We both know what this is, even if we’ve never said it. I was so close to telling her. Then my promotion came through. I thought we had more time. Time to choose one another willingly–not because my move to Sydney forced our hands. Not like this.
I’m not proud of all the rules I broke, the half-truths I let her believe. I did what every guy who likes a girl does: showed her the best parts of me out of desperation to get her to like me back. Fixing things between us now isn’t about overcoming the distance—it’s about overcoming the lies. I’ve hidden more than she has. And there are things she wants to know. She was right about me all along.
NOW IT’S MICHAEL’S TURN…
Chrysalis rips open a new chapter in the romance genre, presenting complex characters, intense attraction, complicated choices and modern love for the real world. It is for anyone who struggles with competing priorities and demands on their time, but who wants to believe in love. It is told from Michael’s point of view and its prequel, Snapdragon (Book One in the Love Conquers None duet), is told from Darby’s perspective.
CHAPTER 3 EXCERPT: ANGER MANAGEMENT
I hear the guilt in my voice as I say my friend’s name. He’s been trying to get a hold of me for weeks. He knows how busy I get, but this is the first time I’ve been so slow to respond.
“You’re alive! I was starting to worry.”
“I know. I’m sorry. Things have been nuts. I should’ve at least texted.”
“Cringer was ready to put out an APB,” he says, speaking about his ten-year-old tabby cat who was named for He-Man’s shapeshifting battle cat in Masters of the Universe. Randy lives, eats and breathes comic books.
“What are you doing up? It’s, what, 6AM there?”
“Early flight,” he explains. “Sac Comic-Con is this weekend. Seems like you’ve got quite a fan base in Northern California.”
Getting up from the sofa where I was having my dinner, I walk into my office and fire up my Mac. A nudge on my mouse causes the huge screen to light up and it doesn’t take me long to navigate to my Andrew Dufrain e-mail. It’s the account Randy uses to send me stuff about my book.
“I’m weeks behind,” I admit. A quick scan of seventy unopened messages shows that at least ten are from Randy. I’ve ignored this account for so long that I have a backlog of fan mail, too.
“You’re losing your edge, kid,” he says. “What kind of hack can’t juggle a high-powered job, a non-profit, a bestselling graphic novel series and a hot-as-Violet girlfriend?”
I can’t even bring myself to tell him to shut the hell up and quit ribbing me about comparing Darby to Violet. The second he met Darby, he knew.
“Me, apparently…” I mutter, sweeping my hand over my face. And I do feel like a failure. I hate the feeling of letting people down.
I know he’s just giving me shit—trying to get me to quit being such an overachiever just like he’s been doing for the better part of twenty years. But he’s more right than he’s ever been. I have too many balls in the air and, one by one, they’re starting to drop.
“Think we should delay the launch?”
“No,” I say reflexively. “We’re already pushing a year since The Architect came out.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Your asshole publisher will probably drop you if you don’t deliver on time.”
The asshole publisher Randy is referring to is none other than himself.
“You know I work best under pressure. Nothing would ever get done if I didn’t have a deadline.”
“You have a deadline now, and nothing’s getting done,” he points out. “If I had to decide whether to spend my time with a fake girl and a real girl, I’d make the same choice.”
“Yeah, well, that’s no longer an issue. The real girl is 10,000 miles away.”
There’s no point in concealing the misery from my voice.
“How’d she take it?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t talked to her.”
I don’t say that I’m starting to worry. She’s texted me, but it’s not the same thing. I’ve been resisting the urge to call her all day.
“Why the hell not?”
“It’s only been four days.”
“Have you learned nothing from my life?”
“I know, I know. Clarine. The only woman you ever loved. The one you let get away.”
I still remember the day Randy had gotten the invitation to her wedding. I’d been about thirteen. It was the only time I’d ever seen him cry.
“I still see her at Cons sometimes,” Randy mutters, and now it’s his turn to sound miserable. “The first thing I look at is her left hand. Every time, that ring is still there. I put it there. Because I was the idiot who was so busy building a future for us that I didn’t remember to make sure there would be an us to enjoy it. At least I needed the money. What the hell is your excuse?”
I swivel around in my chair. I’m not looking at the monitor anymore anyway. Instead, I look down at the city.
“It’s not the money.”
“Then what is it? Any idiot can see you two are in love. Why did you take a promotion you don’t need?”
“You know what we agreed to.”
“Yet, you fell in love with her.”
“And she fell in love with you.”
“I think so.”
“And your clean, no-strings-attached breakup is messy as hell.”
I don’t gratify his sarcasm with a response.
