Title: Back To The Drawing Board
Author: L.L. Collins
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 10, 2015
Lies. Betrayal. Deceit. Carter knows them all too well. His whole life was based on them. He decided long ago that his life would be on his own terms. No one would dictate his future, since he’d had no control over his past.
Desire. Lust. Love.
Julia is the bosses’ daughter. She’s everything that Carter wants, and nothing that he thinks he needs. She’s got plans of her own, and Carter is one of them.
Both determined to control their own paths, can she show him what his future could be like if he just lets go, or will he send her BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD?
Back To The Drawing Board is another hit by L.L. Collins. The story if full of passion as well as a message that of priority in love and family. It is full of second chances and reunions that will have tears squeaking out. Readers will share laughter, tender moments, and most of all excitement of the greatest HEA. You definitely are in store for one ride that you will never forget.
I would say for me I had two favorite parts to Back To The Drawing Board. The first being the characters, and the second being the plot. The main characters were ones that you could relate to as well as root for. They both had best friends that just added for more depth to the story line. The best friends were their go to buddies. When Julia and Carter needed romance advice it was mainly the best friends that they went to. I also liked the character of Carter’s dad. Having him in the story and being present just added more to Carter’s character as well as the plot.
The plot was absolutely fantastic. It contained several dilemmas that Carter and Julia had to go through to get to the final resolution. The story was constantly hopping. In fact, I was so enthralled with the story I read it in one sitting. I have a preview of the Prologue that you will not want to miss. It is fantastic. It starts the story off with a bang and just goes up from there.
I highly recommend this story to fans of romance and happily-ever-afters. I know I will reread it often as I just fell in love with all of the story elements.
About The Author
LL Collins is a teacher who loves spending her days in the Florida sun with her husband and boys, reading, and writing. Her love of writing has found a home in the self-publishing world. The Living Again series: Living Again, Reaching Rachel, Guarding Hearts, Finding Forever, and Breaking Free: A Living Again Novella are available now in both eBook and paperback. The Twisted Series, consisting of both Twisted Souls and Twisted Paths, is available now exclusively on Amazon.
LL has been writing since she was old enough to write. Always a story in her head, she finally decided to let the characters out to try to make her lifelong dreams of becoming an author come true. She has been a teacher for over ten years, a wife for 15, and a mom to two boys, 13 and 11.
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LLCollins/posts
Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/L-L-Collins/e/B00FM8GAZO/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1423619516&sr=8-2-ent
Back to the Drawing Board Playlist
Smoke and Mirrors~ Imagine Dragons
Love Alone is Worth the Fight~ Switchfoot
Fool For You Anyway~ Foreigner
How You Remind Me~ Nickelback
If Today Was Your Last Day~ Nickelback
Just As I Am~ Brantley Gilbert
Bleeding Out~ Imagine Dragons
Something I Need~ One Republic
The Fighter~ Gym Class Heroes
No Ordinary Love~ The Civil Wars
Dust to Dust~ The Civil Wars
Photograph~ Ed Sheeran
Lost In You~ Three Days Grace
The Best of Me~ Brantley Gilbert
Like I’m Gonna Lose You~ Meghan Trainor, John Legend
Yours to Hold~ Skillet
Riot~ Rascal Flatts
Fly~ Maddie & Tee
Where It All Begins~ Hunter Hayes, Lady Antebellum
It Was Always You~ Maroon 5
Love Someone~ Jason Mraz
Everything I Didn’t Say~ 5 Seconds of Summer
Inside Your Heaven~ Carrie Underwood
So Small~ Carrie Underwood
My Own Prison~ Creed
Goodbye My Lover~ James Blunt
100 Years~ Five for Fighting
Six Degrees of Separation~ The Script
If It’s Love~ Train
This Ain’t Goodbye~ Train
This is What it Takes~ Shawn Mendes
You’re Beautiful~ James Blunt
Marry Me~ Train
You and Me~ Lifehouse
Accidentally in Love~ Counting Crows
Smile~ Uncle Kracker
Back to the Drawing Board
Copyright © L.L. Collins 2015
Five years ago
“Hi, Carter. Can you talk? Because there are some things I need to talk to you about.” My mom’s voice sounded strained and upset. That wasn’t like her, so I was immediately on edge. I knew she was missing me and we hadn’t gotten to talk in the few weeks I’d been away at college. I felt bad about that, but we’d been playing phone tag.
“Of course, Mom. I’m driving home from the grocery store. Hayden and I decided we could no longer live on Ramen noodles and Doritos.” As much fun as I was having in college, hearing her voice made me homesick.
