I’m so EXCITED to share chapter one of Emily Snow’s upcoming release, Damaging Me. This is book 2 in her Savor Us series and is all about Your Toxic Sequel’s drummer, Sinjin 😉
Damaging Me releases on October 31st!
About Damaging Me
From the childhood foster homes he was bounced around to, the one love he lost and hordes of nameless groupies, even his own bandmates—Your Toxic Sequel’s drummer, Sinjin Fields, has been called it all. That doesn’t include the names he calls himself. He knows he’s an addict—knows he’s damaged goods. He doesn’t care, though; drowning out the world numbs him. And for Sin, that’s the closest he’ll get to happiness.
When a drug-fueled confrontation nearly costs him his closest friend and bandmate, Sinjin is faced with no other choice but to confront each screwed-up facet of who he is and how he got there. What he never expected to encounter was Zoe—an over-achieving, fresh-faced violin prodigy who can’t seem to stay away from him. Not that Sinjin wants her to. She reminds him of the undamaged part of himself. Makes him feel emotions he didn’t know he could feel.
And Sinjin will battle every demon haunting him so he doesn’t have to let that go.
* This book contains adult content and language.
**Although this book features characters from the DEVOURED series and SAVOR YOU, it is a standalone and can be read without reading the other books.
“My dad’s going to be pissed. Majorly pissed,” I sighed for at least the fifth time since stepping into the coffee shop for lunch. I glanced down at my untouched turkey panini. It smelled amazing, but so far I hadn’t been able to force myself to take a bite. Shoving the plate away from me, I shook my head. “I can’t do it.”
“Don’t say that, Zoe.” My best friend, Norah, rested her elbows on the edge of the table, pressed her nude-painted lips to her straw, and practically inhaled the remainder of her iced vanilla latte. “Grow a pair and tell him you’re sick of the violin. That if you play Bach one more time, you’re going to break that damn thing over his head.”
“It’s not that—”
“Guess where Sinjin Fields is staying?” Norah’s question was so sudden—a complete turn from our conversation about me leaving college for a short break—that it took me a moment to process what she said.
The name sounded familiar, but I wasn’t sure why. Lifting my shoulders, I earned a dramatic eye roll from Norah. “Am I supposed to know where he’s staying?”
“Good god, Zoe, don’t you read? It was on OMG.”
That didn’t answer my question, but judging from the gleam in her dark eyes, and the grin playing at the corners of her lips, that was her plan.
“Of course I read,” I argued. “Just not those type of things.” She knew good and well I was on a dystopian kick. Over the last few months, I’d gone through everything from Anthem to The Handmaid’s Tale. Norah called it depressing, but I couldn’t tear myself away.
Maybe it was all the angst.
Norah, on the other hand, veered toward entertainment nonfiction—if it was about a celebrity, she’d read it in a heartbeat. She swore she had been that way since well before we met three years ago, when I slammed into the back of her car. Her sturdier, older model Jeep had decimated my new Hyundai, but the friendship that ensued over the swapping of insurance information was a fair trade.
Even if that friendship did include listening to an incredibly detailed report on celebrities’ lives at least a few times each month.
Norah tapped her short, shamrock green-painted fingernails together. “Everyone dies in the books you read.” When I started to protest, she quickly continued, “Okay, maybe I should backtrack. Do you even know who I’m talking about, Zoe?”
Did I know ninety percent of the stars she mentioned? I fussed with a packet of artificial sweetener and shot her a sheepish grin. “Nope. Which is probably why I can’t guess where he’s staying.”
She released a deep sigh. “Sinjin’s the drummer for Your Toxic Sequel.”
“Ahh, I see.” Admittedly, I leaned more towards pop music, but I’d listened to Your Toxic Sequel before—in fact, they were on the workout playlist I reserved for ass-kicking cardio days. I tried to picture the band’s drummer, but the only person I saw when I closed my eyes was Lucas, the muscular, sexy, over-the-top front man “Alright, so spill it. Where’s he staying?”
Norah leaned in close to me. “Melody’s House,” she whispered as if sharing a secret that hadn’t been broadcasted all over the world by now.
One thing I was very familiar with was Melody’s House. It was the rehab facility that my father and a few of his associates had founded years ago—the center in Malibu that I would be heading to as soon as we were finished eating lunch. It was no surprise I hadn’t heard about a rocker being one of the current residents, though. Not only did many famous faces pass through the halls of Melody’s House, but also, my dad made it a point not to bring his work home. All our dinner table discussions revolved around music. As in, how long had I practiced that particular day? Or whether or not I’d worked through that allegro section yet?
