Thanks to the AWESOME readers who’ve bought my books over the last year, today I’m mailing off another check for $5,000 to Whale Camp. Guys, I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to help out needy kids who want to attend this amazing summer camp. If you haven’t looked at Whale Camp’s web page, you should. Especially if you have kids of your own who might be interested in learning more about whales in their natural environment. This organization was recently featured as one of MSN Money.com’s ten summer camps worth the money. How cool is that?
I sent Whale Camp $5,000 back in January, so today’s donation will bring the grand total to $10,000. Ten THOUSAND DOLLARS! All because of YOU.
From the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of the whales and the 20+ kids who will benefit from this money, THANK YOU. I’m absolutely giddy. :-)
Many of you know I’ve been at this writing game for almost 5 years now, and it’s been a *real* challenge. I was rejected by gobs of agents and editors. I’ve struggled to find my place in this fickle publishing world and had moderate success with the JUST BREATHE Trilogy (my babies–forever and ever. I love those book SO much), but I haven’t been able to really break through yet.
I’ve *finally* found an audience with my new erotica book STRINGS. As of this moment, it’s ranked 159 in the Kindle store. 159! Out of all the Kindle books out there! *I* didn’t do this. YOU did. Those who’ve bought, read, reviewed, and pimped are the ones who earned this success, not me. I’m truly overwhelmed. I can’t sleep. I’m nervous. I’m totally freaking out.
I’m also a dreamer. I’d LOVE to break into the top 100 with this crazy book. If you’re willing to help some more by pimping the buy link, writing a review, or telling your friends about the book, I’d be eternally grateful.
Today’s the day that will make or break this book. The momentum is there. Will the tide keep rolling? I’m crossing my fingers!
THANK YOU for supporting me and my trashy romance. :-)
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/12xqfiM
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/strings-kendall-grey/1115160266
On the night of February 10th, Matthew Corn left his house for a short motorcycle ride. That was the last time his wife and three children saw him alive. On the morning of February 11th, Matt’s body was found a quarter mile from home by friends of the family. That day knocked the breath out of the community, broke the hearts of his friends, and wounded the souls of his family.
Matt was not just a name to me; he was my husband’s close friend, my friend. My husband is the god father to Matt’s daughter—who is only one year old. Matt has played with my daughter, chased her around my living room, and admired her toys with her. I knew him as someone that would drop everything to help someone and a father that would do anything for his family. That dark Monday, the sky poured water over the grieving family, as if to weep along with them. It was such a painful, shocking thing to happen, and for most it seemed utterly unbelievable.
As I watched the family try to digest this horrible reality, I was struck by the need to do something, anything to help. The road ahead of them is going to be difficult and I wanted to help smooth it out. After talking with some of my friends, the idea of raising money was brought up. But how? After brainstorming, we decided to do an auction of signed books. That’s where you come in.
The website, www.forthecornfamily.us has been set up in their honor. Here we will have ‘lots’ of books for readers to bid on. I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity and willingness to help among the author and blogger community. Over thirty authors have donated books and/or audio books for the auction. Many of these authors are household names; authors that are New York Times and USA Today Bestsellers. It is our hope that we will be able to raise money for this family for the difficult times ahead.
The auction for the Corn Family will begin on February 22nd and will end on March 15th at Midnight. The website should be complete and ready for people to look over by Thursday morning. The highest bidder will win and have a set number of days to send the money, before we move on to the next bidder.
There will be a donate button linked with Paypal for those people that want to donate but aren’t interested in bidding. Here is a list of participating authors:
INHALE and EXHALE are included in Lot #4. All the books in this auction are signed paperbacks. Please check out the web site and spread the word so we can help this family!
Thanks to EVERYONE who helped out with the JUST BREATHE Blog Tour, especially the lovely Mirely at Rumor Has It for organizing this monstrosity of AWESOMENESS. You can view the list of bloggers who participated here. Check out their stops and say hello if you haven’t already. There’s all kinds of goodness waiting to be devoured on these blogs.
I’m guessing if you’re here, you’re wondering whether you won either the Cetacean Research Network care package or the Kindle Fire HD (or $199 PayPal transfer). I won’t keep you waiting.