My mom laughed, so I figured whatever it was couldn’t be that bad and my unease lifted. “Yeah, that gets old after a while. You doing okay on money?”
I rolled my eyes, looking both ways as the light turned green. “Yes, I’m fine. You and Dad gave me plenty. Now what’s up? You said you needed to talk to me? Is everything okay?”
Just then, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and turned my head slightly as I put my foot on the brake. I opened my mouth to cry out as I saw the car careening towards me, but nothing came out. There was nowhere to go and nothing I could do to get out of the way. The last thing I remembered was the phone flying from my hand and the sound of smashing glass and screeching metal. Then everything went black.
I blinked my eyes open, pain shooting through my body. I attempted to breathe out to relieve it, but that didn’t work. There was so much light. I tried to swallow but it felt like I was suffocating. Where was I? What was happening? I had no idea what hurt, but it sure as hell felt like it was everything.
Just as the pain was subsiding and I felt myself getting sucked back into wherever I’d come from, a heard a voice I didn’t recognize. Then someone was touching me softly, putting their warm hand on my cold one. I shivered, then moaned as pain radiated through my head.
“Carter? Can you hear me? Squeeze my hand if you can.” I had no idea who the soft voice belonged to, but I squeezed her hand anyway. The pain was bad, so bad. “That’s great, honey. Stay with us. Don’t try to talk or swallow yet, okay? I’ll be right back I’m going to get the doctor.”
Doctor? Why did I need a doctor? Why couldn’t I talk or swallow? I lifted my hands, but that wasn’t a good idea because the shot of pain that ran through my body made me whimper. I concentrated on breathing in and out through my nose, feeling the trickles of tears coming out of my eyes.
In what seemed like seconds but could’ve been days or weeks as far as I could keep track of, a man that must be the doctor was peering over me. He alternated between looking into my eyes and at a monitor above me.
“Welcome back, Carter,” he said. “You sure gave us quite a scare. Relax. I’m going to take the breathing tube out. Don’t attempt to talk yet after I remove it, okay?” I nodded, my head still swimming with what I was doing here and what had happened. That small movement made the room spin, and I closed my eyes against the sensation to pass out.
I gagged as he took out the tube and then he asked me to breathe normally while he checked my vitals. I attempted to swallow, my throat so dry it felt like nails were scraping down my esophagus.
“Sounds good. You can have a few sips of water, but don’t go crazy. Your throat will be sore for a little while.”
The nurse appeared on my other side and held out a cup. I took the small amount greedily, feeling relief as it slid down my throat. “Thank you,” I whispered, my voice sounding like I smoked a pack or two.
“Are you in pain?”
I nodded. “What happened?” I winced again as pain shot in streaks down my body.
“I’ll get you some more pain medicine in your IV,” she answered, ignoring my question. I looked at the doctor, who was writing something in a chart.
“What happened?” I repeated, hating the sound of my own voice.
“You don’t remember anything?” the doctor clicked his pen off and tucked it in his pocket. I closed my eyes, trying to figure out the last thing I remembered. Why wouldn’t they tell me? I opened my eyes and watched as she emptied a vial into my IV and hoped for instant relief.
My eyes widened as the sound of bending metal and broken glass resounded through my head. “I…remember the sound.”
The doctor lifted the bandage on my head. “The sound of what?”
I knew he was testing me for an indication of how well my brain was holding up. “Crunching metal and broken glass. I was in an accident, right?” God, my throat was killing me and my head was pounding.
The doctor nodded. “Yes.”
“Where’s…my mom?” I knew she had to be here somewhere. There was no way they hadn’t found her.
“I had the nurse call her,” he explained. “She’s been here every second and had just stepped out. I’m sure she’ll be here very soon. Get some rest and I’ll be back later to check on you.”
He turned to walk away, and a vision appeared in my head of a man standing next to my bed with my mom, but it wasn’t my dad. I narrowed my eyes, willing my brain to focus. Had that been a dream or real? And who the heck had that guy been? He’d talked to me, but I didn’t know what he’d said.
My eyes closed, feeling like weights were on my eyelids. The pain subsided and I began floating into sleep. Just before I lost consciousness, I remembered the man being here by himself, and the one word I could see over and over on his lips was, ‘Dad.’ Confused, I lost the fight to think anymore.
“I haven’t been a good man.” My dad’s eyes shimmered with unshed tears. I shook my head, not understanding. He and my mom were standing next to my hospital bed. When I’d last been awake, neither one of them had been here yet. Now they stood here telling me they were getting divorced after eighteen years of marriage and now he was going on and on about not being a good man? My brain couldn’t sort it out.
