It is still in the process of being written, but here’s a first look sneak peek of my newest Carrero book!!!
Sophie Hunstberger and Arrick Carrero have been best friends since she came to live with her adoptive family some years ago, forming a bond that was like no other and growing together as she overcame her past.
This story will take you on another emotive roller coaster as you are torn over whether they belong as eternal friends or are destined to be soul mates.
The book is written from Sophie’s perspective, but we hit the ground running with a little intro from Arrick himself.
Arrick looked down at his phone flashing in the centre console of his car and sighed as Sophie’s name flashed on screen. Feeling that air of irritation and anxiety, mingling together and pushing solidly to the surface. He was running late as it was, which he hated like crazy, but he knew for a fact that whatever she wanted he would most likely give in too. Sophie just had a way of getting under his skin, even when she was being as infuriating as the past months and try as he might, he had no will power when it came to her. Hitting his dash that connected to his phone her voice rang around the interior of the car as soon as he pressed it.
‘Arrick….Arry? Are you there?’ She was slurring badly, most likely way too drunk again and he couldn’t do anything but sigh and reel in the urge to feel mad at her, picturing her in his mind’s eye and feeling stressed. He hated knowing she was out there in that state, calling him meant she was probably alone and those sad act, so called friends of hers, had yet again ditched her. He felt his temper rising internally, heart rate rising and muscles tensing.
‘Yes Soph’s, I’m here. Where are you this time?’ He knew why she was calling, she needed picked up again and as he checked his dash for the time he cursed quietly. Natasha would be waiting for him, it was another ten minutes out of the city to her apartment and he could guarantee Sophie would be in the opposite direction back in the god damn city. Once again, he would have to choose between his girlfriend and Sophie and they all knew he would always go where she needed him, without hesitation. Lately they had argued a lot about how much time he spent running after Sophie, he couldn’t help it. He felt responsible for her, after years of being the one person she turned too, he cared about her so damn much that the thought of her being drunk and vulnerable out there somewhere was making him sweat. Sophie was a weakness, one that he had never truly understood; putting it down to years of seeing her vulnerable and in need of taking care of, and him being a protective person who cared a little too much about what happened to her.
‘I’m at Randy’s club, alone Arry… I lost everyone and I can’t find my bag.’ She sounded so young and vulnerable, sucker punching him in the gut and winding him around her little finger effortlessly; all it took was a tearful tone and he could picture those Bambi eyes, all huge and soft blue like a wounded kitten and that soft pouted mouth trembling, ready to cry. He gritted his teeth as the stab of anxiety hit him hard. Sophie was young and beautiful, a little too beautiful if he was being honest, even for someone so young and a prime target for assholes and creeps who tended to seek her out.
Randy’s club was a twenty minute drive back, if he picked Natasha up first there would be a cat fight in here, despite frequent times he had them together, neither seemed to warm to the other. He also didn’t like the thought of leaving Sophie in that god awful place longer than he had too and picking Tash up first would do just that. He had no energy for another Tasha-Soph scene and was already U turning his car in the street back to her without hesitation, his hands already making the choice even when he had been mulling it over.
Natasha would understand, she would moan at first, get upset, but ultimately, she had to accept that Sophie would always be a part of his life and he would never stop taking care of her. She was his best friend; someone he had spent six years being a rock for when she had faced reliving the trauma of her own childhood at the hands of an abusive parent. Sophie was a part of Arrick, a bond formed over years of helping her find her feet in her new life, in her new adoptive family’s home and generally in a safe environment. They had just clicked, somewhere between looking at him like she didn’t trust him and wanted him to fall in a crater and the first time she allowed him to buy her a burger.
‘I’m on my way Soph’s, get back in the club and stay there until I come get you.’ He sounded pissed, hell, he was pissed even, if he was trying not to show it. She was getting too damned frequent with these situations she put herself in and she no longer even listened to him or reason anymore. It just made him sick to his stomach to think how many close calls or dumb situations she got herself into that she didn’t call him for. Turning twenty earlier this year had somehow seemed to flick a switch in her head that she should live wild and party like Leila, her sister, used to do. It was simpler when she was just a kid, hanging out and easy to guide, being happy to just chill and watch a movie rather than go out getting drunk and laid. And that part was something he just didn’t allow himself to think about at all, Sophie and sex were two topics he never wanted to link in any way shape or form and he sure as hell didn’t want to meet any of the assholes she dated.