The CRN care package contains a Cetacean Research Network T-shirt; CRN tote bag; signed INHALE, EXHALE, JUST BREATHE, STIFLE, LETTING GO, DIRTY, and VEXXED post cards; a special edition INHALE USB drive (includes ARC of the book, my whale video, and the INHALE book trailer); a signed INHALE paperback; a signed EXHALE paperback; blue whale coffee mug; Scarlet’s Chai; Zoe’s fave brew; Sinnder’s Ginger Snaps; and Gavin and Yileen’s Tim Tams. Congratulations to…
And for the big one…The winner of an ebook of JUST BREATHE and the 16 GB Kindle HD OR $199 PayPal transfer is…
Congrats to both winners, and thanks to EVERYONE who entered these giveaways. By entering, Tweeting, and pimping, you helped increase book sales for the whales. You deserve a pat on the back. THANK YOU!
I can still see you.
Okay, I’ll ramble a few minutes while you lurk.
I had an opening today for the blog tour, so I thought I’d throw out an alternate ending for JUST BREATHE. The published ending is actually the third version. The first was totally different, as you’ll see below. The second version incorporated Zoe’s change, but I switched the order of events to maximize the impacts of Zoe’s and Gavin’s respective job decisions at the end of the book. Zoe’s transformation in version 2 happened when Lily showed up in the Dreaming on the equinox, and Jack was there to witness it. Another ending for another day perhaps. :-)
If you’re still reading, I’ll assume you’ve either finished JUST BREATHE or you’re okay with spoilers, so I’m spilling the damn beans now…
I felt that at the end of the series, Gavin and Zoe had to make some tough decisions about their jobs to prove they were willing to sacrifice the things they loved to be together. In the original ending below, Gavin quit being a Sentinel so he could sleep beside Zoe, and Zoe never turned Wæter. I envisioned the two of them living their Happily Ever After as two normal Wyldlings. It never occured to me to make Zoe a Wæter Elemental.
My editor liked the original ending, but she was a little let down. She said I’d left all sorts of clues throughout the book about Zoe becoming a Wæter, and she was disappointed at the end when it didn’t come to pass.
“Huh? What clues?” I said. Well, when I went back and looked, I damn sure had left ‘em. Must’ve been my subconscious planting seeds my active brain knew nothing about. :-)
I wasn’t flat-out opposed to turning Zoe into a Wæter, but it took me a few days to warm up to the idea. Once I did, the implications blossomed:
- I could still have Gavin and Zoe give up something to be together. In the final version, Gavin was fully prepared to relinquish his Sentinel powers for her (even though he didn’t have to in the end), and Zoe still sacrificed her “voice” to help out Lily and the Wæters. Both did something selfless, which made me super happy.
- If Zoe turned Wæter, and Gavin remained a Sentinel, I could bring them back in later books as more powerful players in the Elemental/Sentinel world I’d created — always a plus for readers when familiar characters pop up unexpectedly. ;-)
- Throughout the original version, Gavin was too much of a victim — to Fate, Scarlet, the other Sentinels. Once I decided to keep him as a Sentinel at the end, it forced me to go back through and toughen his sorry ass up. No more “Eeyore” as my editor called him. If he was gonna keep his job, he had to prove he was worthy of it from start to finish. Just the kick in the pants he (and I) needed.
- Everyone loves to see paranormal characters live “forever.” While Gavin wouldn’t go on indefinitely in his present body, he could come back in another life, which is common for Sentinels, and his current lifetime would be extended significantly.
- Zoe deserved her transformation, damn it. She’d been through so much, I decided she should get a major “prize” for all the shit she’d taken — not just in these books, but throughout her whole life, dealing with her bitch mom and triple X syndrome.
So, here’s the orginal, unedited ending of JUST BREATHE. The epilogue stayed pretty much the same except for a few Elemental references, so I’m not including it. Enjoy!
The fog of the Dreaming had lifted, replaced with yellow rays of sun, blue sky, green earth, and only a few tinges of dying red embers in the muddy ground. The fresh wash of colors elicited an air of excitement and new beginnings, but Gavin could only think about endings.