“What are you talking about? Of course you’re a good man!”
My eyes widened and I felt short of breath as he continued, telling me that my mom was in love with someone else when they were teenagers and that he’d made a huge mistake when I was a few years old. I wasn’t sure which was worse right now, my body pain or my heart pain.
“What do you mean?” I whispered. I hoped and prayed this was a dream. A nightmare. Please God. Help me wake up and realize this isn’t true.
“I found out that you weren’t my son.” I stared at him for so long I wasn’t sure the words I thought I heard were actually what came out of his mouth. But all it took was one look at my mother’s face to know it was true. I wasn’t Ronan Collier’s son. I closed my eyes, a sob ripping from my chest. Why me? Why did this happen? My dad, who wasn’t my dad, was still talking, but I had no idea what he was saying. My brain was roaring with his words and the dreams I’d had while in the coma. They were colliding and mixing together and I didn’t know which way was up.
“Who is, then?” I had to know. They needed to tell me.
My mom’s watery eyes looked into mine. “His name is Blake McIntyre.”
The name triggered something inside of me. “He was the one in the room with you. He was telling me he was my dad. It wasn’t a dream, was it?”
“No. I can’t explain how you were able to understand what was happening since you were in a coma,” my mom said. “But yes, that’s exactly what you saw. It wasn’t a dream.”
“Who is he?”
“We’ve been friends our entire life,” she said. “Our parents were friends and we spent two weeks together every summer. We were in love with each other when we were your age. Then a whole lot of things happened.” She paused, and I knew that it was because my dad, who now wasn’t my dad—Ronan—had done something to them. “We haven’t seen each other since that summer. When your dad said he wanted a divorce, I went back to the beach to Nana and Papa’s time share. That’s when we saw each other again. I’m not going to lie to you. We’re together now. I moved out of our house and I’m living with Blake in Fort Myers. I got a teaching job there, and I’m happy. So don’t get angry at your dad…er…Ronan. He made mistakes, but he does love you.”
Leave it to my mom to still not blame him, even after everything he did. She always tried to see the best in everyone. But not me. I couldn’t forgive it. I wouldn’t. How could I not be angry with him? He’d ruined both of our lives.
My mom was still talking, but the only words I heard before I drifted off again was that my dad, my real dad, was here, and he wanted to see me.
The door to my hospital room opened, and I knew right away it was him. My father. Blake McIntyre. My stomach clenched at the sight of him with my mom. I couldn’t help but notice, even though he wasn’t even touching her, that everything was all about her. He glanced at her constantly. He’d held the door as she walked into it and had given her a small smile, despite the circumstances. I wasn’t sure how to feel about what I was seeing, not that anyone was asking me.
“Carter,” my mom said. But I couldn’t look at her; all I could do was look at the man that gave me life. He was me, essentially, grown up. His eyes connected with mine, and I felt his sadness, even while he was smiling. His whole world must have been rocked to the core, too.
“It’s you,” I said, knowing I sounded like an idiot. What was one supposed to say in this situation? I hadn’t a clue. Up until a few days ago, my life had been perfect. Now I was in a hospital bed with injuries that were going to keep me from living a full life for a while, with a family that had been crushed by lies.
He nodded, looking over at my mom again before stepping closer to my bedside. “I’m…” he paused. “I’m Blake McIntyre.”
“You’re my dad,” I corrected. “My real dad.” I found myself smiling though I wasn’t even sure why. I liked him already, and I didn’t even know him.
“Yes. I just found out too, Carter.”
“I know. I heard what you said to me while I was in the coma. I didn’t understand it until my dad…my other dad…told me. I thought I’d been hopped up on some crazy drugs or had been having some whacked out dream, but that’s not the case. I’m your son. You’ve loved my mom for your entire life.”
“Yes,” he said, and I heard the emotion he was fighting in his voice. He put his arm around my mom’s shoulders, and as foreign as it should feel to see a man other than Ronan do that, it didn’t. I’d known this man all of five minutes and I knew it was right; normal. “I wish I would’ve known, Carter. It kills me.”
“My dad kept it from you.” Damn, I needed to stop calling him my dad. Ronan wasn’t my dad. Blake was. “Both of you.”
“Yes.” Blake’s eyes shimmered with unshed tears, and I found myself fighting the lump in my throat again.
“He’s not a good person,” I said, echoing Ronan’s thoughts from earlier. He was damn right. He wasn’t a good person. He knowingly and deliberately did this to all of us.