It was a heck of a lot easier when she was a big eyed fifteen-year-old who followed him around obediently and looked up to him for advice, hanging on his every word. He missed that girl like crazy; he often thought about her and longed for the days when the two of them used to just be able to chill, watch movies and share junk food and have that easy effortless quality time together. Natasha wasn’t one for any of that, she hated most of the stuff that Sophie and he loved and the fact she didn’t see what he did in the other girl made things strained even more, there was no common ground between the two women. He knew he wasn’t around as much for Sophie as he had been in the past because of it and lately all he did was pick her up from bars and clubs and take her home to recover when she was a mess.
He was too old for this shit now, He was turning twenty-six in a few months and the last thing he needed anymore was all this drama every week of his life with her. He missed the Sophie who used to be happy to go out with him, go away together or just hang out doing normal stuff, like jet skiing, playing Xbox, snowboarding, watching foreign cartoons and vegetating on the couch or any of the other pastimes they had done in the past few years together. He missed the small things, before she started dating assholes and living on the edge of wild. He just missed her. What he wouldn’t give for a sober call and that sweet voice on the other end just asking him how his day was instead of crying for another rescue. He had no clue how they had even got here.
‘Are you mad at me?’ Her crest fallen tone and the start of tears made him feel guilty, that ache in his stomach and the pang in his chest. Sophie wasn’t much of a crier unless she thought Arrick was pissed at her; he never understood why she fell to pieces when he was mad. She sure as hell didn’t give a damn if any of her adoptive family got pissed at her, especially not her sister or Mom whom she had been closest too. To his recollection she didn’t really get upset when her own friends did, but then Sophie had found keeping friends outside of the family hard, especially with her past and all the demons it held. She didn’t really trust many people, so he knew how important it was that he stayed in her life, even when she was behaving like a train wreck on a path to devastation. Not that he had a choice; life had a way of feeling empty when he didn’t hear from her for weeks and thankfully he had only endured that a couple of times.
‘No Bambino, I’m not mad Sophie. Go inside, stay warm and wait for me.’ He tried to soften his tone, soothing her drunken ruffled feathers gently, in a bid to coerce her to do as he wanted. When she was like this she was an overgrown child he needed to handle carefully, that internal spitfire of hers ready to overreact and bite, even if it only hurt herself. Sophie was someone who was easily pushed onto the defensive, closing up and lashing out at those who cared when trying to protect herself and being drunk escalated it tenfold. She had always been that way and very few had his skill at knowing how to handle her; too stubborn to think logically or realise she was cutting off her nose to spite her face sometimes.
He upped his speed, putting his new car through its paces to get to her a little quicker as the tension in his body escalated. It was late, almost ten pm and the city was aglow with the usual never-ending lights of New York as his sleek steel grey Mercedes slid through the night effortlessly. He was biting on his lip as his eyes roamed the traffic impatiently, checked his mirrors as he shifted in his seat. She always made him feel anxious when she was like this, so many scenarios running through his head of what could happen to her and his inner body doing a tango of uptight emotions. Sophie was naive at the best of time, but drunk she was completely oblivious to danger at all, considering her past, and seemed to have a knack for attracting it.
‘I’m sorry… Arry?’ She started to sob and he just felt worse, he hadn’t even yelled at her this time so he had no idea why she was crying. He had stopped yelling at her months ago when he realised it no longer had any effect on her behaviour and he hated Sophie crying; it made him feel like a shitty human being when those hurt doe eyes hit him right in the stomach.
He had seen enough of her tears over the years in connection to what her sick perverted father had done to her and that’s all he saw now. That vulnerable broken face, racked with scars and pain for a childhood that could have destroyed her; Arrick felt that stab of rage spike inside like a fiery hot spear. Whenever he thought of that asshole he wanted to kill him, the fact he could take someone as innocent and sweet as her and abuse her for years ruthlessly made him want to rip the guys spine out and ram it down his own throat. He was fiercely protective of her, knowing everything he knew, being there for every therapy appointment and tearful outpouring when she needed to talk. Sophie had let him in in ways that no one else had been allowed and the depth of her dark confessions had ripped his soul out over and over again at the misery she had endured. Listening to it had almost ended him so he had no idea how she had ever endured it and stayed sane. He had vowed long ago that he would always protect her, that he would destroy any guy who dared to ever lay hands on her against her will again and it was an oath he would uphold for an eternity. Sophie was his warrior, despite all of it, she had risen through the memories like an invincible flame, she had blossomed despite that asshole. He had never known anyone as strong as her, pride washing through him at her achievement as he thought of how much she had overcome in a bid to move on. Arrick breathed in heavily, calming his outward persona as affection for her reigned supreme.
