C.G. Coppola is the author of the sci-fi adventure series, Arizal Wars, and the contemporary romance series, Better Than This. In addition to stories that explore magic and the paranormal, she writes realistic fiction set in fantastical universes, usually with a lot of kissing. Married with two fur-babies she spoils rotten, C.G. Coppola lives in Florida where she grew up and attended college. When not writing, she can be found decorating the house, bantering with her husband, or dancing to Meghan Trainor–sometimes all at once.
I hate Grayson Knight with a passion. Ever since he pulled a prank on me as kids, I’ve kept him in the mortal-enemy category, and we both prefer it that way. Now we’re seniors in high-school and he’s still the same immature jerk. I avoid him as much as possible, but when an argument turns ugly and lands us in detention together, I know my life is over—especially when my dad, the city’s police sergeant, finds out.
I have no idea how we’ll get through this, so I’m surprised when Grayson comes to my rescue after I’m cornered by a sleazy basketball player. Suddenly, the boy I’ve always hated isn’t the enemy. If seeing him with new eyes isn’t confusing enough, a secret kiss sends everything scrambling, leaving me to figure out what I want, and if I can even have it. Because Grayson isn’t like other boys—and I’m starting to find out why.
We work quietly for some time, and people leave one by one, promising to call or text when they get home. I’m tempted to check the time, but don’t want to be disappointed. Funny thing is, I’m not sure if I’ll be disappointed because there’s too much time left—or too little.
It’s got to be near four o’clock, so we shouldn’t be here much longer. Reaching for another paper circle, I staple it to the strand, noticing how long the link has become. Proud of myself, I glance around the gymnasium looking for other accomplishments.
When did everyone go?
“So, you’re not embarrassed to be going stag?”
I don’t expect this question—or any question, really—since I’m still acclimating to the fact that we’re alone, and even Coach Mackey is gone again. When did that happen? It takes a minute to absorb the change in environment, and to think about what Grayson asked. “Why would I be embarrassed?”
“Means you haven’t been asked.”
“Not true. I could’ve turned someone down.”
Leaning back, I cross my arms and study him. “Why do you care?”
“So, why are you asking?”
“Making conversation, Robin. Try not to overthink it.”
Sometimes I think I’ve got him and then he pulls the rug out from under me, making me feel small or stupid. I continue to stare at him, wondering if he’s right and I am overthinking it. But still—why is he asking if he doesn’t hold some interest?
We work again for another few minutes, and I think about checking the time.
“So, did you?” He asks, focused on the paper circles again.
“Did I what?”
“Turn someone down.”
Again, why does he care? It’s the second time he’s asked, so I’m not sure what he’s trying to prove here. “Does it make me less lame if I say yes?”
He lifts a shoulder.
“Well, I didn’t.”
He nods to himself.
He shrugs, like it’s no big deal. “Just hadn’t heard anyone say they were planning on asking you.”
Again, ouch. Even if that’s true—why tell me? To make me feel bad? I’m not sure why he’s so invested in any of this since it has nothing to do with him, especially since he’s already said he doesn’t care about homecoming. “Again, I’m going with my friend.”
“Yeah, but…” He sighs, almost irritated. “That’s so weak.”
“Only perk of a dance is hooking up.”
“Not true.” I shake my head and then I lean back again, wondering if I’ve figured it out. “Is that why you’re not going? No one to hook up with?”
“Please. I can always find someone.” He stares at me, something working behind his eyes. He holds my stare as a quiet moment passes. “I think you’re lying.”
“There being no datable guys in our class.”
“I think you’ve finally lost it.”
“And I think you have someone in mind.”
“Oh yeah?” I cross my arms. “Who?”
“Are you ready for this?”
“I’m on pins and needles, Grayson.”
He leans back, crossing his arms to match my posture. “Me.”
It’s the last thing I expect, and I bark out a loud, boisterous laugh. Because—is he kidding? He’s got to be kidding. What the hell is he even talking about right now? “You think I want to go to the homecoming dance with you?”
He nods with a grin, completely serious. “I think deep down, you secretly want me to ask you, but it’s not going to happen. Hate to break it to you.”
“My poor, broken heart.”
“It is, because I know you like me.”
“I know you do. But listen, Robin…” Grayson softens his voice as he shakes his head with the same small smile, “…you’re cute and all, but you’re not my type.”
