Dec 27 2016 12:00pm
Emily Foster Excerpt: How Not to Let Go
Once upon a time, med student Annie Coffey set out to have a purely physical fling with Charles Douglas, a gorgeous British doctor in her lab. It didn’t quite work out that way. Instead, secrets—and desires—were bared, hearts were broken, and Annie knew she had to leave this complicated, compelling man who remains convinced he can never give her what she needs.
Walking away is one thing. Staying away is another. Annie and Charles reunite at a London conference, rekindling a friendship they struggle to protect from their intense physical connection. Little by little, Annie gets a glimpse into Charles’s dark past and his wealthy, dysfunctional family. Soon, she’s discovering what it means to have someone claim her, body and soul. And she’s learning that once in a lifetime you find a love that can make you do anything…except let go.
Get a sneak peek at Emily Foster's How Not to Let Go (available December 27, 2016) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.
He’s coming to Boston. I will have my friend back—if I don’t fuck it up just because we have A Thing. I’m not sure I could survive the loss of him again.
But now I wonder if I can survive this intensity of wanting.
My alarm goes off at six. My eyes feel pasty and gritty, and my bones ache with exhaustion. I do not want to get out of this bed and get on a plane. I’m swamped with dread at the thought.
At six thirty, my phone rings. I answer it without looking. I know who it is.
“Hey,” I say, through my mop of hair.
“Hey. Did I wake you?” he says, his voice gravelly with fatigue.
“No. Not sure I ever fell asleep.”
“Jesus. Sorry. I called to ask if we might try saying good-bye properly, without my fucking it up. I’ve ordered some coffee. Would you come over?”
“Okay,” I sigh, “I’ll be there in a couple minutes.” With a weary groan, I drag my body out of bed and haul it to verticality. I pack my pajamas in my suitcase, so I’m all ready to leave, and I put on my travel clothes.
The room service guy is leaving right as I step into the hallway, so I just catch the door and let myself in.
Charles has a suite. I’m standing in a living room three times the size of my entire room.
“Dude,” I say, looking around. “All that time in the diner, I could have just worked in here.”
“Do you really think that if you’d come here to work last night, you’d have gotten anything done?” Charles is pulling chairs up to either side of the table where the coffee tray sits. He’s freshly shaved, wet hair combed off his forehead, but with bags under his eyes and exhaustion in every line of his face. He pours us each a cup of coffee and then drapes himself in one of the chairs, legs straight out, ankles crossed. He gestures me toward the other. I sit—or rather, drape—mirroring him. We stare at the table.
“What are your plans for this morning?” I ask through a yawn.
He yawns, too, and says, “I’m meeting Melissa.”
An unpleasant jolt of adrenaline sours my mood even further. What I needed to hear right before I leave is that the last thing he’s doing before he leaves the country is having breakfast with his ex-girlfriend. Good. That’s awesome. I mean it’s fine.
He pushes his hands through his hair and sighs. I wait for him to figure out what he wants to say.
Apparently, he doesn’t know, either.
“I’m crap at good-byes,” he says, rubbing his forehead against his palm. “You’re good at them. Teach me how.”
“I don’t know,” I groan. “You just say shit like, ‘It was great to see you!’ and ‘I really enjoyed blah blah blah,’ and ‘I’ll see you again at thus and such!’ and ‘Thanks for the whatevers!’ ”
“It was great to see you,” he says obediently, but genuinely.
“I really enjoyed hearing about your existential crisis,” I say, taking my turn.
He laughs on a quiet breath and then says, “I’ll see you again in August.”
Then I grin. “Thanks for all the sandwiches.”
“And you’ll write to me when you can,” he adds extemporaneously.
“And hit send.”
We look at each other across the table in silence for a long, bleary-eyed moment.
He says, “Is that it? That’s a good-bye?”
“So it’s not that I’m crap at them, it’s that they’re awful. Well, that’s a sort of relief, I suppose. Par la souffrance, la vertu,” he says bleakly.
His family motto. His family has a motto. “Virtue through suffering.”
We sit in silence for another moment. Twice, he takes a breath as if he’s about to say something, and then he stops himself.
At last, with his eyes on his fist, which he’s bouncing on the arm of his chair, he says, “I’ve been dreaming about you.” I watch him swallow. “I wake up in the middle of the night, convinced you’re in the bed, and then . . .” He stops and presses his fist against his mouth for a moment. Then, flattening out his hand and rubbing his eyes under his glasses, he finishes, “And
then it’s exactly like the last time I woke up and you weren’t there. So it feels like I’ve been saying good-bye to you over and over.”
I don’t know what to say, so when he lifts his weary eyes to meet mine, I just say, “I’m sorry.”
He laughs with a harsh suddenness, like he’s had the wind knocked out of him. Then he leans back his head and closes his eyes. “Darling girl, it is I who am sorry. I am sorry, Annie. I am sorry.”
Again I don’t know what to say, so I just say, “It’s okay. There’s nothing to be sorry for.”
More silence, more exhausted looks across a table.
I pull out my phone and check the time. “I should probably
Looking at his watch, he says, “Yep. Okay.” He stands up and leads me to the door, but he stops with his hand on the knob, and we stand there looking at each other. He says, “Is this . . . are we okay? Have we sorted this? Is it just a terrible, hopeless mess?”
I pull half a smile from my weary brain and say, “Of all the things you’ve said in the last twenty-four hours, for me the most important was ‘You’ll have my friendship as long as you want it, without condition.’ If that’s true . . . then I think the rest of it will work itself out somehow. Now give me a fucking hug,” I say. I raise my arms and stand on my toes, and he puts his arms around my waist. He hugs me for real, without hesitation.
Still holding me, he says into my ear, “I keep wanting to apologize.”
“There’s nothing to apologize for.”
And he hugs me a little closer.
When he pulls away, he puts a hand on the back of my neck and kisses my cheek. I hear him inhale through his nose. I smell him—soap? aftershave? what would make a man’s neck smell so good?—a scent so familiar and beautiful that my breath catches.
There is a tiny cool spot on my cheek where he kissed me, and it takes a great effort not to put my hand there, to hold on to it.
He steps away and opens the door. I look up at him and see the anxiety still in his eyes.
With a deep breath, I look away from him, turn, and walk out the door.
I go to my room and collect my stuff.
I walk to the Tube stop.
I get on a train and go to the airport, four hours ahead of Charles.
And that’s when things really go wrong.
Copyright © 2016 by Emily Foster.
Learn more about or order a copy of How Not to Let Go by Emily Foster, available December 27, 2016:
EMILY FOSTER is a professional sex educator with a Ph.D. and a New York Times bestselling nonfiction sex science book (under a different name) to her credit. Writing popular nonfiction taught her that, if you want to change how people see the world, storytelling is better than all the research, statistics, and logic in the world. She lives in western Massachusetts with two dogs, two cats, and a cartoonist. Emily is funnier in real life (and hardly ever speaks in the third person).