Dear Diary Sneak Peek
Enjoy this exclusive sneak peek of the first two chapters in Dear Diary!
Note: This content is only mildly edited and subject to change.
© LK Farlow, 2022
PROLOGUE – GRACE
“He’s a charmer, that’s for sure,” I mutter to myself as I open my file cabinet to pull his folder. My receptionist has been on me to digitize for years now, but I much prefer to write all my notes by hand. It’s more personal. “A silver-tongued devil with twinkling eyes.”
I’ve been seeing Rand—I mean treating Mr. Wallace—for almost a year now, trying to help him navigate life as a single father after the loss of his wife. It’s been nearly six years since she passed, and he’s still the textbook model of grief.
From denial to anger, bargaining to depression, and finally acceptance, I’ve helped him through all of it. I’ve seen him at his worst, lost in the pit of his sorrow, and at his best, full-on charming as he tries convincing me to let him take me out.
I always turn him down, because as long as he’s my patient, I can’t ethically see him. But my goodness, as much as I don’t want to admit it, the temptation is there. He’s the very definition of tall, dark, and handsome.
In a way, he reminds me of my Jim, of the love I’ve lost. Which is absurd; the two men couldn’t be any less alike.
Where Jim was a giver, kind and caring and always quick to smile, Rand is mercurial and compelling, with sharp wit and an even sharper tongue. Truly, he’s night and day from my late husband, but for some reason, I’m drawn to him.
My chest pinches tight, making it hard to draw a full breath as traitorous thoughts of my patient slip out of the box I keep them in. I shouldn’t feel like this for him. For any man. My God, what kind of monster am I? My Jim’s only been gone four months.
Some sessions, it’s like Rand sees into the depths of my soul, making it hard to tell who’s helping who.
Which is a problem, ethically speaking. Giving into him means giving up the life I’ve worked so hard to build. Becoming romantically involved is one of the worst offenses someone in my profession can commit. It’s career suicide, seeing as it would mean the loss of my license. No psychiatrist worth their salt would ever cross that line.
I’ve told Rand this before too, that it’s inappropriate—forbidden. The sly dog just smiles and says the best things in life are.
“You are strong and capable.” I speak the words out loud as I take a seat behind my desk for today’s session. Usually, we both sit in my armchairs, knees nearly touching as we bow our heads together and share our pain. But something—mostly my weakening resolve—tells me distance is needed if I’m to keep my head on straight.
The intercom on my phone buzzes, and then my receptionist’s voice filters through. “Your eleven is here.”
I suck in a deep breath and hold it before slowly exhaling. “Great, send him back.”
My heart thunders in my chest as the seconds creep by. This man shouldn’t elicit this type of response in me—no man should. I swore to love Jim, and while our vows stated ‘til death, I never in a million years thought I’d lose him so soon.
It’s only been four months since he died.
Toward the end, Jim told me he wanted me to move on, to be happy. But four months is… It’s too soon.
My breaths come quicker now, sweat beading my hairline.
But then, the door opens and Rand walks in, his lips turned up in a knowing grin—and just like that, my impending panic ebbs.
“It’s been too long, Gracie,” he murmurs, his dark stare boring into me as he crosses the room to claim his usual seat.
“It’s Dr. Morgan,” I correct him softly, my cheeks burning with equal parts desire and shame. I don’t know what it is about this man, that he’s able to stir such conflicting emotions within me.
Every minute in his presence feels like a full-on war; I’m enchanted by his sweet words, enticed by his physique, horrified by my weak resolve, mortified by my ever-slipping professionalism, and ashamed for thinking of any man other than my Jim in such a way.
“Come on now, doll.” He leans back in the chair, a devilish smile twisting his lips as he spreads his legs wide. “We both know we’re past that.”
The deep drawl of his voice causes my nipples to pebble, making me extra thankful for the bulk of my sweater. “That’s…” I swallow roughly, counting down from five in my head before trying again. “That’s not appropriate, Mr. Wallace.”
He stands from his chair and prowls toward me. My heart thunders in my chest as he rounds my desk and plants himself on the edge, right in front of where I’m seated.
“Um, Rand—Mr. Wallace, uh…” My words trail off as my heart shoots into my esophagus as he drags my chair closer, leaning into my space. “You… We can’t!”
