by Kristen Callihan
Published by Plain Jane Books
Book 3 in the VIP series
The first time I met Jax Blackwood things went a little sideways.
In my defense, I didn’t know he was Jax Blackwood—who expects a legendary rock star to be shopping for groceries? More importantly, a blizzard was coming and he was about to grab the last carton of mint-chocolate chip.
Still, I might have walked away, but then he smugly dared me to try and take the coveted ice cream. So I kissed him. And distracted that mint-chip right out of his hands.
Okay, it was a dirty move, but desperate times and all that. Besides, I never expected he’d be my new neighbor.
An annoying neighbor who takes great pleasure in reminding me that I owe him ice cream but would happily accept more kisses as payment. An irresistible neighbor who keeps me up while playing guitar naked–spectacularly naked–in his living room.
Clearly, avoidance is key. Except nothing about Jax is easy to ignore—not the way he makes me laugh, or that his particular brand of darkness matches mine, or how one look from him melts me faster than butter under a hot sun.
Neither of us believes in love or forever. Yet we’re quickly becoming each other’s addiction. But we could be more. We could be everything.
All we have to do is trust enough to fall.
RATED: 18+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Steamy Romance Sweet & Hot
Fall by Kristen Callihan is the third book in her VIP series, and centers around John (jax) Blackwood, lead singer and guitarist of world famous rock band, Kill John, and his new neighbor Stella, who he meets in a grocery store, when the two are fighting over the last carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
I absolutely LOVED Fall. It was original, the story was interesting, and best of all, it's honest. It's no secret in the past two books that John attempted suicide. As someone who has lived with both depression and anxiety most of my life, I was able to connect with his character in a way I haven't been able to connect with others before. His mood swings, his up's and downs, and even the things people don't always connect with mental health issues, such as memory problems, was so wonderful to see on page. I truly appreciate the amount of caring Kristen put into this book in regards to this topic, and it couldn't have been easy to write. Another reason I love Fall ... and hell, any series that is standalone romances like VIP, is the updates on past couples. And spoiler -------------> Gabriel as a father is probably one of the best things in this series. Oh my ovaries. <-----------
John is probably my favorite character, so far, of the VIP series. Not only because of his relatability, but his sense of humor and personality felt real to me. He is complex, not always sunshine and roses, and I liked that. I love imperfection, as it makes these fictional worlds more believable. But his character is also sweet and thoughtful. And Stella! Such a fun character, and her sassy edge and incredibly sweetness was a perfect balance to John's down moments. And not that I concentrate too much on a characters physical traits, but I LOVED that a redheaded character is FINALLY described as having freckles everywhere. Another thing I love (and if you disagree, please let me know! My best friend recently admitted she HATES this), but I love when two characters meet, and one of them isn't automatically attracted to the other. John isn't attracted to Stella immediately. As he gets to know her, and as their friendship develops, he ends up finding her the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, because he falls in love with HER.
Fall could have been a disaster. Depression and anxiety are not easy issues to write, especially in a romance. It's not easy to love someone who deals with this on a daily basis. It can be brutal, and Kristen doesn't shy away from this. But her use of great character driven story, and her own understanding of this disease, she ended up writing a beautiful romance between two damaged people. So far, her VIP series has been a hit in my eyes, and I can't wait to hear about a release for another one in the future.
The Mint Chocolate Chip battle
John having dinner with Maddy
John breaking the news to the guys about the STD he contracted
Stella walking in on John playing his guitar naked
John carrying Stella across a puddle
John kissing Stella until she told him what her job is
Scottie and John shopping for a pram
John taking care of Stella when she is sick
Stella and John talking about his attempt
When Stella comes over after John hasn't responded to her, and doesn't let him push her away because he is in a "low"
John asking Stella to fall with him
Stella taking John flying
Watching each other pleasure themselves, talking about what they think of ... insanely hot.
