Title: Before I Fall
Author: Jessica Scott
Series Info: Falling Series, #1 (After I Fall, #2 coming soon)
An emotional new series about a small group of veterans adjusting to life away from the military. They’ve got a lot to learn about life away from war – and college may or may not be the place for them to learn it. — jessicascott.net
Beth Lamont knows far too much about the harsh realities of life her gilded classmates have only read about in class. She’ll do whatever it takes to take care of her father, even if that means tutoring a guy like Noah – a guy who represents everything she hates about the war, soldiers and what the Army has done to her family.
Noah Warren doesn’t know how to be a student. All he knows is war. But he’s going to college now to fulfill a promise and he doesn’t break his promises. Except he doesn’t count on his tutor being drop dead gorgeous and distracting as hell. One look at Beth threatens to unravel the careful lies Noah has constructed around him.
A simple arrangement turns into something neither of them can deny. And a war that neither of them can forget could destroy them both.
Author Jessica Scott uses her intimate knowledge of the military and veteran affairs to craft a beautiful and inspiring story of two young people touched by the darkness of war but saved by the light they find in each other. Noah needs to learn how to lean on someone and Beth needs to learn how to trust someone to be there. Through rough turns and sensual moments they both find the love, support and trust they need and deserve.
The story of Noah and Beth offers readers incredible insight to the struggles, both physical and emotional, of those returning from war. Beth is trapped in the quagmire of red tape that is the Veteran’s Administration as she fights to ensure the proper care for her father, an injured army war veteran. The pressure of working, school, caring for her father and battling the VA have left Beth tired and emotionally closed off. In Noah, Beth finds someone to lean on and help lighten her burden. The lovely thing about this story is, she does the same for him.
Noah doesn’t sweep in and solve all of Beth’s problems, just like entering into a relationship with Beth does not magically cure Noah’s ailments. Noah is used to being needed, and it is natural for him to offer Beth support. However, Noah is not comfortable being the one who needs support. Relying on pills to deal with his pain and nightmares, Noah has not allowed his mind and body to heal to their full potential following his war experiences. With Beth’s love and support, Noah is able to learn how to take care of himself without guilt.
The romance and physical relationship develops quickly, but at least both characters acknowledge the fact it they fell for each other unusually hard and fast. Beth and Noah were each trapped in such darkness that they both are eager to kindle the sparks between them. These sparks quickly grow into an intense yet surprisingly tender love.
About Author Jessica Scott:
USA Today Bestselling author Jessica Scott is a career army officer, mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs, wife to a career NCO and wrangler of all things stuffed and fluffy. She is a terrible cook and even worse housekeeper, but she’s a pretty good shot with her assigned weapon and someone liked some of the stuff she wrote. Somehow, her children are pretty well adjusted and her husband still loves her, despite burned water and a messy house.
She’s also written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View Regarding War, and IAVA. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of OIF/New Dawn and has had the honor of serving as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas twice.
She’s pursuing a graduate degree in Sociology in her spare time and most recently, she’s been featured as one of Esquire Magazine’s Americans of the Year for 2012.
Connect with Jessica’s Social Media:
Excerpts from Before I Fall:
My dad has good days and bad. The good days are awesome. When he’s awake and he’s pretending to cook and I’m pretending to eat it. It’s a joke between us that he burns water. But that’s okay.
On the good days, I humor him. Because for those brief interludes, I have my dad back.
The not so good days, like today, are more common. Days when he can’t get out of bed without my help.
I bring him his medication. I know exactly how much he takes and how often.
And I know exactly when he runs out.
I’ve gotten better at keeping up with his appointments so he doesn’t, but the faceless bastards at the VA cancel more than they keep. But what can we do? He can’t get private insurance with his health, and because someone decided that his back injury wasn’t entirely service-related, he doesn’t have a high enough disability rating to qualify for automatic care. So we wait for them to fit him in and when we can’t, we go to the emergency room and the bills pile up. Because despite him not being able to move on the bad days, his back pain treatments are elective.
So I juggle phone calls to the docs and try to keep us above water.
I leave his phone by his bed and make sure it’s plugged in to charge before I head to school. He’s got water and the pills he’ll need when he finally comes out of the fog. Our tiny house is only a mile from campus. Not in the best part of town but not the worst either. I’ve got an hour before class, which means I need to hustle. Thankfully, it’s not terribly hot today so I won’t arrive on campus a sweating, soggy mess. That always makes a good impression, especially at a wealthy southern school like this one.
