FEATURE: Rita Stradling

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Rita Stradling is the author of The Deception Dance series, the Dakota Kekoa series and The Fourteen Day Soul Detox Novella Serial. She has a BA in Art History and a particular love for modern and medieval art.

Rita lives with her husband and son in Northern California.

She has an insatiable novel addiction and mostly reads young adult and adult: romance, paranormal, urban fantasy and high fantasy.

Excerpt from Making Bad Choices

“If I think you might disappear on me, I’ll just be thinking about that all night, and I don’t want to have to deal with that shit. Just not worth going for me,” Culter said.

Wow, he made me feel like I was his odious chore, that was nice. I found it ridiculous that he was giving me a hard time about going off with people.

“Just go do your thing, Culter, I’ll be fine.” I might have put a fair dose of insinuation into my words, but the whole conversation was bugging me. I stood, gathering my makeup from the floor as I did.

“What’s my thing?”

“Like I know,” I mumbled.

“Sounds like you think you know,” he said. He stood too, stepping a little closer.

“It doesn’t matter.” I threw my stuff onto my bed.

He stepped in even closer, way too close, and smirked down at me. “Come on, I want to know. What’s my thing, Cassie?”

I licked my lips, before saying, “Threesomes.”

His smirk only grew. “Is that your thing, too?”

“What do you think?” I rolled my eyes, but I felt embarrassed.

He looked like he was going to laugh at me. “I’m not going to Spencer’s party for a threesome.”

“I wasn’t saying that.” I felt my face flushing as I talked to him and I wanted to step away, but at the same time, I didn’t.

He reached up and wound a lock of my hair around his finger. “That was my first threesome, and it wasn’t really one. And it wasn’t my thing. Spooning later, though, that was my thing.”

I looked up into his blue gaze, wondering if he was saying what I thought he was saying. Or had he spooned those girls? I looked away, deciding that I didn’t want to know. Well, I wanted to know, but I shouldn’t know. I was all tangled up in my thoughts, thoughts I shouldn’t even be having in the first place.

Culter’s phone rang, puncturing the tension building between us, and I was very glad for it. Culter flirted as easily as he breathed, and I had to remember that. I had to constantly remind myself of that. I liked flirting, but this didn’t feel just like innocent flirting, this felt dangerous.

I stepped away, grabbing his phone off the floor and handing it to him. Looking at the screen, I said, “It’s Spencer.” Then I walked out and left him alone in my bedroom.

Page 259


Culter kissed me. “We’re not going to have sex, Cassie.”

I blinked at him. “What? Never?”

He grabbed one of the arms I still held loosely around him, weaved his fingers through mine and pushed our joined hands into the bed over my head.

“Just not yet.” He grinned, his face so close to mine that our noses almost brushed. “I just didn’t want you to get any ideas. I know how you are.”

I leaned further into the bed to get enough distance to glare. “Oh, and how am I, Mr. Fuller?”

He closed the distance and whispered over my lips, “Intense. Passionate. When you decide to do something, you go all in. But I’m not ready for this leading up part to end yet, I want more of this.”

“What happens when the leading up part ends?” I whispered.

“Nothing happens to us, but we can only have so many firsts together, and I want to stretch them out.”


I had to admit, I kind of liked that.

“Here, come sit up, I want to get your jacket off.”

Tugging on my sleeve, he first pulled off my jacket, and then he grabbed the hem of my sweater. “How about this one?”

I nodded.

He shrugged off his own jacket before looking down at me again. His fingers moved to the hem of my shirt. “And, this one?”

Biting my lip, I looked into his bright gaze, and then nodded again. Lifting my arms up, I focused on my breathing as he slowly pulled it off me.

He pressed his hands into the bed, looking over me and my lacy blue bra. “Wow,” he whispered.

Reaching up, I whispered, “Your turn.” Then I pulled up the hem of his shirt, slowly revealing the chest I’d been fantasizing about just a little since I first glimpsed it. Okay, maybe a lot.

He helped me by pulling it over his head and throwing it aside.

“Wow,” I whispered, meaning it. “Kiss me, Culter?”


He started gentle again, his lips brushing over mine as his weight held just above me.

My hands ran over the muscles of his back, around his sides and along the ridges of his abs. “You’re so hot,” I whispered onto his lips.

He grinned onto mine. His weight came down onto me, and then he really started kissing me. His hands cupped around my head and his body pressed into me. He was everywhere. And, I kissed him back, gripping him more than holding him. I kissed and sucked and nipped at his lips. When I tried to move under him, he held me in place.

“Cassie,” he whispered as he pulled away just slightly. “I can only take so much, stop moving under me.”

My hands went to the back of his neck and I grinned up. “Sorry.”

“No, you’re not.” Leaning in, he kissed me again, his arms and body holding me firmly, likely so I couldn’t move under him.

Our kisses were long and deep, our breaths few and harsh. Nothing else existed but his hands, his body, his mouth, and mine.

