Book Title: The Ex Trials
Author: Heather Topham Wood
Genre: New Adult
Release Date: August 31, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
One dream vacation in paradise.
One co-ed bachelor and bachelorette party.
One week marooned with my ex.
Six months ago, Casey Silvers ended her scorching romance with sexy rocker Cole Caldwell. None of her friends know the true reason behind her sudden change of heart. Despite her claim of their chemistry fizzling out, her feelings for Cole had never gone away.
After receiving the invitation to her best friend’s co-ed bachelor and bachelorette getaway, Casey knows she must once again face Cole. For one week, she’ll be forced to party alongside the man who has come to despise her. The tropical cruise is meant to be a trip to paradise, but Casey is certain it will turn out to be a vacation from hell.
But as the ship leaves port, past secrets are revealed—secrets that could change the fate of Casey’s romance with Cole. With forces keeping them together, Cole and Casey soon discover that the passion between them has yet to extinguish.
***Standalone New Adult Romance-Ages 17+ Due to Strong Language and Sexual Situations***
If only I could enjoy paradise with Cole as my boyfriend. Evading him was easier because being reminded of how magnetic I found him was unadulterated torture. We were bad for each other, but that didn’t make me want him any less.
“I don’t want this whole week to be uncomfortable and weird,” he finally said without looking in my direction. “I’ve had a constipated feeling falling me around since the second I got to the airport.” He let out a strangled laugh although his expression remained humorless. “I thought I could see you again and it wouldn’t be a big deal. But I was wrong.”
“Why did you come? You know Autumn is my best friend,” I pointed out. Maybe I had wronged him, but he had titanium balls coming on the cruise. Blake may have invited him, but he could have refused.
“Because I hate this. My brother is crazy in love with one of your best friends and every time she’s over I have to hear Casey this and Casey that. I can’t even hear your name without breaking out into a cold sweat.” His voice was fierce and had a sobering effect on me. Cole wasn’t exactly known for his intensity. He was usually just as big of a wiseass as his twin. I’d seen a more complex side of him while we dated, but we still spent a lot of downtime riffing playfully on one another. He continued, “Things didn’t work out for us. Maybe we were meant to crash and burn from the beginning. I think we’re too much alike. Our personalities only let us have intense flings that can’t last.”
His words burned my brain and my heart. I hated that was his summation on what we had. It was my fault he felt the way he did. I violated his trust and destroyed his faith in me. Did I expect him to still consider what we had as special?
“I’m sorry,” I managed. “I know you probably don’t believe me, but I am so sorry that things turned out the way they did—”
His cheeks reddened and I could instantly tell he hated the pity in my tone. Although I was sincere, Cole would think I was patronizing him. “It’s over and like I said, that’s fine. It would’ve never worked anyway. But I do want us to be friends. I don’t want it to be weird when ever we’re in the same room together.”
“I want that too,” I said hoarsely.
He nodded although his tone remained dry and unfriendly. “You should have fun on the vacation. And if you want to hook up with someone, don’t feel awkward about it… I’m not planning to be a saint on the trip either.”
I could see the knife he had just used to cut out my heart—the serrated edges dripping with fresh blood. Hope had damned me to my own personal hell. Because as tough as I had played it for my friends’ benefits, the god’s honest truth was I had wished for him to see me and feel something again. Like he would look into my eyes and see directly into my heart.
His dangling of our renewed friendship was only a ruse. This was his true purpose. He wanted me to know I’d have to bear witness to him fucking whomever he wanted on vacation. I’d hurt him and he was outlining his plans for revenge against me. For the next seven days, I’d have my heart stomped on each time I saw him with another girl.
“Thanks, but I’ll pass,” I said lifting up my chin. I was certainly at fault for our breakup, but I had to draw the line somewhere. I made mistakes, but I punished myself enough for the both of us.
He frowned. “You pass on what?”
“Your offer of being friends. I considered what you could add to my life as a friend and I’m politely declining,” I said and began to turn away. There had been safety in the fog; why was I allowing his words to penetrate?
His fingers wrapped lightly around my wrist and I stilled. Although I was trying to leave with my dignity intact, I had to admit his hand felt good against my skin. Besides playing guitar, Cole was a union steelworker. The combination left his hands rough and callused. There was something so intoxicating about how masculine his hands felt when he grasped at my bare skin.
“Casey, you were the one who said months ago that neither of us were ready for a commitment. I’m not being an asshole here. I could’ve told everyone about why we broke up, but I didn’t. I let them assume you just wanted to walk away and I didn’t stop you.”
I patted his shoulder heartily. “Thanks for being so grown up about it, Cole. I didn’t know you had it in you.”
He folded his arms across his chest and looked me up and down. I didn’t like the smug look on his face as he caught my eye. His face and posture reminded me of the arrogance that had withered away once we became serious about one another. “Okay, Casey. Game on.”
His eyes were unreadable. “I figured if we were friends, we could show each other some respect. Not rub any hookups in the other person’s face. But since you so rudely swatted away my outreached hand—”
I rolled my eyes. “Were you this annoying when we dated? Because I’m surprised we lasted as long as we did.”
He leaned down and whispered in a low rumble, “You still want me. I know you. I know you. I remember how you get defensive when you want to hide what you’re feeling. I get that your pride will keep you from telling me the truth about what really happened between us. And I know that by the time this boat docks back in port, you’ll be in my bed, asking for a another chance.”
I flushed and said in an affronted voice, “In your dreams, creep.”
kisses. We didn’t specify where those kisses would be,” he said in a playful tone.
Heather Topham Wood’s obsession with novels began in childhood while growing up in a shore town in New Jersey. Writing since her teens, she recently returned to penning novels after a successful career as a freelance writer. She’s the author of the paranormal romance Second Sight and The Dark Dreamer series and the standalones Falling for Autumn, Pretending Hearts, The Ex Trials and The Disappearing Girl.
Heather graduated from the College of New Jersey in 2005 and holds a bachelor’s degree in English. Her freelance work has appeared in publications such as USA Today, Livestrong.com, Outlook by the Bay and Step in Style magazine. She resides in Trenton, New Jersey with her husband and two sons. Besides writing, Heather is a pop culture fanatic and has an obsession with supernatural novels and TV shows.