Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Halcyon Tour and Giveaway

by C.L. Donley 
Genre: Contemporary Romance 

The Halcyon program has only grown in respect and mystique over their now fifteen years of matchmaking. When I went through it six years ago, they were still boasting 100% success of all the participants. Single, usually hopeless, candidates leave the program as part of a couple. The foolproof methods Halcyon uses to guarantee a soulmate comes from a blend of technology, biology, psychology, and, of course, sex. Naturally, with its high price tag, extensive, invasive testing, and painstaking process, only serious participants make it through, and everyone found success. Until us. 


This is it. I’ve officially hit rock bottom. I’ve let myself go, with no signs of letting up. So you’d think I wouldn’t be surprised when the day comes.
Ever since I got back from Halcyon, I haven’t been able to eat my feelings fast enough. I went back to school, finished my degree at USC and drowned myself in fried cheese. I can’t bear to look at a scale, but I’ve been up and down enough that I’m practically an honorary dietician.
I know I’m 300 lbs now, at least. I just know that. And all I’ve done about it up to now is worry. I can’t bear to leave the house anymore for the shame. I sure as shit can’t go out networking and apply for jobs. I was trying to move on, or at least I somehow convinced myself that’s what I was doing. Anyone could look at me and see I was stuck.
And now? Now I’m literally stuck. For real. After flailing and wheezing and panting from trying to sit up it’s finally happened. I can’t get out of the bed.
Rock bottom. I woke up every day in fear of it. But I never expected it to be this… literal. I just lay on my bed weeping. Fuck! My sister Skye is on speaker with the phone next to me on the pillow. She just sits and listens to me being the most pitiful human being that’s ever lived. And I know it’s a lot to put on her. It’s a lot to put on anyone. But I literally can’t hold in another thing.
“Just move to Houston, Bria. With me,” Skye says sympathetically. Hardly any real solution, but that isn’t surprising. Skye’s solution to every problem was always, “just come with me to this thing.”
I sigh. “I don’t know, Skye. What would be the point?”
“Well, for one, wouldn’t be alone. For two, you’ll be far away from Mom, which we all need. You said you wanted to get from out of the Forrester shadow. And to do that you gotta leave L.A. The music scene is jumping in Houston. 4D Acres is building its next satellite office here.”
“That means getting on a plane…”
“Not right away. Just get yourself back down to your pre-Halcyon weight for now. I know you can do that in a pinch. What’ll that take, a month?”
The inner me was screaming in agony but I was done listening to that bitch. She’s insane. Look at me!
Skye was the only one brave enough to talk about my weight ballooning as a matter of practicality. Unless you count the paparazzi.
“'In a pinch.’ Because it’s so easy, Skye.”
“No, it isn’t. That’s why you should start now.”
The very thought of trying to scrape up enough willpower to get to the fires of weight loss Mordor is exhausting. It’s exhausting when I’m optimistic. Now there’s no relief in sight.
“No, Skye. I know when I’m not ready, and I’m just not. I’m just too beat up.”
“That’s your own doing, Bri.”
My heartbeat instantly doubles defensively. Not Skye too.
“How can you say that? After what’s happened? After what they posted?”
I showed up in the tabloids not that long ago. A slow day in tabloid history, for sure. But still.
“They’re just saying what you’ve already said to yourself a million times, Bria. You gonna get surprised when TMZ repeats it?? Do you believe yourself or don’t you?”
A single tear falls across my nose down to my pillow as my sister continues to massage my raw, stiff soul. The pain makes it hard to see the point.
“You should’ve been building yourself back up all this time. What good is it, trying to beat people to the punchline if you’re just gonna get upset about how they respond anyway?”
“I barely made it through last semester. Mom wanted a big ass graduation party and all this…”
“Stop worrying about what Mom wants. I’m not gonna sit here and say I know what it’s like to go through a program like Halcyon and come back with nothing. But you picked up and went back to school as if nothing happened.”
“And now I’m in hell.”
“You can dig yourself out.”
“I can’t.”
“You can. And you’re going to.”
I break down in tears, gasping for air.
“I need help!”
Skye didn’t answer for a long time. The struggle is both real and old for me, and Skye was always the first one to rescue me. She’s probably looking for a red-eye right now, getting her former trainer on the phone—
“Okay. Then get yourself some help.”