And then an alarm blared out through the room.

As Culter pulled back, I looked around frantically. “What the hell? Is someone here?”

“Nope, Cassie, it’s fine.” The alarm went off again. “Just my phone, the movie is about to get out.”

“Oh.” I made a face.

Culter chuckled, lying back over me, putting all his weight down. “We have to stop.”

“Can’t breathe, Culter,” I wheezed. When he pulled away, I whispered, “Five more minutes?”

“And you say I’m driving you crazy? You’re the one who wants to keep me your little secret.” Reaching across the bed, he grabbed my shirt and handed it to me.

“Like there’s a choice,” I said, pulling it on.

“Well, eventually it’ll come out.”

So not what I wanted to hear from him.

I whispered, “It doesn’t have to.”

“You think we can hide this forever?” He pulled his shirt on over his head.

This is just starting. We have no idea where things are going to go from here.”

“I do.” He rolled off of me.

Sitting up, I regarded him. “Where then?”

Pulling on his jacket, he smirked at me. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“Full-of-yourself Fuller,” I mumbled as I shrugged my own jacket on.

He leaned in, stopping just short of kissing me. “Can’t-get-enough-of-you, Cassie.” Straightening up, he added, “And I’m not the one who’s ashamed of it.”

With that, he walked out of his bedroom, leaving me staring after him.

Page 281


Twenty minutes after Josh and my dad left, Culter walked in through my door. He said nothing, just crawled onto my bed, grabbed me and rolled me on top of him.

My knees went to either side of his hips, but I laid the rest of my weight on his chest. “Good morning,” I said as my hair fell down like a curtain around us.

Hands going behind his head, he grinned wide. “I missed you.”

The tip of my nose brushed over his. “Weirdly, I missed you too . . . weird because I was with you or near you all day and night.”

His hands gripped my legs. “I like that. And, you can fall asleep like this; I’ll be fine lying right here until you wake up.”

“Weirdo.” I leaned in, whispering over his lips, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I pressed my lips into his. I loved being above him, because I could press into him and kiss him as hard and as deeply as I wanted. My hands ran up under his shirt, up the perfect ridges of his abs, until I decided that I didn’t have enough access.

Leaning away, I whispered, “Take it off.”

His brows rose, eyes melting with a mixture of humor and desire. Grabbing the hem of his shirt, he pulled it over his head, and then smiled at me. His head turned and he looked quickly away toward the door to my room. “What was that?”

“What?” I asked, looking.

And then I heard it, someone was in the house, footsteps clunking down my hall toward my room. “Culter?” my dad’s voice called from outside my door. Then from further down the hall, he yelled, “Culter?”


My hand covered Culter’s mouth and we lay very still, staring at my door. The line on the knob of my door pointed straight across. Fuck, again! That meant unlocked!

A light knock sounded on my door. “Cassie, are you still awake?”

Culter’s hands squeezed on my legs.

Across the room, my knob turned.

“Dad! I’m changing! Don’t come in!”

The knob stopped turning. “Oh, sorry, honey. Have you seen Culter?” he asked, his voice muffled right outside my door.

Culter’s hand came up and gently pulled my hand from his lips. Arching up, he whispered right into my ear. “Say I went out.”

“He already left, Dad!” I yelled.

“His truck is here,” my dad said back.

“Spencer picked him up!”

“Oh. That’s different.” He paused, and then said, “Do you know where Josh’s backpack is? I think it has his tablet in it, and we need it for the drive.”

“Um, in his room?” I grimaced.

“No, I think it might still be in Culter’s truck. Damn, I’ll try to call him.”

“Fuck,” Culter whispered, quickly he moved his hip up, his hand digging into his back pocket. “Fuck. I can’t get it.”

I climbed off him, letting him get at his back pocket. He grabbed out his phone, flicking the silence switch on. Half a second later his phone lit up with ‘Frank’ written across his screen. We both watched until the screen went dark, and then looked over to the door.

“He’s not answering. Do you know if he took his keys with him?”

Culter shook his head.

“He left them,” I said.

“No, I brought the keys with me,” Culter whispered, too late.

I covered my lips and shut my eyes tight.

“Cassie, I’m sorry to ask this, but would you go get them for me? I know Culter doesn’t want me in his room.”

I paused. “Oh, okay, Dad. One second.”

Turning to Culter, I held my hands out.

He leaned in. “Let’s just tell him,” he whispered into my ear.

Leaning back, I shook my head, furiously.

Looking to the ceiling, then back to my gaze, he pointed to my closet and nodded. As quietly as possible, we both stood. Culter walked and I tiptoed over to my closet.

As I shut him inside, he whispered, “My keys are in my top drawer.”

“Everything okay?”

I spun. “Fine! I’m all dressed now.” Turning to head to my door, I spotted Culter’s red shirt lying across my bedspread out of the corner of my eye. “Crap,” I whispered, running over, I stuffed it under my blanket.

The door opened, and my dad stood revealed in the doorway.

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