John bringing Stella to the studio so she could sing out her rage
Stella calling Killian to come home and be there for John, despite her own heartbreak
Killian and John finally coming to terms with John's suicide attempt, and Killian's reaction
John putting Felix down, and unable to calm him afterwards lol
John's very different way to get Stella back
Where to Buy
"If my eyes could show my soul, everyone would cry when they saw me smile." - Kurt Cobain
John: "You got the Oreo's, sweetheart. I'm taking the ice cream."
I hold my precious stash closer to my side.
Stella: "And they need The Mint to be complete."
John: "The Mint?"
He laughs shortly
John: "Are you seriously referring to ice cream as though it were some kind of superpower?"
Stella: "It certainly has the power to bliss me out."
John: "What's your name?"
Stella: "I'm sorry, I don't talk to strangers."
I bark out a laugh
John: "Right, you only kiss them."
Maddy: "You need to find yourself a woman. Someone to keep you company on cold nights."
Not her too. I swear to God, you hit thirty and everyone tries to see you married off.
John: "I have a woman to keep me company on cold nights. I'm here with you."
John: "Oh, that guilt must be eating you up, Button. I bet there was a veritable telltale ice cream heart beating in your freezer all week."
Stella: "Hardly. I ate the whole carton right up. And it was de-fucking-licous."
He moves up a step, bringing himself eye level with me, at my perch two steps higher. I stiffen, as he leans in close, his voice at me ear, mocking.
John: "Thud, thud. Thud, thud."
Stella: "Well, fuck me sideways."
John grins wide, the look in his eyes positively evil.
John: "Sideways, huh? Is that something you're into?"
Stella: "Trust me, that wasn't a request."
Stella: "I'm going inside. Doing downward dog has worn me out."
Humor flares in his eyes but then his expression turns downright dirty.
Stella: "Whatever you're thinking, just stop."
John: "But it's so good. Oh, the wonderful possibilities."
John: "Oink. Oink."
Stella: "Oh, calm down. It's not like I'm going to start squealing and try to grab your junk."
John: "I think if you grabbed my junk, I'd be the one squealing."
Stella: "True. I have surprisingly strong hands."
When he stares at me in horror, I hold them up and wiggle my fingers.
Stella: "Yoga. It's highly effective."
John: "My balls just flinched in terror."
Stella: "Wow, I get it now, you being famous and all. You probably don't like coming in contact with the little people, unless they're sorting your M&Ms or something."
John: "Oh, for fuck's sake. I don't even like M&Ms."
Stella: "Skittles then. You don't want to taste the whole rainbow, do you? Though, I can't really talk. The purple ones are disgusting. I don't know what the hell that flavor is, but it sure as shit isn't grape."
John: "You know, they make medication to deal with people like you."
Stella: "Oh, really."
John: "Yeah. Antacid."
John: "You following me, Button?"
Stella: "Only because you're going to the elevator. And stop calling me that."
John: "Can't help it. You're cute as a button, with those round cheeks and all those little freckles. I swear, my first year crush used to have a doll that looked like you. I think she called it Chucky."
Scottie: "How in the bloody hell ..."
Scottie throws up a hand
Scottie: "Don't answer. I know how. Damn it, John, you know better."
Rye: "Seriously. Safety first, man. Cover it before you smother it."
John: "Hey, I suited up."
Rye: "Then why -"
When Rye frowns, I give him a pitying look.
John: "You suiting up then too? Using a dental dam? Otherwise, I'd be getting my shit checked out if I were you."
Rye looks horrified
Rye: "You fucking serious, man?"
Scottie makes an annoyed noise
Scottie: "That's it, I'm enrolling all of you in Sex Ed."
Whip: "Just give me the CliffNotes."
Scottie: "You had those. They've clearly left you all woefully undereducated."
Stella: "Oh my cock - god. My cock -godcock - god ... God. I meant God. God-cock. Argh!"
Her flustered blather ends in a gurgle and a new tide of rapid hand flapping.
Even though her sudden appearance scared the shit out of me - until I realized it was Stella and not some stalker who'd gotten in - a laugh escapes me.
John: "My cock is godlike, so I can see the confusion."
Her face flames bright red.
John: "It goes by that name too."
