I can’t believe it but Live for Her has actually been out for a week. I love Nate so much. He’s so passionate. So dedicated. And so stinking in love with his ‘Little Livvy’.
I’ve decided to post the Prologue and Chapter One here. Check it out and then go get a copy on Amazon today!
Also, don’t forget that you can go to the Signed Books and SWAG page and order your own signed paperback copy.
LIVE FOR HER – Harper James
Five Months Earlier – Senior Year
Nate turned the lights off on his bike as he approached the Marshes’ home. He didn’t want to draw attention to himself and wanted a minute to prepare what he would say when the door was answered. No matter who it was, there would be explaining to do. He had left when he and Scott had fought about being caught with that stupid beer so long ago, and he had made it a point to never come back. Chloe was the one girl he was willing to break that vow for. As he straddled the bike at the end of the driveway, his heart sank. Her car was nowhere in sight. She wasn’t here, and he was no closer to making sure she was all right. He couldn’t ask her if the stories all over the news were true or if she could handle what was sure to come her way the next day.
“If you’re here to give my brother a piece of your mind, then punch him and bail, you’re a day late. Little brother, Josh, took care of that last night.” Olivia walked out from the shadows at the far end of the house where he knew she must have just crawled from her window.
“Little Livvy, long time no see.” Nate smiled.
“No, that’s not true. You have definitely seen me. You just choose not to talk to or acknowledge me, even though I’m pretty sure the thing that crawled up your ass and died has nothing to do with me.” She walked up so she stood a few feet from the bike he had turned off. “If you’re looking for the main attraction, she’s not here.”
“I figured that out: no car, no Chloe.”
“And here I thought you were the dumb one all this time.” Olivia gave him the same smile she had when they were getting in trouble as kids. After a second, she chuckled and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him. “I’ve missed you.”
Nate was taken aback. He had gone so long hating Scott that he had forgotten he had also been friends with Olivia. Slowly raising his hands, he wrapped them around her waist and hugged her middle. “Me too.”
“Sorry she isn’t here. I’ll let her know you came to check on her if I see her tonight, okay?”
“Thanks, Liv. You know, just because I hate your brother doesn’t mean we have to be mortal enemies. I remember plenty of times when we were little that it was the two of us taking him on. We can always try that again.”
“You just now figuring that out?” she asked, tilting her head to the side to study him. “Too bad you took so long. Bridges have been burned; hearts have been broken.” She took a step back and shrugged her shoulders. “Besides, at this point, Chloe’s either going to break your heart or his. You won’t want her best friend around if she breaks yours, and I can’t hurt Scott by coming around you or bringing you around here if she breaks his.”
“Yeah.” Nate sighed.
“See you around, Fennell.”
“Later, Livvy.” He waited until she had crawled back in her window to start his bike up and head home.
She arrived half an hour before things were set to kick off. She, unlike the other pledges, had been granted a reprieve in order to do her required tutoring. The sorority never prevented the girls from doing what they needed to do to keep their grades up. None of them wanted to be known as the chapter that got reprimanded, especially for grades. Olivia was doing well so far for her first semester. Her GPA was still perfect, but with her being a scholarship student, it had to stay that way. The sorority was too expensive without getting all of her other costs covered. She cleared her throat and the thoughts of school from her head as she started up the front steps to the two-story house. She couldn’t wait for the day she, like the upperclassmen, was allowed to live in the massive two-story home.
“Yay!” Cameron, her closest friend in the house and a sophomore, came running to the door to meet her as she walked in. “I’ve been dying for you to get here. Did you invite him?”
“Ugh, you do realize he’s practically married, right?”
“Practically and officially are two different things.”
“Okay, then, you do realize that she’s my best friend and I have warned them about you, right?”
“But why?” Cameron crossed her arms over her chest.
“Because you’re a slore who is only interested in nailing my brother for bragging rights?” Olivia responded in a monotone, trying to convey her boredom with Cameron’s desperation.