“We can.” He presses his index and middle fingers to my temple, massaging lightly. “And we will, Gracie. You’ve spent too long denying this thing between us, and you can keep trying to pretend it isn’t happening, that we aren’t happening, but I assure you, we are.”
The war inside of me rages, as wanton desire goes head-to-head with wrenching guilt.
I gasp for air, my breaths coming in sharp pants as my vision pin-pricks. I can’t decide I’m floating or falling—either way, my landing’s going to hurt.
“It’s okay, Gracie,” he murmurs, trailing his fingers down from my temple, following my jawline. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
“No!” I try to shake my head, but he glides his palm across my cheek and tunnels his fingers into my hair, curling his fingers and holding me still.
Tears dot my lashes as I stare up at Rand. Nothing about him reflects the worry barreling through me. He’s cool, calm, and collected, like he truly believes us being together is the right thing—the only thing. As far as he’s concerned, we’re a forgone conclusion.
I should have seen this coming. For months now, he’s been laying the groundwork for this, but I foolishly brushed it off as some kind of strange form of transference.
But now, I don’t know… He seems so sure.
His eyes soften as he looks down at me, his palm still warm against my cheek. “Rand, I—”
He leans all the way in and silences me with a kiss.
My entire body jolts at the feel of his lips moving against mine. Firm, yet soft. Teasing, yet serious. Forbidden, yet indulgent. Wrong, but so, so right.
“Open for me, Gracie,” he growls against my lips, causing me to gasp. This man is an apex predator, and I’m nothing more than the lamb he’s about to slaughter.
Rand doesn’t waste a single second, deepening our kiss. Before I know it, we’re a frenzy of desire, using our lips, teeth, tongue, and hands. Time slows as we greedily explore one another.
I tug him closer, needing to feel the weight of his strong body against mine. Luckily, Rand can read me like a book and hooks his hands beneath my thighs, hauling me up to straddle him as he sits on my desk.
But the feeling of his erection pressing into my core breaks the moment and I shove out of his lap as guilt and regret rain down on me, drowning me in a tsunami of shame.
“Rand—” My lower lip wobbles and hot tears fill my eyes.
“Now Gracie, don’t cry.” He leans in and kisses away my tears, groaning softly, almost as if he’s savoring the taste.
“We… we—” I try again, but I can’t seem to get my brain and mouth on the same page.
“We got a little carried away, that’s all.” He kisses my lips once more before standing and returning to his usual chair on the other side of the room. “And before you even think to ask me—what we just did wasn’t a mistake and I don’t regret it. You’re like pure sunshine, Gracie, and I need your light.”
He sounds so sincere. Maybe he’s right… Maybe us being together is a good thing. Maybe we can heal all of the broken parts of each other.
“Tell me you agree, that you don’t regret what just happened.”
I take a few steadying breaths as I formulate my reply. “I don’t regret it, but I also need time to think, Rand.”
For a split second, anger flashes in his dark gaze, but it’s gone so fast, I almost wonder if I imagined it. “Take all the time you need, Gracie. But mark my words… you will be mine.”
CHAPTER ONE – ATLAS
“You’ve reached the voicemail of Randall Wallace, please leave a message after—”
My father hasn’t answered any of my calls this week, and while that’s not necessarily cause for concern, he’s been acting squirrely as hell here lately—enough so that I’m tempted to ask Ellis to do a wellness check his next shift. Perks of having a cop for a best friend, I suppose. That and getting out of parking tickets.
Dad’s always been a little closed off and cold, but since his latest wife—my stepmom—died last month, he’s been worse than usual. Defensive, blunt, secretive… paranoid.
The same way he acted after your mom died, a small, dark voice whispers in the back of my mind, hinting at something I’ve always wondered. I mean, what are the chances of a man losing two wives to mysterious illnesses?
Add in that he’s the sole caregiver for a teenage girl, and yeah, I’m fucking worried.
The trees surrounding the cabin I share with Ellis pass in a blur as I near our property. Maybe after dinner I’ll call Dad again. Hell, maybe I’ll just go by there, catch him unaware and force him to show me he’s okay.
I make a quick pit stop at the mailbox to grab the mail, tossing it in the passenger seat before turning down our long, winding driveway.
“Should’ve stopped for a burger,” I mutter under my breath, thinking of our bare-as-fuck fridge as I throw my truck into park and cut the engine. “A big, juicy burger.”