Stella: "Stop acting like an entitled pest, John. You're disturbing the peace, and you know it."
John: "No one else has complained."
Stella: "Well, I am. Don't make me call Mr. Scott."
I feel my brows lift
John: "You'd tattle on me? Low, Stella. Fucking low."
Stella: "If you don't, I'll ... I'll knock you on the head with that ratty old guitar."
A horrified gasp leaves me.
John: "That, sweet Stella, is a 1964 Fender Stratocaster Sunburst, once owned and played by Jimi Hendrix. I'd rather you give me a swift kick in the balls and call it a day."
Her brows lift high
Stella: "You own a Hendrix guitar? And you're playing it?"
John: "Of course I am. The old girl needs to be played or she dies."
I rest a proprietary hand on her rough, battered body.
John: "Don't listen to mean ol' Stella. I'll protect you, baby."
Stella rolls her eyes
Stella: "Jesus. How much did that thing cost, anyway?"
John: "She's not a thing. And she can hear you."
Another eye roll.
Stella: "I can't do yoga in peace, and you're scaring Stevens."
John: "Stevens is a rock 'n' roll cat. He loves it."
When she cringes, I take a step closer to her, my eyes on her face.
John: "Why, Stella Grey, you used an innocent cat to make me feel guilty!"
I kind of love that.
Her nose wrinkles, and she gives a little haunty sniff
Stella: "I did not."
John: "You totally did."
John: "I'm not trying to twist your arm here, sugar tits. If you'd rather I play -"
Stella: "Oh, calm your britches, sugar nuts. I'm just trying to remember my number. It's not like I dial it often."
John: "I couldn't help but overhearing -"
Stella: "When you were lurking behind us?"
John: "When I was sending a text and you two stopped right in front of me without even noticing I was there."
Stella: "Sorry I didn't take a moment to look around for you."
Ignoring my sarcasm, he nudges me with his arm
John: "God, you're easy to stir up."
Stella: "I'm beginning to think you like doing it."
John: "I love it."
John: "You are a remarkable woman, you know that?"
Stella: "Aren't all women?"
John: "Not the way you are."
Stella: "I ... You ... I .."
John: "You and me ... Spit it out, Stells."
Stella: "Fuck you! Fuck you with a swizzle stick."
Scottie: "It isn't all bad waiting. In truth, when you find someone you actually want, it's so bloody fantastic, it makes up for all the torture."
John: "Oh god, you aren't giving me a 'love will give you wings' speech, are you?"
Scottie: "Anyone who sneers at love hasn't experienced true pleasure and is talking out of his arse."
Scottie: "Fix it, Jax. I'm utterly serious. Stella Grey is a sweet girl ..."
I snort. Loudly.
Scottie: "Who deserves respect."
John: "Yeah, well, I can't get anywhere near her at the moment. She's determined to tear my dick off and give it to Stevens as a toy."
Scottie's mouth curls
Scottie: "I'd pay good money to see that."
John: "So that's why you made that face, like you'd sucked a rotten lemon."
Stella: "A rotten lemon?"
John: "Yeah, all green and puckered."
Stella: "Wouldn't that be a lime?"
John: "No. Limes do not carry the sour taste of jealousy."
He wags his brows in goofy triumph.
John: "Stells, you must be blind or in some serious denial. He looks at you like he's mentally taste-testing his sauces off your tits."
Instantly, my nipples go stiff, but it isn't from picturing Richard doing that. No, my mind sticks on a certain rocker who glances down at my chest like he wants to do the same thing to me.
A flush washes over his cheeks, and his haw tightens when he meets my eyes.
John: "You have to know this. You're too sharp to miss something like that."
Stella: "If he was so into me, why did he practically push you into taking me to his restaurant?"
John: "To see if I want to fuck you too."
A strangled sound sticks in my throat.
Stella: "You're crowding me."
John: "Can't help it. You smell like strawberries. Fucking delicious."
Mrs. Goldman: "That boy has a way of making a lasting impression."
Stella: "He drives me nuts."
Mrs. Goldman: "Then you must like him quite a bit."
