my insides with each step I take.”
His eyes begin to glisten and his jaw tightens as he shakes his head. “I can’t fucking breathe without you, don’t you get it? I want you so much that being without you is absolute torture.”
He swallows deeply and moisture seeps from my eyes at the sight of his exposed emotion as he continues. “I want you, Spence, but I can’t have you. I won’t allow it. You’re too good, too pure, too innocent, and just as your presence soothes me, mine will eventually flaw you. It’s inevitable, and I care too much for you to let that happen.”
I watch a lone tear fall from the corner of his eye before he concludes, “But you’re right. Even thinking about you with someone else, with someone else’s arms around you as you look into their eyes the same way you’re looking into mine right now, I just…” He casts his stare downward and shakes his head. “I just can’t. So I guess I’m just a selfish, heartless prick, because where does that leave you?”
The tear finally falls free from his chin, and I watch it strike the wood beneath our feet before placing my hands on the side of his face and forcing his eyes to mine. My voice trembles as I speak. “I know you like to control things, Dalton. That’s how you’ve learned to cope and I understand that, but you don’t control me. My feelings. My heart. And even though you feel you don’t deserve those things, that they’re not yours to have, you’re mistaken.”
I tighten my grip as he tries to look away and state with emphasis, “You ask where that leaves me? Well, it leaves me right in the same place, on this same porch, as I was six years ago when I met you. The day that all of those things you think you can’t have I willingly handed over without question.”
Releasing my hold, I turn away from him, knowing his refusal will absolutely destroy me as I state into the night air, “I have always belonged to you. I will always belong to you. Regardless of what you’ve done, what you do, or what you will do, I will forever be yours. And that’s my choice to make, whether you choose me or not.”
L.B. Simmons is a graduate of Texas A&M University and holds a degree in Biomedical Science. She has been a practicing Chemist for the last 11 years. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Texas and writes every chance she gets.