Which, given how I’ve felt for the past six months, was frustrating.
“He checked in last week,” Norah informed me, running a napkin over her mouth carefully so as not to ruin her neutral lip color.
“Then, hopefully he gets the help he needs.” It was a pathetic response, but I was being honest. Even though the center was, literally, my father’s life, I didn’t wish the problems that led to rehab on my worst enemy. “So … you’re telling me this because?”
“Because it made you stop freaking out for a few minutes. You asked me to come here saying you were starving and yet we have this.” She pointed to my side of the table, from the coffee cup to my sandwich.
My lip quirked into a half-smile. “And now I’m back to worrying, but thank you for the distraction.”
Norah played with the tip of her straw, looking like she wanted to say something else, but then she blew her blunt bangs out of her eyes and checked her watch. “Alright, it’s five ‘til one, and I’ve got to go back to work.” She stood and dusted scone crumbs from the front of her fitted pinstripe shirt. As she tossed a tip down on the table, she crooked an eyebrow.
“You can do it, Zoe.”
“I know, I know. Grow a pair.”
She winked. “You better.”
A few minutes after Norah left, I followed behind her, waving goodbye to my favorite barista as the glass doors clanged together behind me. It was unusually warm for February, even for Los Angeles, and I shoved the sleeves of my V-neck sweater up to my elbows on the way to my black Jetta.
“Grow a pair,” I repeated while I cranked the car and eased out into the street.
But as I made the fifty-minute drive from downtown to my dad’s center in Malibu, I restarted my inner debate about what to say to him. There was always the truth—that I could barely look at my violin without feeling sick to my stomach, or that I was sick of the music college that I’d worked so hard to get into two years ago. The more I thought about it, though, the more screwed up it seemed, especially since I was driving to see my dad to pick up a check he wrote for tuition.
Lifting my dark eyes up to the rearview mirror, I gave myself a disgusted glare. “Don’t be such a damn wimp,” I said as I pulled my car up to the rehab’s security gate.
Five minutes later, I opened the French doors and stepped into the casual, beach-themed entrance hall that smelled like the inside of a Bath & Body Works. I had made up my mind, even if it did make me feel like crap. A variety of conflicting emotions rushed through me as I crept down the wide hallway to my father’s office, smiling and waving politely at the staff along the away.
I walked through his assistant Suze’s tiny office, which was right outside of his, but she stopped me the moment I grabbed the doorknob. “Dr. Whitlow is with a patient,” she said in a clipped, professional voice. I lifted my eyebrow, and she relaxed in her blue balance-ball chair. “Sorry, Zoe. I know you probably have things to do, but he just told me to ask you to wait a little while.”
“It’s fine, Suze. I’m just going to—” I racked my brain for something to do while I waited for Dad to become available, but since I had no idea how long that would be, I finally shook my head. “I’m going to get some air. I’ll check back in fifteen minutes.”
If I hadn’t already snuffed out the urge to have a heart-to-heart with my father, this would have done it for me. Having too much time to talk myself out of following through with my plans had always been one of my biggest downfalls.
Suze nodded, casting me a sympathetic expression that somewhat resembled a smile. “If it ends sooner, I’ll text you.”
Ducking out the office, I could hear the open therapy session taking place across the hall. Not wanting to listen in because the thought of invading their privacy made me feel sleazy, I walked as fast as possible until I was surrounded by foliage and silence. I pulled my phone out of my purse and checked my messages as I followed the large stone path to the center of the garden. There was one text, from Norah, and reading it made me smile.
1:45 PM: Be strong, Zoe!
I was so immersed in typing a response that I didn’t realize somebody else was sitting on the garden bench.
Until I sat down on his lap.
“My first groupie. Nice,” he said sarcastically.
As I jumped up, the sunglasses that had been resting on top of my head clattered to the ground. I scrambled to pick it up, feeling every inch of my body ignite in embarrassment.
“Those motherfuckers break easily,” the man drawled. “So you’re screwed unless one of your visitors brings you a replacement.”
Visitors? Did he think I was a patient here? Instead of automatically correcting him, I bit my tongue and began examining the tinted lenses for cracks. When I found none, I flashed my intact glasses at the man.