“Sometimes it’s hard to believe you have an IQ of 142,” he says with a bit of reproach.
But he ignores me.
“You should have gone with Plan A.”
Plan A had been half-baked, but I’d liked its simplicity, and the movie reference would have been apropos. I still would have done the thing with the flowers and presented her with the necklace. But I’d have told her it didn’t have to be over. From there, I’d have given her a choice.
I’d wanted it to be a nod to her favorite movie, Before Sunrise. In the movie, two strangers spend a single night walking the streets of Vienna together and fall a little bit in love. But they each have their own lives to get back to, and things to work out if they decide to be together. So they agree to meet again in the Vienna train station in exactly one year if they still want something more.
What I would have told Darby is that if she wanted a different ending for us, she could meet me in the Vienna train station, on Platform 7, just like in the movie. A year would have killed me, so I’d planned to give her three months. I would have told her that I would show up, because I already knew what I wanted—that part would have been true. I also would have told her that if she didn’t show I’d be okay—that part would have been a lie.
“Plan A is off the table. I’m focused on Plan B.”
“Plan A had a nice romanticism to it. You could still do it, you know.”
“Knowing about the transfer kills the sense of possibility. If she thought choosing me meant choosing a long distance relationship, she’d feel like I was already too far gone.”
“She already thinks you’re gone.”
“She knows I had to go. There’s a difference.”
“I want her to know that me being called here is separate from what happens with us.”
“Yet instead of showing her a path for the two of you to be together, you left her in limbo.”
“No,” I say slowly. “I laid the first stone on the path. I killed an agreement that neither one of us was sticking to. One that can’t possibly work from 10,000 miles away.”
When Randy doesn’t fire back, I know he’s letting up a little.
“So what does she think your status is?”
“Right now? Undefined.”
“Says the man who hates ambiguity.”
He’s right, of course. But I didn’t see any other way.
“In order for something better to live, the agreement had to die.”
CHAPTER 4 EXCERPT: IT AIN’T OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER
When I walk back into my apartment that night, I’m exhausted. It’s only six-thirty, but I’m seriously considering crashing. I drop my bag on the floor next to the elevator, untuck my shirt and start to unbutton it as I make my way to my bedroom. Dropping my jacket and leaving it on my dressing bench instead of hanging it up makes me feel like a slob, but I’m that tired, and I feel kind of grimy and in the short distance between the elevator doors and my closet, I decide I want a bath. I turn on the spigot, rummage around for some epsom salts, and squeeze in a dropper-full of an oil I found in an apothecary in London that I am pretty sure was run by a witch. When the water is ready, I ease myself in slowly. I hope I don’t fall asleep in here.
I haven’t been in the tub for two minutes when I hear my phone chime. It’s the special tone I hear whenever Darby sends a text. But my phone is on the sink all the way across the room. I’m so warm and comfortable that if it were, literally, anyone else—even the twin sister I shared a womb with—I would let it go. But it’s Darby. So I pull myself out, walking gingerly—I don’t want to slip on the marble floor.
When I look at the screen of my phone, my face breaks out into a grin. The picture she just sent me is totally worth it. It’s a close-up of her holding my book. She’s hugging it to her chest and the back cover faces the camera. Her eyes are cut off, and the picture shows her from her nose down. Her lips curve in a contented smile. She’s in her bed—I can see her sheets around her—and I realize it’s four o’clock in the morning in Chicago. After I slip back into the water, I swipe the screen so I can view the full picture. That’s when I see her text.
You’ve restored my faith in endings.
TRADE SUMMARY OF CHRYSALIS
Honoring the pact they made to let their careers come first, Michael and Darby end the casual sex part of their relationship when he lands his dream promotion in Sydney. Determined not to let their connection fade, he lays plans for a new kind of friendship. But he can’t get Darby out of his system. When he realizes the move was a mistake, he begins to maneuver the chess pieces that will let him reverse his decision.
But the distance is only half the problem. There are things about Michael that Darby doesn’t know, and he must find ways to reveal his authentic self from 10,000 miles away. Complicating matters are the re-emergence of Michael’s own estranged father, who suddenly wants back into Michael’s life, on top of a chilling revelation about Darby’s father, Frank Christensen.
With more now at stake than merely winning Darby back, Michael must prepare to take down a powerful insider crime syndicate and decide what lengths he is willing to go to, to take back his beloved neighborhood on the South Side. Destroying Frank could mean endangering Darby, and Michael may have to choose between the two things he loves, all while facing the moral dilemma of how much vigilante justice to serve—after all, Frank is still Darby’s father.
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