“I won’t take you even if you beg.”
I’m back to wanting to rip his head off his neck. Instead, I match his soft, mocking tone and lean forward. “Listen, Grayson…I don’t know what you’re smoking, but it must be some good shit if you think I’m ever going to beg you for anything. Let alone a date.”
He leans in to match me. “You might be surprised.”
This conversation took a bizarre direction so I’m going to clear things up right now. “I don’t like you. Not even close. And I can’t fathom the idea of going to homecoming with you. Do you understand?”
“You do like me, but you’re right—I won’t take you to homecoming, so stop asking.”
I stare at him. “What is wrong with you?”
“Currently? I’m stuck in detention.”
“And every other time?”
“You’re seriously warped—you know that?” I jump up from the table, intending to get my bag and call it a day. I don’t know what’s gotten into Grayson, but it’s starting to freak me out. All this weird talk about the dance and about me liking him…no. It’s best if I just leave now. But as I reach for my back pack, he jumps up, rounding the table.
“I’m not warped. And where are you going? We still have twenty minutes.”
“Says the guy who skipped out early on Monday.”
“That was Monday.”
“Well…you’re freaking me out, so I think I’m just going to head home.”
“I’m freaking you out?” He walks closer, arms still crossed with the same small smile. “Why? Because I’m admitting the truth?”
“Because you’re playing mind games.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.”
He stands in front of me, legs apart, playful but firm. “I’m just admitting what you can’t. That you’ve suppressed your true feelings for me for years and what you think is hate is actually—”
“Don’t say it.”
He flexes his brows. “You’re hot for me.”
“You probably want me to kiss you right now.”
“But I’m not going to.”
“No matter how much you beg.”
“I already told you, I’m not—”
Grayson leans in, bringing our faces close. Really close. I’m frozen, completely hypnotized in his web and too stunned to do or say anything. “No?” He asks again, his eyes shifting between mine. “You so want me to kiss you right now. But I’m not going to. Know why?”
“Because you’re a mutant and don’t have lips?”
“Because if I do, you won’t want me to stop.” He looks at my mouth, and licks his own lips, inching in. “Need me to prove it?”
Q&A with the Author
Q: Can you tell me a bit about yourself and how became an author?
A: Without sounding too cliché, I’ve always wanted to write. (Lame response but it’s true). I’m not sure of a time I didn’t want to write, which is why I’ve steadily been crafting stories since childhood. I loved the creativity so much that I majored in Creative Writing at Florida State in 2008. Unfortunately, social media blossomed a bit later and traditional publishing seemed an unrealistic goal—but I went for it.
It didn’t work out on the traditional front, but I continued working on my craft, writing stories I never planned on sharing with anyone until I decided to self-publish my debut novel, Escape from Harrizel, in 2013. Once I realized I didn’t need a traditional publisher—that I could do it myself—I started self-publishing and haven’t looked back.
Q: What is your writing process like?
A: I start with an idea. Normally, it’s a scene. Just one scene that I really want to read. The entire story grows around it, and I end up discovering so much about what I’m writing as I go through the first draft. Once I have a better idea, I write a loose outline broken up by chapters, fully aware that my characters might change their mind at any time. Usually they don’t after I outline, but in that first draft…I have no idea what’s happening and it’s amazing.
Q: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
A: I have a very attention-hungry husband and two dogs just like him. In the blocks of space where I’m not writing, I’m usually with one of them, playing fetch, giving neck scratches, or bantering over the most ridiculous issues. In general though, I love traveling and trying new experiences—except anything to do with heights as I’ve recently come to realize.
Q: How do you celebrate when you are finished writing a book?
A: I start the next book! Honestly, there is no real celebrating other than the internal excitement that the story is done. Not just because I’m done with it, but because I’m able to offer it to the world. Sometimes though I will go out for dinner with the hubs and order two Angry Orchards instead of one. I am quite the rebel.
Q: How do you celebrate when your books are released?
A: I’m honestly not sure I celebrate. I think I just kind of pat myself on the back and keep going. I think the celebrating part comes when people actually buy the book—looking at you readers 😉
Q: Can you tell me how the book/series came about?
A: Oh, boy. For the better part of a year, I was working on another book (the first of the main series – this is the first novella of the companion series) and I caught the movie Leap Year when I was visiting family. I absolutely loved the enemies-to-lovers feel and decided to write one or two small scenes to scratch that itch. The scenes evolved into a short story, and once I went through one full draft, I realized what I was writing – the Robin story.