I’m debating heading back into town to get one when a flash of orange in the passenger seat catches my eye.
I grab for it, surprised to find a very familiar looking notebook tucked in the middle of my mail pile.
Why is Nora’s—
My line of thinking smashes into a brick wall when I turn it over and find a neon yellow sticky note pressed to the front with the words, please read scrawled sloppily across it.
“What in the actual fuck?” I ask out loud, despite there being no one to answer me. “I need a drink to deal with this shit.”
Decision made, I grab the mail—and the notebook—and head into the house, ready to get to the bottom of this.
DIARY ENTRY, AGE 13
You don’t know me yet, but you will. Mama says we’ll be good friends. Seems weird since you’re just a fancy notebook, but I’m willing to try anything at least once… Mama says I take after my dad in that way.
I keep expecting him to walk through the front door any minute, with a bouquet of daisies for Mama and a new book for me, but he’s not going to. Not tonight, or ever again, because he died yesterday at exactly nine-oh-two in the morning. A pretty stupid time of day to die, if you ask me—even if I can’t think of a better one. It sounds silly, but I guess I always thought he was unbeatable, like a superhero…
Only the villain that took him out was his own body, brain cancer, or GBM as Mama called it.
I haven’t cried yet. Mama’s worried. She keeps telling me it’s okay to cry, but I’m not sure if she’s saying it because I’m not or because she can’t stop. It’s not that I’m not sad, because I am. My dad was the best man to ever live, but I know crying won’t bring him back. I can cry enough tears to fill an ocean, and he’ll still be gone.
But Mama doesn’t get it. She thinks I’m “internalizing,” or something. She says it’s not healthy to hold it all in, and I guess she’d know, seeing as she’s a shrink. So, she got me you, and told me to put my pain to paper, so here we go.
I’m not entirely sure it’ll work, but like I said, I’m willing to try…
“Are you ready to go?” Scarlet, my on-and-off girlfriend, asks. The hint of irritation tinging her tone tells me I’ve either forgotten something important or it’s not the first time she’s asked. Probably both, if I’m being honest.
Rolling my shoulders, I suck in a steadying breath and force my gaze away from Nora’s diary.
She never lets the leather-bound notebook out of her sight, and I truly mean never, which makes finding it between my water bill and a stack of junk mail pretty damn strange.
Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t give one single fuck about the contents of an eighteen-year-old girl’s diary, but given everything that’s happened recently, let’s just say my interest is piqued.
I can’t explain it, but something deep in my gut is telling me I need to read it, though given the first entry, I can’t possibly fathom why. So far, the only thing Nora and I have in common is that we’re both members of the dead parent club. Who knows—maybe this is her weird way of trauma-bonding?
In the last few months, she’s really drawn into herself. Well, more into herself, I should say. She’s always been quiet and reserved, the kind of kid who prefers the company of characters in a book than her peers. But the few times I’ve seen her since Grace passed, she’s almost become a shadow of herself—like she’s slowly fading away to nothing at all.
Dad says she’s trouble, but I find it hard to believe. She seems so soft; fragile even. Not just emotionally but physically, too. A strong wind could probably knock her on her ass.
In fact, the first time we met, one nearly did…
I glance at my clock and wince as I turn down Dad’s driveway. He told me to be here at six, said he wanted me to meet someone, but now it’s six-twenty and I have three missed calls.
I’m sure he thinks the worst, that I’m showing up late just to spite him. And hell, maybe part of me is. I could have clocked out on time, but when Lane asked me to help clear a fallen tree from the main hiking trail I agreed.
And now, there will most likely be hell to pay. No good deed goes unpunished, and all that shit.
By the time I make it to his house, which is set way back on a heavily wooded plot of land, he’s on the front porch, pacing. Fuck.
I park and hop out, my hands in the air like I’m trying to placate a rabid dog. “Atlas!” he growls my name, and I realize that in a way, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.
“Sorry Dad, got stuck at work. The storm earlier today knocked a tree down and we had to get it off the trail.”
He continues glaring and for a second, I worry he isn’t going to let it go.
So, I deflect. “You said you wanted me to meet someone.”
“Grace,” he murmurs, his features soften momentarily before going hard all over again. “They’re running late too. But her kid doesn’t have a damn storm to blame.”