I make it to campus with twenty minutes to spare and check my e-mail on the campus WiFi. I can’t check it at the house – Internet is a luxury we can’t afford. If I’m lucky, my neighbor’s signal sometimes bleeds over into our house. Most of the time, though, I’m not that lucky. Which is fine. Except for days like this where there’s a note from my professor asking me to come by her office before class.
Professor Blake is terrifying to those who don’t know her. She’s so damn smart it’s scary, and she doesn’t let any of us get away with not speaking up in class. Sit up straight. Speak loudly. She’s harder on the girls, too. Some of the underclassmen complain that she’s being unfair. I don’t complain, though. I know she’s doing it for a reason.
“You got my note just in time,” she says. Her tortoise-shell glasses reflect the fluorescent light, and I can’t see her eyes.
“Yes, ma’am.” She’s told me not to call her ma’am, but it slips out anyway. I can’t help it. Thankfully, she doesn’t push the issue.
“I have a job for you.”
“Sure.” A job means extra money on the side. Money that I can use to get my dad his medications. Or, you know, buy food. Little things. It’s hard as hell to do stats when your stomach is rumbling. “What does it entail?”
“Tutoring. Business statistics.”
“I hear a but in there.”
“He’s a former soldier.”
Once, when my mom first left us, I couldn’t wake my dad up. My blood pounded so loud in my ears that I could hardly hear. That’s how I feel now. My mouth is open, but no sound crosses my lips. Professor Blake knows how I feel about the war, about soldiers. I can’t deal with all the hoah chest-beating bullshit. Not with my dad and everything the war has done to him.
* * *
I hate being on campus. I feel old. Which isn’t entirely logical because I’m only a few years older than most of the kids plugged in and tuned out around me. Part of me envies them. The casual nonchalance as they stroll from class to class, listening to music without a care in the world.
It feels surreal. Like a dream that I’m going to wake up from any minute now and find that I’m still in Iraq with LT and the guys. A few months ago, I was patrolling a shithole town in the middle of Iraq where we had no official boots on the ground and now I’m here. I feel like I’ve been ripped out of my normal.
Hell, I don’t even know what to wear to class. This is not a problem I’ve had for the last few years.
I erred on the side of caution – khakis and a button-down polo. I hope I don’t look like a fucking douchebag. LT would be proud of me. I think. But he’s not here to tell me what to do, and I’m so far out of my fucking league it’s not even funny.
I almost grin at the thought. LT is still looking after me. His parents are both academics, and it is because of him that I am even here. I told him there was no fucking way I was going to make it into the business school because math was basically a foreign language to me. He said tough shit and had helped me apply.
My phone vibrates in my pocket, distracting me from the fact that my happy ass is lost on campus. Kind of hard to navigate when the terrain is buildings and mopeds as opposed to burned-out city streets and destroyed mosques.
Stats tutor contact info: Beth Lamont. E-mail her, don’t text.
Apparently, LT was serious about making sure I didn’t fail. Class hasn’t even started yet, and here I am with my very own tutor. I’m paying for it out of pocket. There were limits to how much pride I could swallow.
Half the students around me looked like they’d turn sixteen shades of purple if I said the wrong thing. Like, look out, here’s the crazy-ass veteran, one bad day away from shooting the place up. The other half probably expect the former soldier to speak in broken English and be barely literate because we’re too poor and dumb to go to college. Douchebags. It’s bad enough that I wanted to put on my ruck and get the hell out of this place.
I stop myself. I need to get working on that whole cussing thing, too. Can’t be swearing like I’m back with the guys or calling my classmates names. Not if I wanted to fit in and not be the angry veteran stereotype.
I’m not sure about this. Not any of it. I never figured I was the college type – at least not this kind of college.
I tap out an e-mail to the tutor and ask when she’s available to meet. The response comes back quickly. A surprise, really. I can’t tell you how many e-mails I sent trying to get my schedule fixed and nothing. Silence. Hell, the idea of actually responding to someone seems foreign. I had to physically go to the registrar’s office to get a simple question answered about a form. No one would answer a damn e-mail, and you could forget about a phone call. Sometimes, I think they’d be more comfortable with carrier pigeons. Or not having to interact at all. I can’t imagine what my old platoon would do to this place.
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