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Blog Tour: Under the Influence: L.B. Simmons


Under the Influence
L.B. Simmons 
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Release Date May 11, 2015
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Dalton,
I loved you once. A love I thought irrevocable. A love I mistakenly believed could transcend both time and circumstance. Under the influence of my dimwitted, naïve, traitorous heart, I became intoxicated with what I now know was simply a figment of my self-indulgent imagination. So drunk on the feeling, I couldn’t see what was right in front of my face. So foolishly enamored, I blindly followed my heart into the depths of an emotion that would ravage me. 

Years later, I know now what I wish I knew then. I am stronger. Smarter. Tougher. I will not allow myself to be broken again. 
I loved you.
I raged for you.
I wept for you.
And now, I’m letting you go.

Author’s Note:  Under the Influence is the journey of two childhood friends that spans the course of five pivotal years in their lives. It is a story about their discovery of true friendship as it blossoms into first love, their experience of crucial sacrifice and ultimate betrayal, and their endurance of agonizing heartbreak on the way to finding lasting redemption.


Spencer POV:

Dalton’s voice is thick as he begins to speak. “I’m sorry, Spence. I know I hurt you—”
I shake my head dismissively. “You didn’t hurt me. I’m just tired.” 
The corners of his mouth dip downward and he lifts his hand, placing his palm against my cheek and swiping the moisture with his thumb. My heart would typically melt at the tenderness of the gesture, but now I find it only aggravates me. I narrow my eyes and shove his hand away from my face.
“Don’t do that. Don’t do something you don’t mean.”
Channeling my sorrow, anger begins to churn as I step away and turn my back on him. My bare feet carry me to the wooden rail that lines my porch and I brace my good hand against it, leaning forward and inhaling deeply.
Dalton growls with frustration. “What the fuck? Of course I mean it. The last thing I want to do is hurt you, Spence. I’m trying to apologize here.”
I laugh humorlessly and turn to face him. “For what, exactly? For stalking me on my date tonight?” 
His blue eyes now heat with a different emotion as they slice to mine. “The date in which you were being manhandled by some fucking loser who asked you out for no other reason than to get back at me?” He scoffs openly. “You should be thanking me.”
I cease the fight to hold back my tears, permitting them to flow freely as I respond. “I handled it, did I not? I don’t need you to protect me, Dalton. I can take care of myself.”
He chuckles, unsmiling, as he removes his cap and throws it to the ground, dragging his fingers through his hair in irritation. My glare hardens as I continue my rant.
“And yes, he asked me out to get back at you. Are you apologizing for that? Or are you apologizing for the fact that because of your stupid crusade against me dating anyone EVER, I was so excited to be asked out that I accepted a date with said fucking loser because I wanted to know what it would be like to actually be wanted for once?” Not entirely true, but true enough to make my point.
My breaths are heavy and my pulse is thrumming rapidly through my entire body. I angrily wipe away the tears as I inquire, “Why is that, Dalton? Why is it that you don’t want me, but no one else is allowed to have me?” I shake my head in frustration as I stumble on my words. “I just…I don’t understand.” My voice trembles and my chin quivers with the admission.
Dalton heavy boots sound as he stalks across the porch. I avert my gaze, but once he’s in front of me, he curls his fingers around my chin and pulls my face into his line of sight. His eyes burn into mine as they narrow in earnest. “You think I don’t want you? Goddamn it, Spencer,” he bites, “I want you so much I can’t fucking breathe when I’m not with you. Every single time I force myself to walk away from you, I feel nothing but agony as the anger that simmers here,” he breaks to pound his closed fist on his chest, “breaks free and chars my insides with each step I take.”
His eyes begin to glisten and his jaw tightens as he shakes his head. “I can’t fucking breathe without you, don’t you get it? I want you so much that being without you is absolute torture.”
He swallows deeply and moisture seeps from my eyes at the sight of his exposed emotion as he continues. “I want you, Spence, but I can’t have you. I won’t allow it. You’re too good, too pure, too innocent, and just as your presence soothes me, mine will eventually flaw you. It’s inevitable, and I care too much for you to let that happen.”
I watch a lone tear fall from the corner of his eye before he concludes, “But you’re right. Even thinking about you with someone else, with someone else’s arms around you as you look into their eyes the same way you’re looking into mine right now, I just…” He casts his stare downward and shakes his head. “I just can’t. So I guess I’m just a selfish, heartless prick, because where does that leave you?”
The tear finally falls free from his chin, and I watch it strike the wood beneath our feet before placing my hands on the side of his face and forcing his eyes to mine. My voice trembles as I speak. “I know you like to control things, Dalton. That’s how you’ve learned to cope and I understand that, but you don’t control me. My feelings. My heart. And even though you feel you don’t deserve those things, that they’re not yours to have, you’re mistaken.”
I tighten my grip as he tries to look away and state with emphasis, “You ask where that leaves me? Well, it leaves me right in the same place, on this same porch, as I was six years ago when I met you. The day that all of those things you think you can’t have I willingly handed over without question.”
Releasing my hold, I turn away from him, knowing his refusal will absolutely destroy me as I state into the night air, “I have always belonged to you. I will always belong to you.  Regardless of what you’ve done, what you do, or what you will do, I will forever be yours. And that’s my choice to make, whether you choose me or not.”
Dalton and Spencer are the best of friends. What started out as an innocent friendship as kids has blossomed into crushes that both are afraid to act on. Spencer is sweet, innocent, naive, and kind. Dalton sees her as perfect, but even he does not know everything about her. She is the one thing that makes Dalton happy and gives him peace. He is protective, devoted, and possessive of her.