Mrs. Goldman: "I've lived a long while, and what I've earned is there are people who never make mistakes. They never put their foot in it, always act perfectly. My dear, I don't trust those people an inch."
A shocked laugh escapes me
Stella: "Because they're nice?"
Mrs. Goldman: "Because no one who lives honestly is perfect all the time."
Stella: "I think we both might be a little too screwed up to connect right now."
Mrs. Goldman: "We're all screwed up. That's what I've been trying to tell you."
Scottie: "Do I go for comfort or ease of portability? And how the hell does this pram close?"
He makes a furtive flick of a handle as I bite back a snort.
John: "I'm not talking about the damn strollers."
In truth, I have no idea why we're the ones shopping for a stroller. Two more clueless dudes you couldn't find.
Scottie: "Well, I am. The last one Sophie bought had a shit turning radius and the handles were too low for me. Got a crick in my back maneuvering that nightmare around."
John: "You make it sound like a car."
Scottie: "This is more important than a car. It's responsible for conveying my progeny."
John: "The traditional models have the kid's face at ass level. Would you want to constantly be looking at asses?"
Scottie: "Only if it's Sophie's ass."
John: "Well, of course. She's got a great ass."
He glares at me, and I hold up my hands in surrender
John: "Mmm ... Scottie?"
John: "When the hell did we give the okay for Tots That Rock to sing our songs?"
Scottie: "I was a tad distracted when Sophie told me she was pregnant. Slight errors in judgement may have occurred."
Scottie: "You have a problem with her being a professional friend?"
John: "No. It's not that ..."
Scottie: "Then what?"
I swear my throat is closing
Scottie: "Spit it out, John, or I'm returning to shop for strollers."
John: "I found it adorable, all right? She's utterly adorable. Something happened to me that I don't ..."
Scottie stops and stares at me. I can't look him in the eye.
John: "I was standing there, looking at her, and she became ... more. I couldn't ... I couldn't think, man. Everything simply ... Tilted. The world tilted, and there she was. You know?"
A slow, annoying smile spreads over his face. I want to kick him. But I don't. I brought this on myself.
Scottie: "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do know."
I was afraid of that.
John: "I left her standing there. Did a total runner."
Scottie: " 'We are all fools in love.' "
John: "Did you just quote Jane Austen?"
Scottie: "Mate, you had a copy of Pride and Prejudice tucked under your mattress that first road trip we took."
John: "I was trying to impress women!"
Scottie: "Right. That's why it was dog-eared and falling apart."
John: "What do I do?"
Scottie: "Invest in a good set of kneepads. I predict a lot of groveling in your future."
Scottie: "I used to isolate myself. Look out for others but never myself. It's a lonely way to live."
John: "Sophie teach you that?"
Scottie's lips curl slightly
Scottie: "No, mate. You did."
John: "I said that because I wanted to be close to you and am too emotionally stunted to man up to it. There isn't anyone I want to be around more than you. You occupy my thoughts, haunt my dreams. I can no more stay away from you than I can try to keep my heart from beating.
John: "Fix her, Doc. Fix her fast."
Dr. Stern: "She isn't broken, Jax. Just sick."
John: "Teenage boys are idiots. I mean, I basically had one criterion for girls: easy lay."
John: "Hey, I said we were idiots."
Stella: "Are you saying that your standards have changed?"
John: "Ah ..."
Stella: "Maybe just start singing again."
Stella: "Your sense of humor is a little twisted, you know that?"
I can almost feel him smile.
John: "The guys find it annoying as hell."
Stella: "Were you like this before ..."
His chest lifts and falls on a sigh
John: "Yeah. Abysmal gallows humor and lacking in proper social tact."
He sounds as though he's quotes Mr. Scott
Stella: "I knew it. Never change, John. Promise me that much."
John: "What I hold onto, what I keep crystal clear, is that moment when I started to fade. I remember how fucking terrified and regretful I felt. I didn't want to go. Not really. I just wanted to feel okay."
Stella: "Honey. I'm so freaking glad you're here."