“You’re lucky I love you and that you’re one hundred percent right. Them’s fighting words.” Cameron smirked as she turned back to where the rest of the girls were standing around a bar in the kitchen. The ones who were old enough already had drinks in their hands. A lot of those who weren’t old enough did too.
“Hey,” Olivia said to no one in particular as she joined the group and declined the drink offered to her, instead reaching out and grabbing the back of a nearby chair.
“So, is your brother coming?” One of the older girls asked, not so subtly confirming to Olivia the real reason she was allowed into the most prestigious sorority on campus. She knew, but she couldn’t make herself care. She had spent so much time confined by her parents’ rules she took the best opportunity for a real life she could. These girls prided themselves on keeping their reputations as clean as possible. They all had plans far beyond these four or five years and made sure they helped each other accomplish their goals with the utmost success. So, yes, she sort of sold out herself and her brother for a chance to party and get a great job, but wasn’t that what most people used sororities and fraternities for anyway? Friends, food, and fun for the price of annual membership dues now. A network of employers for the future.
“Yeah, he said he would stop by.” She made sure to emphasize her next words. “With his girlfriend.”
“Sweet!” The girl yelled, “A toast to Scott Marsh.” She lifted her glass and the girls downed whatever concoction they had come up with, completely ignoring Olivia’s reminder that Chloe did, in fact, exist.
Olivia pulled out her phone and sent a quick text to Chloe.
Beware, vultures are out tonight.
Not too long after, she received a reply in typical Chloe fashion.
Vultures? For me? Aw! Tell em i don’t swing that way.
I love you.
I love you. And your brother. B’s be warned.
Pahahaha. Hurry. Bored.
On our way.
He had arrived fashionably late like some kind of girl. It wasn’t on purpose. Someone needed his help with a project coming up in class, so of course, there he was. At times it was exhausting keeping everyone around him happy. His father and brothers were one thing, but now, here at school, he had Scott, Chloe, and Hope to worry about. He couldn’t even think about Livvy. Keeping her happy was a little too prominent in his mind these days. When he arrived he had zeroed in on her immediately. He was aware of every move she made, it seemed. As soon as Scott and Chloe were in sight, he hurried toward them to distract himself from his best friend’s twin sister. Unfortunately, the lovebirds had soon disappeared out back where a few kids were enjoying the last few days of warmth. Apparently Scott’s roommate, Joel, a soccer player as well as a social player, needed constant supervision.
Nate walked around the outer parameter of the room. He slowly took in the chaos of girls pretending to be far more wasted than they were so that they had the excuse of ignorance the next day. His younger brother would love everything about this party. Way too many insecure girls looking for a guy that would make her feel beautiful for the night. Josh was too young and stupid to know these weren’t the kinds of girls you settle down with or look to in order to find any form of commitment or love. These were the kinds of girls you regret in a few days, weeks, or years. Nate knew better. He had known better since his first date with Chloe. Though he now knew she wasn’t the one he had thought her to be at the time, he had been given a glimpse of what could be. Further, seeing where Scott and Chloe’s relationship was now only made him realize that there was even more out there than he could have imagined.
Nearing the section of the room that was designated as a dance floor, his eyes gravitated to the same spot as almost every other male in the room. She was the kind of beautiful that didn’t need the skimpy outfits and painted-on makeup the other girls required. She stood out no matter where she was, and what made her even more attractive was that she had no idea she was so beautiful. Nate stepped back and leaned against the staircase, watching her dance with one guy after another. She wasn’t even able to finish a song with one of them before another walked up, waiting for his turn.
Unable to stand it another minute, he pushed off the stair railing and made his way toward the center of the party. Yet another guy was approaching, so Nate veered left, just enough to cut the guy off and beat him to the punch. When she spun around, her hair cascaded over her shoulders and fell elegantly down her back. How did a girl sweating and dancing at a sorority party still look elegant? She had changed during the last few months of school and summer. Her once short, bright hair now seemed softer. It was longer and fell in waves around her shoulders. She was dressing a little sexier now too. Not noticeable to most, but he wasn’t most, and he noticed. She had a new confidence. Something was changing in her.