“They’re okay, but thanks for your concern.” Despite that concern being fueled by blatant sarcasm. At last, I met his gaze, and I took a step back. I had seen this man before— light brown hair, a smaller nose with a slightly snubbed tip set in a narrow face that looked like it hadn’t been shaved in days, and dark circles beneath his eyes. There were a multitude of tattoos covering his thin arms and peeking out from beneath the crew neck of his plain brown tee shirt, including one that said “Toxic” in calligraphy.
This was Sinjin Fields. The topic of five minutes of my lunch conversation.
Standing in front of him, with his penetrating green eyes seeming to see right through me, I knew that whenever I thought of Your Toxic Sequel from now on, I would picture his face and not Lucas Wolfe’s.
I dropped my sunglasses and phone into my purse and pointed over my shoulder toward the center doors. “I should go and—”
“I don’t bite.” To give me room, he moved the book sitting in the center of the bench to his other side, but not before I caught a glimpse at what he was reading: The Running Man, which was on my own reading list. When he took in my thoughtful expression, he sneered up at me. “You don’t have to run off just because I’m out here. Unless you’re scared … if that’s the case then go right ahead and take your skinny ass back inside.”
He was skinnier than me, but I didn’t point that out. He was also issuing me a challenge. Although I knew it was best that I did go back inside and wait in Suze’s office, I decided to take Norah’s advice and grow a pair.
Expecting another snide comment, I walked around the bench and sat as far as possible away from him on the edge. I heard my phone vibrating, indicating a new text, but I held my bag close to my chest instead of checking Norah’s response. The side of my face tingled. Sinjin was still staring me down. But why? I turned my face to the side, meeting his amused expression head-on.
“What?” I asked in a small voice.
“I’m trying to figure out what you’re in for, is all. I can tell, from the way you looked at me a couple minute ago, you know exactly who I am and why I’m here.” He cocked his head to one side, squinting at me, dragging his green eyes from my legs, which were crossed at the ankles, to the stubby blond ponytail at the nape of my neck. “So what is it? Adderall? Powder?”
“No, I—” But I stopped myself from informing him that I wasn’t a patient and shook my head furiously. “Why would you assume either of those?”
Draping his tattooed arm over the back of the bench, Sinjin granted me a casual shrug. “Because you reek of overachievement.”
Reek. Of. Overachievement. Focusing on one of the tattoos on his arm—a compass that’s points resembled a toxic symbol inked strategically over his inner elbow—I let those three words settle into my brain. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard something like that. Hadn’t my ex-boyfriend said just about the same only weeks before I kicked him to the curb for cheating?
Still, either way, it was a load of bullshit.
“I’m not a patient here,” I said pointedly, crossing my arms over my chest.
“Your folks doing the tour of shame, then?” When I gave him a confused look, he drew in a deep breath, his nostrils flaring a little. “What I’m asking, Princess, is if your rich parents are interviewing centers to stick you in?”
This man was famous, no doubt rich, and yet scorn dripped from his words. I gave him a tight, cool smile. “I don’t think I meet the prerequisites to enter the center.”
A look of comprehension dawned on his face, and he smirked. “Then why the fuck are you here?”
“Because, I—” But as rude as he was—and God, Sinjin Fields was as rude as they came—there was something about him that made me want to tell him the truth. I uncrossed my ankles and leaned forward to rest my forearms on my knees. “I’m here to see my dad. I needed to talk to him about college stuff.”
When I didn’t elaborate, Sinjin motioned his hand for me to keep going, and after a moment, I did. I told a complete stranger about falling out of love with playing music, and how exhausted I was. How I wanted the break from college and music to rekindle that desire to pick up my violin.
I told him how terrified I was of disappointing my dad after he spent years paying for my music lessons, new instruments and the necessary paraphernalia, and then college.
When I was finished, Sinjin was quiet, and I looked down at the backs of my hands. His problems were so much bigger than mine that I was positive that he was thinking just how stupid I sounded.
Self-consciously, I tucked a loose blond tendril behind my ear. “Now I feel like a brat whining about the small stuff.”
“Mmm, I don’t know about all that. I’ve heard shit that was so much smaller being blown to proportions you wouldn’t imagine.” Sinjin slid an inch or two closer to me, and I struggled to keep my breathing under control as his scent—Ivory soap? —invaded my senses. “So, how’d it go with your father?” Once again, his voice held a hint of contempt.