‘Come on Soph’s. Don’t. You know I can’t handle it when you cry, I’ll be there in twenty minutes or less. Go be a good girl and get back in the club for me.’ He could hear the noise of the street around her and the tell-tale shake of her voice that she was shivering. Frowning hard again at something else she was doing to herself with zero care for her own well being, it just angered him crazily. She had probably come out without a coat again, wearing something way too short and skimpy and not giving a crap that it was late in the season and exposure was something that could kill her.
The girl needed constant supervision and her love of current fashion irritated him when trends were all skimp and skin. Right now, women were wearing less and less and he hated that Sophie followed the trend of leaving little to the imagination. She was a complete fashion addict, clothes were her life even when they were barely scraps of fabric on her. She had a body that attracted eyes, long legs and a perfect petite frame with curves that even someone like him couldn’t ignore. She was growing up way too fast and seemed to hit puberty almost from the second he met her. No matter how hard he had tried to not see the changes and ignore how much she was becoming a head turner, he had to admit, Sophie was irresistible to most men. He could only imagine how many sleazy perverts had been scoping her out already.
‘Okay… I’ll be at the back, in the booths laying down.’ She sniffed some more, gaining control again and he felt himself curse internally, frustration biting hard and stilling himself from snapping. Biting down to curb the urge to yell at her as anger bristled.
‘Don’t lay down near the back, stay up front.’ He said through gritted teeth, fighting to sound normal and cool. He knew only too well what kind of men preyed on young girls like her in the shadows at the back of Randy’s club. It was a place he used to frequent with Jake, his older brother, years ago, and had completely gone downhill in recent years with the clientele becoming seedier. The crew Sophie hung around with seemed to favour it, despite both Arrick and Jake telling her repeatedly to steer clear and it only made him put metal to the floor in a bid to get there faster. His pulse quickening. He didn’t care if he got a ticket, he couldn’t stand the thought of her passing out in a dark corner of a club that was notorious for women being assaulted.
‘I’m tired, I need to lay down.’ She slurred again, all tears gone and he could hear the noise of the club approaching, she was walking back inside. Arrick felt the panic rising in his throat at her complete lack of any sense in this, heart hammering and dodging cars on the road as he drove a little erratically.
‘You can sleep in my car Sophie. I’m warning you. Stay out near the front where I can find you and on your feet. I’m almost halfway. DO NOT LAY DOWN!’ He was stern, his tone less controlled and anxious at the thought of anything happening to her, praying to god she actually listened tonight. Trying to keep his temper because he knew she could be a boiling pot of childishness like this and last thing he needed was her telling him to fuck off and disappearing on him. She had a habit of up and running when she couldn’t handle something and it had spurred her leaving home months ago.
Sophie sighed dramatically and then was obscured by the sudden thumping noise of the music surrounding her before it was disconnected. The club had an awful signal inside and he had just lost her as she had gone back to the dancefloor.
Arrick felt that cold wave run through him, anxiety and fear colliding with every worst-case scenario in his head. He tried her cell again quickly, but got nothing but her answer machine, cursing out loud this time.
He would lecture her when he got there, shake the shit out of her, no doubt he’d have to carry her out like last weekend and this time he was sitting her down for a serious heart to heart. He was done with whatever this was. Done with the drunken calls, putting herself in constant danger, the argumentative stroppy behaviour and difficult attitude of late. He understood that her past meant sometimes she was hard to handle, even at her best she had always been hard to handle, but this lately was beyond a joke. His nerves couldn’t take much more of this and his relationship with Natasha was falling to pieces because of it.
Tonight, she was coming home with him and sobering up to get the third degree. Enough was enough and if anyone could get through to her and convince her to go home to her family then it was him. He had been avoiding this conflict for too long and he couldn’t avoid it anymore. That stubborn mind set hitting him hard that he wasn’t going to go through this anxiety over her safety anymore.
She had up and left home a few months before, after a heated fight concerning her drunken lifestyle; another night he had scraped her off a kerb and taken her back from the city to the Hamptons. Her family had lost all control by then and Arrick had been the only one left she still clung to in any way. He had been treating her with kid gloves since then, in fear she would cut him loose too and that had been his biggest mistake. He had listened to Natasha over his own gut, he should have trusted that he had always known how to handle Sophie and not gone for the softly softly approach at her bidding. Natasha only knew the bare facts and nothing more, she only saw Sophie as a broken child and had convinced him to go against his own reasoning in every way. Arrick should never have listened, he knew her better than anyone.
Sophie needed real help and understanding and someone to reel her in a little before she got herself into a situation that only ended badly. Arrick knew that despite Natasha’s feelings on the matter that the only person with a chance of pulling his girl back out of whatever this was and bringing back some of the girl he missed crazily, was him. His way. Sophie and he had a bond like no other and even though the past months had seen them changing towards one another, he knew his girl was still in there somewhere and he needed to find her again. For his own sanity as well as hers, as all of this was slowly killing him. He hated seeing her this messed up and unhappy and he knew he had to do something before he lost her too. Despite always calling on him, he felt like he had been losing her for a long time and was the root of his stress for months now.