“Hey, you!” she shouted over the music when she noticed him.
“Little Livvy, how’s it going?” He stepped up to her and put a hand on her hip.
“What are you doing here?” she asked. He hoped that her flush had something to do with the scrutiny of his eyes, the heat of his hand, and the thrill of his complete attention. That was his aim, and it seemed to be a success.
“Connections. When you’re best friends with the school’s best chance at a championship season in basketball in a few years and know the most beautiful girl in the room like the back of your hand, people tend to look the other way when you walk in uninvited.” He didn’t mention that he had threatened the pledge that was in charge of the front door, helping out one of her sorority sisters.
“Well, I’m glad you made it.” She reached her arms up and wrapped them around his neck. He fought to keep from inhaling her sweet scent, to restrain from pulling her so tight she couldn’t escape. “I never see you anymore, Nate. I miss you.” She whispered the last part, probably thinking it would get lost in the noise. It didn’t.
Instead of pushing her away as he should have, Nate gripped her tighter. “Dance with me.”
She looked up into his eyes and swallowed noticeably. “Yeah.”
He brought his arms from around her back and rested his hands on her hips before they started moving together. After a few beats they both let some of the tension slip away and Livvy threw her head back and started to dance again. With her arms in the air, she laughed as he spun her around and pulled her back to his front to dance. They finished the song and when he saw her next suitor approaching for his turn, Nate caught his eye and gave him a subtle yet very intimidating shake of his head. Not a chance, frat boy. She’s done dancing with anyone else for the night.
She looked around the room, a smile plastered on her face. There wasn’t a single boy here who could remotely pull her attention. How could they? She had been with the one who she knew would belong to her forever, only to have the douche canoe prove everyone right. He really was the most disgusting person to walk the earth. Had her friends known what she was doing, maybe they would have stopped her. Maybe they would have saved both of them. Maybe she wouldn’t be the best actress on the campus of The Ohio State University … but she was. And so she continued to smile. And she continued to let the frat guy with too much Axe body spray hit on her. She allowed him to think he had a shot in hell. Because if she did, she would be able to string him along until it was time to leave. To go home. To crash. And allow the show to fall away. Because at least in sleep she didn’t have to pretend.
A little while later, Olivia and Nate walked off the floor laughing at his weak attempt at dancing. “You’re not going to go another dance? I think your line is growing …”
Olivia looked over her shoulder and saw three guys straighten up and smile as her eyes passed over theirs. Trying to keep from checking Nate’s reaction to their interest, she shrugged and hooked her arm through his. “Nah, actually I’m dying of thirst and all they have here is beer. Want to help a girl find a bottle of water?”
Looking down at her, he smiled. “Still not drinking, Livvy? Remind me, is it a legal thing or a personal conviction?”
“Not everyone feels the need to lose control of their body, feel miserable the next day, and make poor decisions for the next four to five years.” She rolled her eyes and glanced toward the girls making a spectacle of themselves in the middle of the living room.
“Hey,” Nate chuckled, “you’ll get no complaint from me. Child of a miserable alcoholic, remember?”
Olivia stopped in her tracks, her tender heart evident in the slightly protruding lower lip that he could only slightly see quiver in the dimmed lighting. “Nate …”
“Liv, stop, it was a joke. A bad joke.” He let out a sigh and shook his head to himself. “But a joke nonetheless. Come on, let’s go get you that water.”
Olivia turned and her face lit up at the approaching forms of her best friend and brother. “Hey, Chloe!” She stepped up to the couple and punched Scott in the arm. “Big brother.”
“I saw you tearing it up out there. Do you have a dance card, or do they just push each other out of the way to get a turn?” Chloe quipped as she nudged Olivia with her hip.
“Yeah, yeah.” She blushed. “When did you two get here? You said you would be here more than an hour ago, missy.”