He lets out a harsh breath
John: "So am I, Button. Right. Fucking. Here."
Scottie: "Damn it, Jax, are you even paying attention? You never take anything seriously -"
John: "Bullshit. I made jokes or downplay a situation because that's how I deal. And, yeah, I'm forgetful to the point of irritation. It irritates me too that I can't keep my mind focused. I'm supposed to write lists to keep track of my shit, but that means fuck all when I can't remember to make a list in the first place. But all of that doesn't mean I don't care, Scottie. It just means I don't do a good job of showing it."
Scottie: "You poor smitten kitten. You're in deep, mate."
John: "What was your first clue, Fred?"
John: "Out of all the hang, you'd definitely be the one to wear an ascot, so yeah, Fred."
Scottie: "I'm tempted to say you'd be Shaggy but you're more the Daphne of the group."
John: "Fred had the hots for Daphne."
Scottie: "This conversation has taken a strange turn and is making my head hurt."
John: "And my work here is done."
But I think I do. Because when I'm low, I don't want to be the one seeking out company. I want someone to find me, to tell me I'm wanted, needed. And when I don't get that, I sink lower.
John: "You know, Stella, you're a Mary Poppins."
Stella: "Mary Poppins?"
John: "Practically perfect in every way."
Stella: "I don't know if John is the one. But he's the only one I've thought about taking a chance on."
Mrs. Goldman: "Then what are you waiting for?"
John: "Stells, where have you been all my life?"
John: "Well, stop. Don't drift away."
Stella: "It was bullshit, then? You wanting to kiss me?"
John: "I've wanted to kiss you since the night we met and you stole one from me. I want to learn your flavor, the sounds you make, how you'll move against me when I taste you. I think about your mouth all the time. Those teasing little freckles, the soft curve of your upper lip, the stubborn fullness of your bottom lip. Stella Button, it's downright embarrassing how much I think about kissing you."
Stella: "Thing is, I think about kissing you too. Ever since I stole that first one, I've wanted more. Whenever I open my mouth to talk to you, I'm afraid I'll beg for another kiss, just a little taste of you -"
John: "Kiss me."
Sophie: "I've heard good things about you."
Sophie: "Oh, yes. Gabriel says you're driving Jax crazy. Which is a wonderful thing indeed."
Scottie: "Darling, leave Jax be. He'll have a fit, and we'll never eat."
John: "Watch out, Stells. Apparently, I'm to have a fit soon."
Stella: "At least I know I drive you crazy."
John: "You already knew that, Button."
Scottie: "Right then ... Brenna and I have been thinking."
Whip: "Oh, hell."
Rye's mouth twists in silent agreement.
John: "I thought we banned you two from using your Wonder Twin powers."
Brenna: "Only when used for evil."
Rye: "When you're scheming, it's all evil."
Brenna: "Quick, Scottie,"
she says, while glaring at Rye
Brenna: "I need to form into a giant water gun."
Stella: "You can have whatever you want. Anything."
John: "Be with me. Let's fall together, Button."
Stella: "Okay, but no sex at all? My brain can accept that this is a good idea, but my vag is a little hussy. She's gonna be pouting if she's ignored."
John bursts out laughing, his chest brushing mine.
John: "God, I like you."
Stella: "You'll see."
John: "Last time I heard those words with that tone, Rye got us all drunk and convinced us that it was a great idea to shave our pubes."
John: "You know who I am."
Corinne: "Jax Blackwood. Hank here is a big fan."
Hank hisses. His expression is mortified. I snicker, which earns me a hard glare.
Corinne: "Well, it's true. He has all your albums."
I swear the table rattles as though kicked.
John: "We're between albums at the moment. I've been working on a few songs, but they aren't ready for recording."
Hank stares at his plate for a long moment before straightening and meeting John's eyes.
Hank: "Saw you at Madison Square Garden last summer. I could have done without the gyrating, but your voice has improved."
A glint lights John's eyes
John: "Oh, has it?"
Hank: "Mmm More soulful now, less showy."
John blinks, and I can't help it - I finally lose it and laugh.