Arrick picked up his phone and scrolled to his most recent calls, hitting Natasha’s name, laying it back down in the console, eyes glued to the road, frowning. He hated driving in mid-town traffic past eight pm, the hustle and bustle of people hitting the nightlife always made it a headache to navigate.
‘Hey babes, are you almost here?’ Natasha had a soft girly voice that made her sound like a child most of the time and he felt that pang of guilt at the fact he was doing this to her again.
‘Hey Tash. Look… I’m sorry, but I need to cancel our plans tonight, you go and meet everyone and enjoy dinner. I need to go deal with Sophie.’ He waited with paused breath at the long silence which stretched between them, zero response as she took it in and he could already picture the hurt expression on her face; knowing that she was taking a moment to choose her words wisely and think about her reaction. Natasha was always someone who remained composed and liked to see everything from everyone’s perspective before flying off the handle. She was the picture of mature and refined, outwardly calm like him. The complete opposite to Sophie and usually why Sophie was the one to start major rows with her, pushing her buttons and making her snap despite it going against her nature.
‘Again?’ She said desperately, no real anger in her even tone, only disappointment and he took a long slow breath, exhaling even more slowly, knowing that this wasn’t fair on her. It never was. Yet glad she was taking it well, despite literally bailing when he was supposed to be there already. Natasha had put up with a lot in the past eighteen months.
‘She’s a mess and she’s alone at Randy’s bar. I can’t leave her there and I think it’s best if she comes back to my apartment tonight for a real talk. I can’t keep ignoring this.’ He hated the second stretch of silence knowing Natasha was seriously upset with him but the anxiety concerning Sophie out there right now far outweighed anything else.
‘What good will talking do? She has been getting worse over the last year and the last couple months she has had you run after her almost three nights a week, every week.’ Natasha’s voice wobbled when she finally responded and he knew the tears had started; he felt like shit at letting her down, but in this he had made up his mind. He could see his friends and her another night, when Sophie was safely back where she belonged and nowhere near any form of danger.
‘I haven’t actually sat her down alone in a long time and just tried….. I need to do this my way. I’m worried about her Tash and I can’t just let her go on living like this.’ The picture of Sophie crossed his mind and that same rise of anxiety that he was still stuck in traffic and not there yet, all he could picture was her big tear stained blue eyes and terrified face.
‘Fine! You know you’ll do whatever you want anyway when it comes to her. Good luck, I guess. If you think it will make a difference then try, but we can’t keep on like this. I can’t keep on like this.’ Natasha sniffed softly, no real anger; picturing her wiping her eyes, he frowned hard at the cab in front, willing it to move impatiently.
She was pissed at him, disappointed in ruining their night but he knew she would get over it quickly. Deep down Natasha was a compassionate person and in the end, she always agreed that he couldn’t leave Sophie to her own devices. Anytime the two women had argued it had always been Sophie who sparked the girl on girl feud and despite it all, Natasha just wanted to like her and get along for all their sakes. Natasha was a sweetheart and he knew she didn’t deserve this at all, she definitely didn’t deserve the hard time Sophie always gave her.
‘I know, and that’s partly the reason I need to do this. I’m sorry. I’ll call you tomorrow. Have a good night with Nate and the guys, wish Lydia a happy birthday for me.’ Arrick growled at the Cab driver in the guy’s mirror, urging him to move now the lights had changed and getting impatient as hell, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. He heard her sigh, resigned to the fact that he wasn’t coming and not really the kind of girl to have a go when at the heart of this was Arrick’s caring side; his loyalty for his friend. She couldn’t be angry at that, even if it did interfere with them.
‘I love you Arrick.’ Natasha added hesitantly, that tender affection she said often and it tugged at his guilt, his heart aching a little, knowing she hated being mad at him and this was her way of saying she understood.
‘You too Tash. Now go. Tell me how it went tomorrow. I’ll hopefully get through to her and have something positive to tell you.’ He frowned harder at the car in front and resisted the urge to hit his horn.
‘Goodbye Baby.’ She breathed gently, lingering.
‘Bye Honey.’ He answered distractedly.
He hung up before she did, getting seriously pissed with the yellow car now, weaving in and out and making it impossible to pass. If it weren’t for this asshole he would have been there minutes ago and already scooping her up and away from harms way. He slammed his horn angrily and sighed with relief when the car pulled into the kerb to let him pass.