Oh. I guess it’s tough love time. Fair enough. I’ve done this to her enough times. She’s allowed to be tired. I feel a lump in my throat.
“So you’re done helping me?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“I don’t want Mom to know anything.”
“Well, that’s gonna be hard, but I think we can do it. I’ll make some phone calls, but you gotta be 100% transparent Bri. If you slip, don’t do it alone. If you’re not fine, don’t say that you are. Promise me, okay?”
“I’m proud of you. I’m so fucking proud of you, Bria. You know that?”
“Yes.” I wipe my tears.
We decide it’s best to call mom’s assistant Tyra to confidentially come in and remove my extensive snack stash and replace it all with fresh food. So I did. Best way to do it is no last hoorahs. Rip the band-aid off. Have someone else do it if you can.
The next day Aunt Pat comes over— my mom’s long-time hair and makeup stylist. She is not my mom’s or anyone’s sister, but I know if Aunt Pat’s at my door it means that Mom found out about what I was doing, even though I don’t know how. But Forresters leak like a sieve. And also, maybe the disgusting paps followed Tyra leaving the reclusive sea beast’s lair with four grocery bags full of Ding-Dongs.
Pat gives my hair her patented conditioning treatment. It involves Saran wrap and it’s the last thing I need to be worried about. But dammit, if I don’t feel like I’m gonna knock this thing out once I see my shiny and voluptuous hair in the bathroom mirror that’s just past my shoulders when it’s straight. I owe it to the world to chip away this gorgeous slab of marble.
Cooking for myself’s gonna be a bitch. Not because it’s hard, but because it reminds me of Halcyon. When Luke and I would cook on the weekends. Meals were like magic— follow the directions and they came out tasting exceptional every time. I wish I could remember some of those recipes. The night we had the chimichurri chicken was the night he asked me if I loved him. I admitted I did. I ruined the salsa verde enchiladas and they were still delicious.
Everything was of the highest quality. I even lost a few pounds without trying, and despite eating as much as I wanted while I was there. They really spared no expense. I was 80 pounds lighter then— still heavy, still constantly stalked by shame. I’d kill someone to snap my fingers right now and be back there.
By the end of day three, I already want to quit. It’s a hell sandwich. I go to sleep in my reclining chair instead of the bed and cry my eyes out. Hungry. And on top of it, the Halcyon nightmare is back.
It starts out well enough, with Luke’s hands on my hips. Luke moving underneath me hard and intimate. And then I hear laughing. It merely distracts me in the dream.
I’m not self-conscious at all until the dream changes and suddenly we’re not in the suite we shared for six months, we’re in the fucking dining hall. Or should I say, we’re fucking in the dining hall. On top of one of the shiny metal picnic-style tables. Somehow I knew it was an audition. The person wasn’t laughing at me, they weren’t even paying attention. Suddenly the dining hall is more full than it’s ever been. For some reason, I’m too embarrassed to simply pry my naked body from his and run out. I have to pretend that I meant to fuck him in the dining hall. I have to keep going. Luke is obnoxiously indifferent, as usual. The way he was when we weren’t lying down.
I wake up with a dull ache in my chest, not to mention between my legs. Note to self: next time that dream rolls around, get over yourself and ride him for all he’s worth.
I buy a calendar. Prep my meals. Fast intermittently. Cross off the x’s until Houston. I don’t go near a scale. It doesn’t matter, not anymore. This can’t be temporary. Not if I can’t map out a new way to live and stick with it. If I haven’t lost enough weight this month, I simply have to keep going until I do.

C.L. Donley is a future New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of multicultural and interracial romance, who believes romance novels that are impossible to put down are the only kind that should exist! Armed with a B.A. in English and M.A. in Writing, she is new to the romance game, having written her first novel, Amara's Calling, after discovering the romance genre in September 2017. Donley writes in a style she calls "romantic realism" that is sophisticated yet simple, grounded yet unaplogetically escapist, and character-driven rather than plot-driven. This style creates a unique, modern reading experience ideal for book club discussions, personal epiphanies, satisfying re-reads, and the occasional spiraling reviewer! Love it or hate it, fans and critics alike can't deny her talent, and always find themselves coming back for more! 

She loves hearing from readers and discussing her favorite parts of her own books, so feel free to indulge her. 

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