Stella: "Sorry, but Hank's a fan. I'm dying."
Hank: "Shut it, you."
John: "Did you not notice the actual swords hanging over our heads right now?"
Stella: "They're only for decoration."
John: "Uh-huh. Sure, they are. Tell me, Button,, you ever bring a guy over here? Are their bodies buried in the garden?"
Stella: "You're the first. But I'll be sure to tell your story if you don't make it out."
John: "Your concern is touching. Really."
John: "You okay, Button?"
No. I'm so horny my lower belly hurts, and I'm fantasizing about making movies featuring your dick.
John: "Oh, angel, everything leading up to this has already been better than anything I've ever experienced. You could do your worst and it would still be my best."
Sophie: "I think they're adorable."
Rye: "Of course you do. You think Scottie is adorable."
Scottie lifts a thick brow
Scottie: "I am adorable."
No one can keep a straight face at that.
Whip: "Since when did beating the meat or rubbing the bean become a deviant activity?"
John: "Beating the meat."
John snickers into his beer
Whip: "Got a better one?"
John: "Wanking the willy?"
Sophie: "Charming the snake?"
Jules: "Polishing the pearl."
Brenna: "Tickling my treat."
Rye: "I'm becoming uncomfortably aroused."
Scottie throws up his hands
Scottie: "You are all pigs. Might we, just once, have conversation about something normal, such as the unchecked state of our city's potholes or, I don't know, perhaps the stock market?"
Rye: "I hear beans are down a quarter."
Whip: "Blue beans?"
Rye grins wide
Rye: "You know it."
They high-five each other, and Scottie makes a noise of disgust.
Stella: "I don't know how to play any instruments. And believe me now - I can't sing. Not even a little."
John: "Doesn't matter babe. It's just us."
Stella: "No, really. I can't. As in, I sound like a cat is having sex with a cow. It's scary."
John: "Have I told you how much it turns me on when you're grumpy?"
Stella: "No. But you're a twisted individual, so I'm not surprised."
John: "Shhh ..."
His teeth nip my breast.
John: "Accept your torture like a good girl, will you?"
Stella: "I'm not sure I like you anymore."
I feel his evil smile.
John: "Sure you do. Of course, if you really object, you could push me off and take care of business on your own."
Stella: "I'd rather you polish my pearl."
I wiggle my brows
Stella: "Canoodle with my kitty."
A laugh trips from his lips, the corners of his eyes crinkling.
John: "I love you."
John: 'Stella Button, the moment you ripped that ice cream out of my hand, you knocked me off-balance. All I could do was fall."
Killian: "Why did you guys break up?"
Stella: "Because I wasn't what he needed."
Killian: "Somehow, I doubt that, Stella."
Stella: "So what's up with the curbside abduction?"
Brenna: "I'm taking you home with me."
Stella: "You're hot and all, but unfortunately, I don't swing that way."
Brenna: "That's too bad. You've got the whole good girl just waiting to be corrupted vibe going on."
Stella: "It's a front. I was always corrupted."
John: "She's better off with someone who isn't messed up. She needs someone dependable."
Killian: "You're seriously trying to peddle that bullshit?"
John: "It isn't bullshit. I am unreliable. I'm a fucking mess."
Killian: "And yet she loves you anyway."
Scottie answers the door on the fifth knock. His hair is sticking up on one side and his tie is askew - being clutched in the merciless grip of a chubby baby fist. Felix gives me a toothy smile as if to say look who I made my bitch, My admiration for his game is strong.
John: "You two have a tiny dictator in your midst. Throw down some tough love and say no once in a while."
Sophie and Scottie burst out laughing. They keep laughing until Felix smiles around the edges of his dummy, and Sophie wipes a tear from her eye.
Sophie: "Oh, that was good. I needed that."
John: "For Stella, The resolution of all my fruitless searches."
John: "I could probably convert one of the rooms into a practice space."
Stella: "You could. But what if I wanted babies?"
John: "Then, Stella Button, it would be an honor to try and help you make those babies."
Check out the rest of the VIP series below