I had a feeling I was here to meet the woman who’s been occupying all of his free time, but the fact that she has a kid is news. Very surprising news, at that.
Dad barely likes me, and I’m his flesh and blood, so I can’t really imagine him playing house with someone else’s kid.
Guess love makes us do crazy things…
The sound of tires spinning on the gravel jerks both of our eyes back to the driveway. An older gray sedan makes it way toward us.
I squint, trying to make out the driver, but it’s no use, they’re too far away.
“You best be on your best behavior tonight,” Dad says without ever looking my way.
His warning is useless, though; I’m the last thing he needs to worry about. I learned a long time ago not to piss him off if I can help it. The consequences are rarely worth it.
Finally, the car comes to a stop in front of the house. Dad’s down the steps and at the driver’s side before the engine’s even off, pulling the door open.
I’m not sure what I’m expecting, but when a short, slightly plump woman in her mid-forties steps out, well—let’s just say I’m surprised.
Maybe it’s all of the shit Ellis watches on TV, but for some reason, I was half-expecting a young bombshell behind the wheel.
I watch with bated breath as Dad leans in and whispers something in her ear. Is he berating her for being late, as well? Will he punish her? I flex my fists at my side, ready to spring into action if need be. But it seems like whatever he’s saying makes her smile, which eases some of the weight pressing against my breastbone.
Maybe he’s different with her…nicer.
“Come meet Grace,” he calls as he leads her around the front of the car.
I take the porch steps two at a time, making it to them right as the back door swings open and a wisp of a girl climbs out.
“Grace, this is my son Atlas,” he says, gently propelling her forward. “Atlas, this is Grace.”
“I’ve heard so much about you,” she says with a kind smile, her dull auburn hair sparkling with hints of silver in the evening light.
It’s a fight to keep my face blank because this is damn sure the first I’ve ever heard of her. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
I turn my focus back to the kid. She’s small, five feet if I’m being generous, with a shock of red hair and a frown that could rival the grumpiest of old men. It’s hard to tell how old she is, other than a hell-of-a-lot younger than me.
“This is Nora,” Grace says, nudging her daughter forward.
Dad goes to shake her hand, but she steps back, clutching an orange-covered book to her chest.
I guess this is their first-time meeting, too. Interesting.
The tips of his ears go red, and for a second, I worry he’s about to go off, but instead he smiles. It’s the fakest smile I’ve ever seen, but it’s better than yelling, so I’ll take it.
“Well, let’s head inside before the sky falls,” Dad says, guiding Grace away from her daughter and up the steps.
Nora glares after them with all the rage of a newborn kitten.
Despite the wind starting to pick up, she makes no move to head inside.
“You coming, Pip?” The nickname slips out unbidden, but somehow, it fits.
“What did you just say?” She turns her icy glare on me.
I don’t know why, but I grin. “Pip—you know, like pipsqueak.”
She bares her teeth at me. “My name is Nora!”
“Right.” I glance down at my well-worn boots to hide my smile. “Well, you coming inside, Nora? I know you don’t wanna be here—and I’ll tell you a secret: I don’t either—but at least inside there’s food and no rain.”
“It’s not raining out here either…” She trails off, the unspoken yet hanging between us.
“Suit yourself then.” I turn toward the house, feeling some kind of way about leaving someone so small outside when it’s about to storm. I know firsthand the kind of damage storms like these can bring.
But before I can ask her again, a huge crack of thunder booms overhead, and I hear a squeak followed by the sound of her shoes on the gravel as she bolts toward me… Only before she can make it to the first step, the wind starts to howl, and she must be smaller than I thought because the gust sends her flying my way.
She windmills her arms, trying to keep herself upright, but it’s no use. The kid’s going down.
I reach out and steady her before she can hit the ground. “You good?” I ask, making sure she’s steady before releasing my hold on her shoulders.
“Fine,” she mutters, like the single syllable hurts her to give up, darting up the steps and into the house.
I always chalked Nora’s oddness up to grief and a healthy dose of teenage angst. The kid lost both of her parents within a five-year span, and now the only family she has left is me and Dad. The fact that I never really made an effort to get to know her sort of has me feeling like shit now.
Still, I read over the first passage a few times, thinking maybe there was a hidden meaning, but I’ve got nothing.
I guess I’ll have to keep going and see what I find, if anything.
