Sustained read online by Emma Chase
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Sustained
Author: Emma Chase

Acknowledgments


I was never a gymnast, but I’ve always enjoyed watching the sport. The way the athletes fly through the air, the gravity-defying control, the way they make it look so easy. All the routines are amazing to see—but every once in a while, there’s one that really stands out.

It’s solid. Clean. No wobbling, no quick adjustments, no almost-falls. And in these practically-perfect-in-every-way routines, the gymnast always—always—sticks the landing.

That’s how it felt to complete Sustained. Like two feet planted firmly on the ground. Confident. Sure.

Landing stuck.

Finishing a book doesn’t always feel this way. I’ve loved all my books, no question, but there’s frequently the worry that readers won’t love it. Is the plot too much of a stretch? Was it sexy enough, funny enough? Is the voice consistent? Will they be disappointed? Will they want to castrate my leading man (that tends to be a big one for me ;) )?

After edits and revisions, more edits and more revisions, these worries quiet down—at least until release day. But right from the beginning, Sustained felt different. There’s a depth and poignancy to Jake and Chelsea that pulls so hard on the heartstrings and yet is also so fun. Their passion, their hopes and fears, sadness and joy was an extraordinary thing to experience—I couldn’t remember being more excited to share a story with my readers.

Anyone who knows me can tell you I’m generally not an overly confident person. In fact, I’m a little concerned right now that my opening thoughts sound kinda braggy (Drew Evans shakes his head at me). And I genuinely don’t mean it that way. I guess what I’m trying to say is, to me, Sustained feels special. The kind of story that leaves you with a high, that you’ll think about happily, long after The End.

And more than anything, I hope it feels special to all of you too.

Now, writers alone do not make great books, and I couldn’t have gotten this one to the place it is without the most awesome team of people around me.

To my agent, Amy Tannenbaum of the Jane Rotrosen Agency—thank you for every word of advice, every phone call, and every email (even on the weekends, people). “Awesome” doesn’t even begin to cover it!

To my editor, Micki Nuding—working with you is everything I’d dreamed of when I imagined being a professional author. I continue to be amazed by how perfectly you understand my characters. There’s a wonderful security in knowing you’ll catch any missteps and shape my stories into the best they can possibly be. Thank you for helping me to reach deeper and stretch those writing wings!

I’m endlessly grateful for my publicists—Nina Bocci of Bocci PR and Kristin Dwyer (my moon and stars) of Simon & Schuster—for believing in me, for saying just what I need to hear when I need to hear it, and for working tirelessly to bring my stories to the masses. You rock!

To author Katy Evans—I love you! Our chats mean the world to me, thank you for being there, for sharing your thoughts and for letting me know I’m not the only one :) .

To Christina Lauren, Alice Clayton, and all my author friends—your support, encouragement and laughter are an amazing gift that I cherish every day.

All my thanks to my assistant, Juliet Fowler, for reminding me when I forget (frequently) and for flawlessly doing everything that needs doing, so I can actually write! I’d be lost without you!

Much gratitude to Molly O’Brien, for all that you do to make sure everything doesn’t fall apart while I’m locked in my office with my characters! xoxo

To the wonderfully talented Simone Renou of In My Dreams Design and Hang Le of By Hang Le Graphic Design, for your beautiful and steamy graphics!

Thanks to my daughter for helping me decipher and come up with current teen-speak—there’s no way I’m cool enough to have done it alone.

Thanks to Fener Deonarine, for helping me get those complicated Washington, DC, legal details right.

I’m so grateful to everyone at Gallery Books, including Marla Daniels, Sarah Leiberman, Liz Psaltis, Paul O’Halloran, the art department for those beautiful covers, and my amazing publishers Jennifer Bergstrom and Louise Burke.

To the fantastic bloggers who take the time to read and write so many fun and honest reviews—thank you for getting behind this new series and for all you do to let readers know these stories are coming!

To my readers—gah—there aren’t enough words to express how grateful I am for every single one of you. It’s a joy to chat with you on Twitter and FB, to giggle with you at signings, to talk stories and book boyfriends—thank you so much for your enthusiasm and beautiful energy!

To my parents, brother and sister, and entire family—thank you for your patience and love and constant pride in my work. And to my amazing husband and two beautiful children—you are my inspiration, my everything.

 

 

Prologue


I don’t use an alarm clock. I’m one of those people with an internal timepiece that wakes me up at the same time every morning, regardless of how tired I am or how late I was up the night before. I was that kid—you mothers know the type I mean. The kind who makes you beg for just a few more minutes of rest before you eventually lay down the law that no one’s allowed out of bed before the sun shows up.

Which explains why, even though it’s Sunday, my eyelids crack open at five a.m. sharp. I stretch out the sore stiffness in my complaining muscles, caused by lack of sleep . . . and from the strenuous workout after we got home from the bar.

I kick back the covers and climb out of bed, still naked, and walk past the head of soft blond hair that peeks out from under the blankets, to the bathroom. After a satisfying piss, I brush the foul residue from my teeth and splash cold water on my face, slicking back my unruly black hair. With a groan, I crack my neck and stretch my arms.

I’m getting too old for this shit.

But then I remember the finer details of the evening’s second act. The thrill of a new hookup, the verbal gamesmanship—saying just the right thing in just the right way. The sweaty foreplay, the hot, tight fucking, the long legs over my shoulders . . . and I grin.

There’s no such thing as too old.

I walk to my closet for a T-shirt and sweatpants, then silently head out to the kitchen. I press the button on the ready coffeemaker—forget dogs; a good coffeemaker is man’s real best friend. While it brews, I switch on the small flat-screen perched on the counter; the early-morning anchors drone on about the latest world horrors, sports stats, and weather.

Stanton, my roommate from law school, moved out last year to live with Sofia—a fellow attorney at my firm. Stanton’s a hell of a guy, Sofia’s a kick-ass woman, and though they started out as banging buddies only, I could see them going domesticated from a mile away. Having the apartment to myself has been fantastic. Not that Stanton was a slob, but he’s a former frat boy. I’m an organized guy; I like things a certain way—my way. Routine. Discipline. Neat and easy are words to live by. My mother always said I’d make a great military man, if it wasn’t for the authority factor. The only orders I follow are my own.

Steam wafts from my cup of black coffee as I step out onto the balcony, sipping it slowly, while the silent DC street comes alive around me.

The anchor’s nasal voice seeps out from the open balcony door. “I-495 was closed yesterday for several hours due to a collision that claimed the life of noted environmental lobbyist Robert McQuaid and his wife. The cause of the deadly crash is still under investigation. In other local news . . .”

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