Without giving too much away (although I already might’ve), my husband is a huge DC fan. When I say huge, I mean I’ve been forced to watch every Batman film, cartoon series, the documentaries. Everything. You name it—I’ve seen it. I know the villains and back-stories and more than I ever thought I would about the universe. It’s also why I refer to my husband online as “Batman” – his request. With all this said, In The Moment Before, along with the main series, is inspired by the DC universe and its vigilante superheroes.
Q: Are any of your characters similar to real-life friends or family?
A: In this one? Not really. A little of my witty/sassy personality may make an appearance, but mostly…nope. These are brand-spanking new characters for me.
Q: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
A: I’ve been told I write very realistic fiction. I guess the most difficult part was writing a slightly-asshole male hero who the reader would 1) actually like and 2) keep consistent throughout the story as he gets closer to the heroine. It’s a fine line to write, but I hope I did my characters justice! Just when I get angry at him for doing something, he sweeps in with a swoon-worthy action or comment, which also needed to remain realistic.
Q: What part of writing this book was the most fun for you?
A: The banter. I love writing enemies-to-lovers banter. The spicy scenes were also fun 😊
Q: What Authors or other Books have inspired you to write this book?
A: I’ve always been a fan of Jennifer Armentrout, Rainbow Rowell, and JR Ward. I feel like they all tell such wonderful romance stories that always felt very authentic.
Q: What is your favorite passage from this book?
“You said none of it was true.” I tighten my arms over my chest, leaning against the wall, hoping it supports me because this is about to get tough. “That people were spreading lies.”
“They are lies. We’re not dating.”
It’s like I’ve been punched. I know what he’s saying is true, but to hear it from him…and like that…doesn’t make it feel any better.
“You…didn’t think we were, did you?” He pops a brow, sliding his hands out of his pockets as he stands firmly in front of me, his olive hoodie unzipped. Surprise and confusion and something else brew behind his eyes, like he’s adjusting with new information.
Can’t show him I’m hurt.
I press my shoulders back, trying to project the confidence and strength I need. “That would mean I stopped hating you—and I haven’t.”
Pain flickers but disappears a moment later. He sinks his hands back in his pockets, rolling on the balls of his feet again. “You still hate me?”
“Well, it’s only physical between us, right?”
“That’s…what I want to talk about.”
“We really should…stop.”
“Yeah?” I ask, tightening my crossed arms further. “And why should I believe anything you say? Last time you said it was a mistake, and you’ve only come on stronger since.”
“I know.” He rubs the back of his neck. “It’s my fault.”
I drop my arms. Is he being serious this time? Does he really want to stop this? Why is that thought agonizing?
“It’s not fair to you.”
My chest constricts, and I can’t believe the words as they tumble out of my mouth. “So, you don’t want to…anymore?”
He glances away. He takes a deep breath like he’s still considering everything. “Probably not smart. We’re enemies, Robin. We had some fun, but—”
“Fine. Get out.”
He stares at me. “What?”
“If we’re enemies, get out.”
“You’re seriously kicking me out?”
“If you’re telling me this has all been a mistake—”
“I didn’t say that. I said it’s not smart.”
“That’s the same thing.”
“No, the fuck it isn’t.” He steps forward, raising his voice a little. “I don’t regret anything, okay? But I also don’t think it’s smart. I don’t do the girlfriend thing and keeping this strictly physical isn’t going to work. And, on top of everything, it’s you—”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
He huffs. “It doesn’t make it any easier.”
I push off from the wall and pace in a small circle, everything inside boiling. “So, what, we just pretend none of it happened?” I ask, secretly hoping he disagrees.
This hurts more than I expected it to. Part of me wants to cry, and I hate that he makes me feel this way, that he’s able to hurt me like this. I stare at him, anger still fueling my words and actions. And maybe it’s the anger that makes me brave enough to ask what I’ve been wondering this entire time. “If we’re enemies, why did you even kiss me?”
He stares back a moment, his face softening. He’s had the answer ready all along; he
just didn’t want to admit it. “I was tired of wondering what it would be like.”
Q: If you could meet any of your characters, who would it be and what would you say to them?
A: Hands down Grayson. And I would tell him to take me to his truck…