“He hasn’t made the best choices,” my mom interjected. “But we’re going to move on from here. Do you have any questions?” Leave it to my mom to try to smooth over what Ronan had done to her. To us. To all of us. She was always that way; my whole life she’d been the kindest, most compassionate person I’d ever known. But I couldn’t understand how she could feel that way towards Ronan now when all I felt was rage.
“I’m so confused,” I admitted. “I don’t understand why any of this had to happen. It’s like I don’t know who I am anymore. My last name shouldn’t be Collier. The family I thought was my family isn’t. I look at you, Blake, and I can see myself. It’s exciting and terrifying. I don’t know you, and that sucks.”
“It does,” Blake said. “There’s nothing we can do about that now, but what I can tell you is this. I love your mom, and I always have. We’re in this for the long haul, Carter. I want to be there for you, too, but I also understand that you can’t just jump into being my son. You’ve had another dad your entire life, and I’m not him.”
“He lied to me,” I whispered. The pain of that made my heart ache worse than the massive headache behind my eyes. “He lied to you.”
“He did,” my mom said. “In a lot of ways. I know you won’t understand this now, but someday you will. Being in love with someone, it’s everything. I’ve been in love with you since the day I knew you were coming, but that love is different. That’s the love of a parent for a child. When you find your soul mate, Carter, nothing can change the connection you have with them. So while the whole thing we’ve been put through has kept us apart for too many years, we’re going to be okay because we were meant to be. I don’t expect you to understand me going from being married to your…Ronan…to now being with Blake. I want to talk you through any concerns you have. Just know this isn’t something I’ve entered into lightly, and it’s not something temporary.”
“I don’t have any concerns,” I said. “I can look at Blake and see that he looks at you the way Dad never did. I thought Ronan loved you. He took care of us and we never wanted for anything. Now, seeing the two of you standing here, I see the difference.” And I did. I was terrified of it. All this time, I thought Ronan loved my mom; loved us. But it wasn’t love. It was manipulation and control. He orchestrated our whole lives to go the way he wanted them to and kept me from my real father and my mom from her true love. What did I even know about love anymore?
“Someday you’ll know this feeling,” Blake said, as if he knew what I was thinking.
I shook my head. There was no way I was going to put myself through this. “I don’t know.” But I did know. No way, no how was I going to put myself in a place to be that vulnerable to someone. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life, and even if my dreams had to slow down for a little bit, I was going to achieve them. And I’d be damned if I ever let someone manipulate me like Ronan had done to my mom. My whole life, he’d pretended to be something he wasn’t. I didn’t even understand how my mom could trust someone again, much less how I was going to be able to. The short answer to that was, I wasn’t.
“What’s the matter, Carter?”
“What should I do? Should I still talk to Dad?” I wanted them to tell me not to because I wanted nothing more to do with him. I wasn’t even sure I could look him in the face ever again.
“No one is going to stop you from having a relationship with him,” my mom said. “That’s completely up to you.”
“I’m angry with him.” I admitted. Despite my injuries, if he were here I would’ve tried to hit him, and I’d never hit anyone before. “I assume you’re the one that gave him the black eyes and broken nose?”
Blake looked at my mom again, then to me. “Yes.”
“I wish I could do the same.”
“Carter,” my mom interrupted. “He still loves you.”
“If he loved me, he wouldn’t have lied to me my entire life. Can you bring in Nana and Papa? I want to see them.” I couldn’t listen to her defend him. I knew what she was doing, but it was killing me.
Blake looked at me, unease written all over his features. “Can I bring in my parents, too? They’d like to meet you. My sisters are here, too.”
I squeezed my eyes shut, pain engulfing me. I wanted all of this to go away. I wanted to turn back time and have my life start over the way it should’ve been.
“They don’t have to, bud. We can wait.” My real dad’s voice was so gentle, so loving. He showed more concern for my well-being right now than Ronan had in the past eighteen years. If he’d cared about me, he would’ve told the truth.
“No,” I said. “Bring them in.” I needed to rid my head of the thoughts of Ronan before I did something stupid, and I couldn’t think of any better way than to see my real family.
“Are you sure?” my mom asked.
“I don’t know the people I’m related to, and I don’t want to waste any more time not knowing them. Bring them in.”
She nodded. “I just don’t want you to be too tired.”
“I’m fine, Mom.” I bit my tongue against the bitter tone in my voice. It wasn’t her fault. She’d been just as wronged as me, if not even more. I was as fine as anyone could be, waking up from a near fatal accident and finding out their whole life was a lie.
“I think Aunt Kinsley is here, too. You’ve had quite a gathering here, waiting for you to wake up.”
I turned my head away from them, looking out the window so they couldn’t see the raw emotion in my eyes. “Yeah. Great.”
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