“We were here. I can’t help it if you’re lost in sorority sister dance parades, or whatever you all do. We hung out with Nate here and then had to go hang outside for a bit.” Chloe leaned into Scott as she spoke, and a part of Olivia was jealous of what they had. She forced herself not to look toward Nate. Not to allow anyone else to see how desperately she wanted to lean into him, to rest her head on his broad shoulders, to share, even an ounce, of the affection her brother had found with the woman she knew would forever have a piece of Nate’s heart.
“Well, what are you all up to? What do you want to do?” Olivia asked, excited to finally have some time with her three favorite people.
“Nothing now, we’re about to head out. I basically came to make sure Joel got in and out in one piece. I’m taking my lady home.” Chloe rolled her eyes at Scott but still grinned. It was nice to see them playful and carefree after all the drama they had endured, both as a couple and Chloe at home, less than a year earlier. It seemed like just yesterday Scott and Nate were coming to blows in the middle of the hallway over Chloe’s heart and her father was making a drunken spectacle of himself on his syndicated talk show. It was almost comical to look back at how much drama had ensued in such a short time. And yet, Olivia couldn’t say she wasn’t thankful for it. She had gained a sister and best friend. If only Olivia could trust that Nate had moved forward and found a better place like everyone else.
“And if you’re leaving, how are you going to make sure your roommate gets out in one piece?” Olivia laughed at them both.
“He left about ten minutes ago—some girl, a warning look, and a promise of no longer than an hour. He’s an overachiever, that boy …” Nate said.
“Gross!” both girls exclaimed as Nate chuckled.
“Well, this girl and I are going to go ahead and head out.” Scott bent and scooped a surprised Chloe into his arms. As she squealed her delight, he laughed and turned to leave.
“Bye, guys.” Chloe laughed over Scott’s shoulder before she buried her face in his neck and he pulled back to kiss her forehead. The crowd parted for the king of the court and his queen. Nate’s eyes followed them as they walked away, unaware of Olivia watching him for any form of reaction.
“They’re so gross,” Cameron said as she walked up, scowling at the retreating backs of Scott and Chloe.
“Don’t be so jealous.” Olivia laughed at the desperation dripping off her friend.
Cameron turned to spout off some snarky comment but was thrown into speechlessness when her eyes landed on Nate. They shot wide as they worked from his head to his feet and then back up again. Her expression turned possessive and her lips formed a crooked smile when she looked over at Olivia. “I think I’m over it.” She held her hand out to Nate and he took what she offered, awkwardly shaking it.
“Nate, this is Cameron.”
“Hey,” he said, clearly uncomfortable with his current audience. He looked between the girls.
“Nate.” Cameron licked her top lip, trying for sexy, but accomplishing crazy. “I think you owe me a dance.”
He looked to Olivia and when she didn’t say anything, he shrugged. “Sure, why not.” Olivia couldn’t figure out the frustrated expression that crossed his face. She didn’t force him onto the floor. She had nothing to do with the fact that Cameron had walked up.
Olivia watched as Nate and Cameron made their way to the center of the floor. She had to admit Cameron wasn’t terrible-looking. Her dark skin, flowing curls, and plump lips had an appeal that more than a few frat guys had taken advantage of already this year. Olivia had hoped Nate wouldn’t be one of them. Honestly, since she had spent so much time with him this summer, hanging out as friends, she had been dreading the first time she saw him with someone. There was something about him that was borderline intoxicating. When he was around, she felt important, funny, clever, and special. It was just Nate though. Clearly, Cameron was feeling pretty special right now too.
She tried to ignore them as she gave up on him coming back for her and started toward the dance floor and the guys who still seemed to be waiting. Luckily, one grabbed her and pulled her toward him before she made it too far. The thought of walking out to prove she didn’t need Nate only to stand alone in the middle of the room was not only mortifying, but too depressing to consider. Finding him through the crowd, she attempted to see if he was watching her without letting on that she was staring at him. It seemed he was content with his new partner. Her friendship with Cameron was obviously over.