It caught me off guard, and suddenly, I wanted to know even more about Sinjin Fields.
“I haven’t actually had a chance yet.”
A laugh tumbled from the back of his throat. “Because you’re not going to. Judging by your voice, your actions, you made up your mind not to before you even came out here.”
My head popped up, and I simply stared at him in surprise. Was I that easy to read? Then, the irritation set in. “Why do you say I’m not?” I demanded through clenched teeth.
“You keep staring down at your thighs.” The way he said thighs, almost teasingly, sent a shiver through me. “You’re fidgeting. You—”
“I get it,” I cut him off. Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I gave him the kindest smile I could muster. “Look, it was nice meeting you, Sinjin, but—”
“Yet another reason why I’m sure you’ll keep playing your violin.”
“What would that be?”
He shifted, moving his tall, lean body even closer. “Ten minutes. I’ve known you for ten minutes, and you’ve tried to run off on me twice.”
Frustrated, I dragged my hands through my hair and gazed at him incredulously. “You called me an overachiever.”
“Because you are. You want your father’s blessing even though you’re coming here of all places to visit him.”
Again, he was assuming incorrectly. It was obviously a bad habit of his, and I wondered how much trouble it had gotten him into in the past.
“Even if my father was—” I paused to reconsider what I was about to say. This was my opportunity to dive into Sinjin’s head—to turn the tables on the man who had gotten me so flustered—and I doubted telling him that my dad’s one of the therapists here would win me any points. “Do you think having a … problem means someone isn’t entitled to offering their opinion?”
He snorted. “That’s what they’re calling it now? A problem? Why don’t you try again, Princess, but this time with a little more feeling.”
“You’re being evasive.”
“You don’t want my opinion—everything that comes out of my mouth is a mess.” He tilted his head back and stared up at the clear sky. “If I’m lucky, I’ll learn some self-control while I’m here. Figure out a way to make up for everything I’ve said and done before I got put in here.” For the first time since I sat down beside him, the calculated sarcasm had disappeared from his voice. It had been replaced by raw pain.
And I hated it for him.
“You could start with sorry,” I suggested, ignoring the tightness building up in the back of my mouth.
“Sorry is just five letters of nothingness. It doesn’t mean jack shit.”
“It always worked for me.”
“But I’m not you.” Shaking his head, he sat up straight and dragged his gaze back to mine. “I don’t hold anything back. If something is on my mind, I just say it. Maybe—” And then he stopped. He stopped talking just to stare at me. It was unnerving, but I wasn’t about to let that end our conversation. Not quite yet.
“You’re holding back now,” I murmured. And I desperately wanted to know what he was going to say next. This time, I leaned in to him. “Maybe what?”
Without warning, he closed the space between us and placed his forehead to mine. I didn’t pull away, even though common sense screamed for me to. “Maybe being a little more like me would be good for you and vice versa,” he breathed.
He was right. And in a way, I felt like he was silently issuing me yet another challenge. Daring me to lose a little of my self-control—at least when it came to telling my dad how I felt.
I started to get up, but his hand closed around my wrist. Electricity raced through my arm, twisting and curving through my body, shocking my senses. I jerked away from him, holding my wrist tightly against my chest. “I’ve got to go see my dad now.”
He dropped his arm and moved his hand to the bench. I watched him drag his thumb over his fingers, like he was just as affected by my touch. “What will you tell him?”
I thought on it for a split second before saying, “That I’m sick of the violin.”
“Good girl,” he said appreciatively. As I walked through the garden, shoving my hands deep into the pockets of my tight jeans, he called after me. “You never told me your name.”
I spun around to look at him, giving him a nervous smile that caused him to narrow his eyes in confusion. “Zoe Whitlow.”
His green eyes widened for only a moment as he made the connection between my father and me. He mouthed something, but I was too far away to see what that was, and then the corner of his lip jerked into a knowing smile. “You let me think you were someone else.”
“No.” I shook my head. “You assumed I was someone else, Sinjin.” Just before I disappeared into the building, I turned to give him one last look, but his nose was already buried in his book.
© 2014 Emily Snow
Damaging Me releases on Oct 31st but you can pre-order now!
Emily Snow is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the DEVOURED series (October 2012, January 2013) and TIDAL (December 2012). She loves books, sexy bad boys, and really loud rock music, so naturally, she writes stories about all three.