He is a broken young man whose past taught him not to trust. He is smart, resourceful, and tough. But he has secrets and is living a double life--one that is dangerous and he doesn't want her to be touched by it. He is a man with a tragic past and is now trapped in an unstable, uncaring, dangerous world he can't escape from. But that is all he wants to do so he can finally have a chance to really be with her and not risk her safety. That becomes his purpose.

But with the situation as complicated and precarious as it is, there is no way to avoid some kind of pain. My heart broke for them as they each poured out their fear, anger, anguish and dwindling hope. Their lives were changed by unavoidable circumstances, but had no choice but to go on.

This is a story of two friends and loves that were forced to face challenges, danger, pain, grief, and loss. They both had to find the strength to survive and move on during difficult circumstances. But it was also about hope and faith and seeing if it can survive even in the most dire, heartbreaking circumstances and if any of it does survive can it be re-ignited for a second chance.

Their journeys were painful, difficult, lonely and disheartening. These two characters both had a strength and tenacity to them. It was set up in a unique yet logical way that followed the path of their relationship. Their relationship was truly like dealing with any addiction with being completely under the influence, withdrawal, and recovery. Part two killed me emotionally. And all of the stages took time. And each of the characters underwent change because of it. Spencer especially became more cautious, guarded, and harder.

But through the process, will they find a way back to each other or they have to recover on their own and move on without the other?

I liked the characters and the story line and getting multiple points of view. I did have a few issues with some details and  plot points. At times the pacing was a bit slow, but it did have some twists and surprises.  It had a lot of emotional layers and I liked the character's chemistry and their growth. The side characters of his best friend, Rat, and her friend, Cassie added more humor, depth, and impact. Overall it was a multi-layered story of rising above tragic circumstances, sacrifice, love, and the hope of a second chance.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Spencer Locke is sunshine, rainbows, and a little bit of a hippy. She marches to her own beat, and it’s an upbeat. She is innocent. She is everything that Dalton thinks he will never be deserving of, but he can’t seem to stay away.

Dalton Greer is angry, dangerous, and haunted. But when he is with Spencer, his rage calms. A series of choices sends Dalton down a path that only leads him darker. He does his best to protect Spencer from the dangers of his choices, but when it becomes clear that she is in danger, his choices are limited. To protect her, he cannot have the only things that keeps him grounded.

This story was full of interesting ties and connections. There were some great elements of suspense. Though the revelations didn’t always surprise me, it was entertaining and kept me turning the page.

The side characters added a lot of fun to the story as well. Spencer’s friend, Cassie, is her opposite and is a great support, even as Cassie leads them into trouble and pushes Spencer from her comfort zone. Rat, Dalton’s all-but-brother, sees what is between Spencer and Dalton before Dalton will even admit it to himself. Grady, Lawson, Penny, and so many others of the people around them push both beyond their pain to be the best they can be for the future.

There was a fun touch of destiny to this story as well. Between the dreams, and the things Penny says, there is a sense of rightness between them that had me rooting for Spencer and Dalton as soon as they admitted their feelings in high school.

The only piece of this story that held me up was some of the procedural aspects and the story of where Dalton had been in the time he was missing. Some parts of the investigation just didn’t make sense to me and I had a hard time suspending reality to believe those bits.
But I liked the characters, and loved the lengths that were traveled to protect those they loved. It had moments that shocked me and brought tears to my eyes, and others that had me holding my breath with hope.
I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.
L.B. Simmons
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L.B. Simmons is a graduate of Texas A&M University and holds a degree in Biomedical Science.  She has been a practicing Chemist for the last 11 years.  She lives with her husband and three daughters in Texas and writes every chance she gets.

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