He had danced three songs with her sorority sister and then excused himself as politely as he could. If her hand “accidentally” slipped below his belt one more time, he was going to cause a scene. Nate couldn’t take it anymore. He stood to the side, walked around the back, and came back inside to find Olivia still taking turns dancing with every guy who asked. He was about to explode with jealousy. Deciding it was time to man up and make a move, he squared his shoulders and prepared to make a scene. Questions needed answered, and if he didn’t at least put a feeler out, he would never know. Nate stormed through the crowd and pulled Olivia out of the groping hands of the latest douche trying to cop a feel, causing her to stumble into Nate’s arms. She turned and looked up at him in a haze. “What are you doing, Liv?” He couldn’t keep the growl out of his voice.
“Dancing, hello.” She began to sway against him, and he pushed her as far away as he could in the crowded living room.
“Liv, stop it.” Nate studied her for a moment. It appeared Miss I Don’t Like to Drink may have indulged in a few while he was getting some air earlier. Between her constant flirting with every male in the house and her now drunken state, Nate felt his irritation growing.
“What?” She looked at him startled and then pouted up at him, pushing her pink lip out as her beautiful eyes drooped.
“Just …” He groaned and looked toward the still-waiting guys. “Come on, damn it.”
Olivia let out a squawk as he pulled her roughly through the house and out the front door. “Is Hope home?” He stopped on the front porch and looked over his shoulder to see that she was listening to him. It was nice out, not too cool for them to stop so he could think about a plan. The breeze swept through Olivia’s blonde hair, and he found himself distracted. Thankfully, Olivia wasn’t one to stand around and keep her mouth shut, and she brought him back to the present in a hurry.
“No.” Olivia narrowed her brows at him and then looked over her shoulder toward the party. “Last I saw she was still at the party. Why? What’s going on? Are you about to leave?”
“Yes, actually. We both are.” He answered without turning around and narrowed his eyes on his destination.
“What? Why?” She pulled back, trying to free her arm from his grasp, but he only tightened his hold.
“Because you’re pissing me off.” Nate didn’t look back, and as Olivia tried to pull him to a stop in protest, he bent, throwing her over his shoulder, much like her brother had with his girl earlier. “If you’re going to throw up, could you aim out?” he sneered, getting more and more frustrated with her behavior by the second.
“If I throw up, it’s going all over you, you big oaf.” Nate tried to keep the chuckle quiet but knew that she could hear by the way she tensed in his arms. “Jerk. I wasn’t even drinking,” she grunted, but his innocent Olivia couldn’t hide the guilt in her voice.
It was a long walk back to the dorm, but he could feel his nerves calming with each welcome step away from the party. He knew she was exhausted. Unlike everyone else, he actually paid attention. She was in class from eight to one every day. She had tutoring for two or three hours a day, depending on the subject. She had a sorority schedule to keep, she volunteered for the basketball team boosters, and she studied constantly. Essentially, she wasn’t sleeping, eating, or relaxing. She hid it well. The fact that he saw it so easily only served to prove what he knew he couldn’t avoid much longer. He was into his Little Livvy, dangerously into her.
He wasn’t surprised when her breathing slowed and she calmed down pretty quickly on the walk. Nate almost wished he could cradle her in his arms so she could get some much-needed rest while he had an excuse to watch. Upon entering her dorms, he was disappointed to see that the front desk was empty and then, once he realized that meant he could carry Livvy on up to her room, he wasn’t disappointed at all. When a girl coming out of the elevator saw him carrying the exhausted Olivia toward her, she stepped out of the way. “Excuse me?” she asked meekly.
“Yeah.” Nate looked over his free shoulder toward her.
“Is she okay with,” the girl pointed to Olivia over his shoulder, “that? You aren’t doing anything shady, right?”
“No,” he laughed. “But I like that you care. What’s your name?”
“Leigh.” She narrowed her eyes at him in confusion.
“Well, Leigh,” he shifted the now compliant Olivia on his shoulder, “I’m Nate Fennell. Her name is Olivia. Find her tomorrow and make sure she is okay for me. Would you mind? Room 412.”