He made his way to the Sentinels’ great castle and wandered through the flagstone corridors to the chamber where the leaders waited.
Erin, Kai, Camira, Seth, Wyland, and a new face—Killara—rose from the old jarrah wood table as he entered. Gavin bowed his head to them out of respect and glanced at the only empty seat. Council leader.
“This place of honor belongs to Killara.” Gavin gestured at chair. “Not me.”
“It’s yours by right,” Killara said, but Yileen spoke the words.
“It was never mine to begin with.” Gavin ambled to the table and laid his hands on the polished wood. “I said I’d resume leadership until the council found a suitable replacement. My time here is done. If there are no objections, I abdicate my position to Killara.” He looked at each council member in turn and received five nods of approval.
Fixing his gaze on Killara, Gavin indicated the seat with an open palm. Camira beamed as her son stood slowly, walked to Gavin, and embraced him.
It was an odd but pleasant sensation, feeling Yileen’s awesome power through the conduit of someone else’s body. His mentor, but not exactly. Killara was definitely in there too. Different voice, youthful glow, no more accent, yet still Yileen.
When he stepped back, Gavin said, “If it pleases the council leader, I have a request.”
Killara smiled and sat down. “Of course.”
How to say what he needed to without sounding ungrateful? He rubbed the hard spikes of his hair and paced.
“I’ve served Wyldlings for six years as a Sentinel. During that time, I learned a lot about what it means to be a protector of humanity, a force of good for the benefit of mankind. But something happened recently that made me realize I’m not cut out for this job anymore. I fell in love.
“When the Dreaming called me to rescue Zoe a few months ago, I was broken and beaten and bitter. I’d lost a good friend to the Fyres. I blamed myself for her death. I did a lot of stupid shit as a result. But Zoe brought me back to life. She found my fractured soul and rebuilt it with the Water I’d lost. She restored my Balance and showed me how to love not only her, but myself.
“I’m not sure where our future together is heading, but I know I can’t go on without her. If I have to give up my life here in Australia to be with her, I will. She’s my music, my Water, my life—my everything.
“Because my feelings for her are in direct opposition to my job, I can no longer fulfill my responsibilities as a Sentinel. I respectfully request to be relieved of my duty to this council and to the Wyldlings.”
Killara’s brow smoothed. “This is a serious request that shouldn’t be made lightly. It can’t be undone. Are you absolutely certain?”
Yileen stared through the teenager’s eyes, like a concerned papa bird counseling his fledgling son before he leapt from the safety of the nest into the endless sky of the unknown. Gavin saw no judgment. Lots of pride. But most importantly, a willingness to let go.
Gavin inhaled a breath and released it slowly. He was ready to take that leap and risk crashing a thousand times for Zoe. “I’m certain.”
“So be it.”
The air above the center of the table trembled and inflated like a transparent balloon. The councilors glanced to one another with anxious expressions, but Killara kept his calm eyes on Gavin.
The Dreamweaver shimmied out of the disturbance, her skin a bit tighter against her fuller frame. Seemed like she’d regained some strength now that the equinox had passed and the Elements had realigned into Balance.
“Gavin Cassidy, you wish to renounce your Sentinel powers?” Her lilting voice rang like a bell, caressing his ears.
“I do.” He bowed his head.
“You understand that in order to do so, your peers will forever renounce you too?”
He gritted his teeth at thought of losing Yileen again, but his need to be with Zoe gave him the strength to reply. “I do.”
She faced Killara. “Council members, what say you?”
Everyone stood and faced him.
“I no longer acknowledge you as a Sentinel,” Wyland said and gave Gavin his back.
In turn, Seth, Erin, Kai, and Camira followed Wyland’s lead.
When only Killara was left, he met Gavin’s gaze, steady and strong. Respect, a hint of regret, and mutual love bounced between them.
“I wish you happiness in your new life,” Yileen said. “I no longer acknowledge you as a Sentinel.” He beamed a proud smile, turned away, and Gavin was alone.