“Atlas!” Scarlett snaps her fingers and I shut the diary, shoving it under my pillow, focusing all of my attention on her.
She’s dressed in a short little black number that hugs her curves like she was sewn into it as she leans against my door frame in a way I’m sure is meant to be seductive.
And yet, in this moment, even with her toned legs and ample cleavage on display, my dick stays soft.
I’m pretty sure we’re headed toward being off again in the near future, because while she’s certainly a looker, my libido seems to be on an extended vacation.
“Atlas,” she sighs, sauntering my way. “We have plans tonight, don’t you remember?”
“Remind me?” I give her my best grin, and she melts, running her fingers through my hair.
“Dinner and dancing ring a bell?”
I could lie and say I remember but honestly, I don’t, and I’m sure the look on my face is a dead giveaway. “Not even a little.”
Guess it’s a good thing I didn’t get that burger…
“Ellis’s new flavor of the month—” I don’t miss the way her lip curls at the mention of Carrie—or maybe her name’s Kelsey? “—wants to check out some rock band, and he so kindly volunteered us to tag along.”
Spending hours in a crowded bar sounds like fucking torture, but even so, I find myself nodding along. Sometimes giving in to her is less of a headache than arguing. “Give me fifteen to shower and change.”
“Or…” Scarlett leans down, thrusting her tits into my face as she licks her red-slicked lips. “I could join you and we can make it twenty.”
You’d think I’d be all over it; she’s hot as sin and a sure thing, but still, nothing. Maybe a night out isn’t such a bad thing. Hell, after a few drinks, I’m betting I’ll be begging her to sneak away to the bathroom or my truck for a little fun.
But here and now, it’s not happening. “Don’t wanna keep Ellis waiting, right?” I stand from the bed and press my lips to hers, hoping the kiss softens my refusal.
Sure enough, she melts under my touch and pads back out to the living room to wait.
I make quick work of showering and dressing in a pair of well-worn jeans and a button-down shirt. A quick glance at my phone tells me I have five minutes to spare.
Logically, I know I should just head on out to the living room so we can get on the road, but instead, I find myself reaching for Nora’s diary. I’m not sure why, but I feel—Fuck, I don’t know, compelled?—to read it or something. It’s like this itch under my skin, and the only way to scratch it is to get to the bottom of why she left it for me, and so, with sure fingers, I flip to the next entry, and let myself fall into her words.
DIARY ENTRY, AGE 13
Today was weird. Carson Childress told me I was pretty and asked me to sit with him in the cafeteria while we were studying in the library, but then at lunch when I approached his table, he said I had to give him a kiss to sit down.
I don’t want to kiss Carson. I barely even know him. Mama says he’s probably trying to show off or impress me, which makes it double dumb. There’s nothing impressive about forcing a girl to kiss you.
Even worse was, Kelsey and Eliza laughed at me instead of having my back, and they’re supposed to be my best friends. After lunch, they told me I couldn’t sit with them anymore because their table was for couples only. No one told me getting a boyfriend changes your personality. I don’t really get it, but a part of me can’t help wonder if I’m missing out. Then again, if Carson Childress is my only choice, maybe I’m better off alone.
Mama says it’s called peer pressure and that if I don’t like Carson, I should stand my ground. But I don’t know which sounds worse: having a boyfriend who’s a jerk or sitting all alone.
I guess since it’s Friday, I have the weekend to think about it.
After two days of Carson pestering me during our shared classes and eating all alone at lunch while my so-called friends pointed and laughed, I gave in and told Carson I’d be his girlfriend.
That good-for-nothing snake said he’d only date me for a kiss and a boob squeeze. I told him to kick rocks and then he called me a Goody-Two-Shoes fire crotch.
Mama says I hurt his “masculine pride” by turning him down. But if he’s that dang fragile then I’m definitely not interested.
But the whole thing got me thinking about what I want in a boyfriend. So, here’s a list:
It seems like a short list, but Dad was all of those things and he made Mama happier than anyone else on the planet.
He’s been gone for three months now, and she’s still so sad. I wish I could do something to help, but the only thing that would make her better is him not being dead.
But he is, and I haven’t seen Mama smile since. I miss her smile. It was wide and toothy, and just the sight of it felt like the best kind of hug.
This got off track pretty quick, huh, diary? I don’t know. I guess I just needed to vent.