On Solid Ground Sequel to In Too Deep Online

One

Gracie

“Gracie, please.” Noah Foster stood unwelcome in the doorway of my apartment. I tried to slam it shut, but his hand stopped it. With that one, sharp movement, panic seized my heart. The adrenaline kicked in, and I forced the door closed and turned the lock.

My lips parted, but only a small whimper trembled from my throat. I didn’t know which was faster, my beating heart or my spinning brain. I couldn’t let him in. I wouldn’t.

Jake. Help.

“Gracie...” I heard a soft bump and imagined his forehead hitting the door on the other side. Before the door slammed closed, we made eye contact, and his big brown eyes were sad. The kind of sad that had always grabbed my heart and squeezed. But feeling sorry for Noah was not going to happen anymore. All I felt was disgust. A flashback took over my mind. A paralyzing fear enveloped me. I could clearly see the seething anger in his eyes the night he physically dragged me from Mitchell’s and down the sidewalk against my will. That memory sent another shockwave of fear through my body. I wasn’t worried I’d cave to him; I was worried he’d hurt me.

I couldn’t move. My feet and hands tingled. I needed to call Jake. I rolled my body so my back pressed against the cool steel door. Instantly, my mind went further back to the night at Murphy’s, when Noah held the back door closed and kissed me deeply and forcibly for the first time, the night my heart was paralyzed by a love that threatened to unravel me.

“Gracie!” He knocked lightly, and my body jolted with the reverberation straight through to my spine. I looked down at my phone and, with shaky fingers, speed dialed Jake. But before it connected, I hung up. The last time I stood up to Noah, Jake was right there with me. This time I needed to do it on my own.

I threw my phone into the laundry basket by the door, swirled around, turned the latch, and opened the only thing keeping Noah at a safe distance.

“What the hell are you doing here? You’ve got a lot of nerve...”

“Gracie, wait. Please. Just. Wait.” His big, brown eyes were filled with hope.

With one hand on the edge of the open door and the other on my hip, I did my best to look fearless, but my insides shook, and I could barely stand still. My bones vibrated beneath my muscles. It was unsettling that he still had this effect on me. It pissed me off. I motioned with my hand for him to speak but kept my focus on his movements. One step closer and I was slamming the door again.

“Gracie. I...I just can’t...I’m lost, Gracie baby. I am so lost without you.”

“Noah, I am no longer yours. There is nothing here anymore.” I threw my hand into the space between us.

I shouldn’t have let any part of my body cross the threshold, but I didn’t think fast enough. He grabbed my arm and stepped toward me, knocking my other hand from the door and stepping back in. He was back in my life, even if only for a moment. By the time the door shut behind him, my heart soared back to the dark night I stumbled down the sidewalk, afraid the bones in my wrist would crush within his violent grasp. A wave of nausea hit me, but I wasn’t going to let him do this to me again.

“Gracie. I just need you to hear me out. I just want to talk, to explain.”

“Explain? There is nothing you could say that could erase all the scars on my heart, Noah. Scars you put there. Scars that will never go away.” I yanked my wrist from his grip.

“You have every right to hate me...”

“Damn straight I do!”

When I clenched my jaw, a tear fell from my eye and rolled down my cheek. Noah reached to wipe it away, and when I flinched, he stumbled back a little and leaned against the door. Our hands fell to our sides.

“Are you afraid of me?”

“Terrified.” As the word tumbled from my mouth, I wished I hadn’t said it. Admitting he scared me gave him the upper hand. And, like an idiot, I freely handed that card to him. Again.

I felt trapped.

Jake.

I sat straight up in bed. Nauseous and sweating profusely. What had I done? Why was I here, in this bed?

I’m naked.

“Baby what’s wrong?” His hands touched my shoulders and sent me