“You do know I can talk and function, right?” Olivia put her elbows on his back and rested her chin in her palm, shocking both Leigh and Nate to find she was awake. “I’m Olivia. Nice to meet you, Leigh.”
“S-sure.” Leigh walked away with a lost look on her face as Nate pressed the four on the elevator, chuckling at the startled look on the girl’s face.
When he let himself in Olivia’s dorm suite, he checked Chloe’s room first. As he poked his head inside, he didn’t know if he was hoping she was there with Scott or not. On the one hand, they could take Olivia off his hands. On the other hand, they would take Olivia off his hands. Why did giving her up hold no appeal?
She was already snoozing again by the time he walked into her room. He was beginning to worry about her. She shouldn’t be this exhausted, and if she was, what did that say about everything she had on her plate? As gently as he could, he lowered her off his shoulder and onto her bed. He looked toward Hope’s side of the room and wondered where she could be, but was quickly brought back to reality by Olivia and her grumblings. “What was that, Liv?”
“Nate,” she sat up and pushed her hair out of her face, “thank you. For tonight. I’m always glad when you come.”
His brows drew together. “Yeah. Always.” He didn’t know what she meant, but he knew that for her, his Little Livvy, he would always be there.
“Why?” There was a touch of longing and a hint of sadness in the question. He ached with the word. Lowering himself onto the bed, he leaned closer to her.
“Why what, baby?” he whispered, close to her ear.
“Why don’t you want me? Is it because I’m too tall? Most guys like girls like Chloe. They don’t want to look a girl in the eye.” She was being honest. She wanted the truth. He wanted to let her know of his absolute interest, but he wasn’t sure where this was going, and he sure as hell wasn’t ready to say some things she may not want to hear.
“Is it my hair? Did you like it better short? I can cut it, you know.”
He studied her for a minute as she slowly regained some of her senses in front of him, wilting under his scrutiny and shocked with her own forwardness. Of course he loved her longer hair. It took her beautiful face and added a softness to it that he hadn’t seen on her since she was a child. The waves enticed his fingers. The way it now hid her neck made him ache to search out her pulse. It made those baby blues of hers shine in contrast to the long gold strands. He sat back a little as the revelation hit him—she was perfection. Smart, loving, somewhat crazy perfection. “Liv, I love your hair.” He reached out and ran his fingers down a strand, allowing them to brush the hollow of her neck.
She let out a moan that had him jerking his hand back in surprise. “Nate.” She leaned forward, bringing them closer, curiosity and vulnerability radiating off her. “Why do you want her?”
He was too confused by the change in subject to understand what Olivia was getting at. “Who?”
“Chloe.” She leaned away and pouted as she lay back down. “Why do you and Scott only have eyes for her? What do I have to do to get eyes to see me like that? To want me like that?” She was losing the battle with sleep as she laid her head on her pillow, and he struggled to keep up with exactly what she was implying. Clearly, school and all of her activities were starting to get to her. Or maybe he missed her taking some drinks? Whatever it was, she was losing him.
“What eyes?” he asked loudly, trying to keep her coherent a little longer.
“Those.” She barely lifted her hand toward him. “The beautiful and mesmerizing eyes I would kill to have yearn for me. The ones that follow Chloe out of a room, and sneak sideways glances when you think no one is paying attention.”
“I don’t—” Nate stopped as he heard Olivia let out a quiet snore. She was gone for the night. He shook his head and stood, rolling her comforter up and over her back so she wouldn’t get cold in the frigid dorms. Unable to help himself, he leaned forward and gently kissed her temple. “These eyes only follow Chloe out of the room because she is taking your brother,” he whispered into her ear. “When she takes him away, I am free to be near and watch the girl I really want. Good night, my Little Livvy.” He started to leave and then thought better of it, wanting to be near in case she needed him. He decided to collapse on Hope’s bed until she got home. There was no way he was letting Liv wake up and get away with the conversation they had. He wanted some answers. He knew now there was something worth finding out.