“Your peers have spoken,” the Dreamweaver intoned with an unmistakable twinkle in her eye. “I hereby strip you of all Sentinel powers and privileges associated with that station.”
The colorfully painted Elemental walls of the council chamber spun in a swirl of red, yellow, green, and blue. His arms throbbed with a maddening itch as the magic Yileen had hammered into them six years ago on the night he became a Sentinel fled his skin, wafted up, and blended with the dizzying blur of the room. He closed his eyes…
…and awoke on the quiet stretch of beach where he’d left his body for the Dreaming.
He sat up and rubbed his tattoos. No tingles, burning, or other signs of life—just the original images, slightly faded with age. He tested his Dreamsense by sending it in search of Elementals. It failed him.
He smiled. “I’m free.”
The sun was heading for the horizon. He stood and checked his watch. Five o’clock.
Shit. He scrambled to the Harley, kicked the bastard wide open, and raced toward Jack’s house.
I’m coming, Zed. Please don’t leave without me.
When Gavin arrived at Jack’s fifteen minutes later, the drive was empty. No lights on inside.
He raced up to the door, flung it open, and stepped inside. “Zed?”
The place was silent. Brown boxes lined the lounge room walls. None of Jack’s stuff was here, and the computers were gone.
Double fuck. If he hurried, he might make it to the airport before her flight took off.
His heart caught in his throat as Zoe came down the hall. She paused a moment, smiled, then rushed into his open arms.
“Damn it, I thought you’d left.” He pressed his nose to her hair and breathed in the safe, flowery scent that haunted his memories.
She pulled back to look at him, tears sparkling her eyes. “I couldn’t leave without saying goodbye.”
His lungs caved in. So, she was leaving. He smoothed the blond waves falling across her shoulders and sighed. “I promised I’d take you to the airport, but before we go, there’s something I want to give you.”
Crushed by the weight of despair, he slipped his shaking hand inside the pocket of his jacket and pulled out his lucky bird. He held it out to her. “This is for you.”
Zoe’s face crinkled into a mess of anguish, and she burst into tears as he dropped the toy falcon into her palm. Bawling, she closed her eyes and curled her quaking body into his unsteady embrace.
“You have no idea, do you?” Her sobs muddled the words.
Why was she getting so worked up about the stupid bird when everything they’d built together was about to crumble to dust?
“No idea about what? Tell me, Zed.”
She wiped her eyes and stared up at him, a smile edging out the sadness. “This bird.” Holding it up, she shook her head.
“What about it?” Gavin was at a loss for words.
“Where did you get it?”
He shrugged. “I’m not sure. I’ve had it since I was a grub.”
Her racing breaths slowed. “You may not remember, but I do. When I was twelve, I came to Australia with my mother. We were walking down the street one day when a man—Yileen—stopped us. He handed me this bird.”
“What? Yileen gave it to you? Then how did I—” Shocked slammed Gavin’s head like a needle to the brain and injected it with a forgotten memory. Fucking gods. “It was you. You gave me the bird!”
She laughed and nodded.
The details came rushing back. “I was at a restaurant with my family…upset and crying about something…I saw it on your table and came over…” Warmth flooded his body. No way. “Zed, I played with the falcon for years after that. My brothers were always trying to steal it from me, but I defended it with my life. It was my most prized possession.” This was too much.
Fuck. Just, fuck.
“And now, all these years later, here it is again. This bird brought us together, Gavin.” She marveled at the wooden figure and returned her gaze to his. “I never believed in magic until I met you. How can I deny this—or you—any longer?”
He blew out a long breath. “I’m hoping you won’t. Why didn’t you tell me about the bird when we first met?”
“I was scared of what it meant. Worried that maybe Fate really did have a hand in our lives. I wasn’t willing to accept that. I believe we make our own choices, but nothing is set in stone. We have free will, and we’re allowed to change our minds.
“I’ve waited for years to get this promotion, yet I’ve felt nothing but dread since I accepted it. I knew it wasn’t right all along, but I didn’t want to admit that I let something—someone—come between me and the whales. I do want to be with you, Gavin. More than I want the job. More than I love the whales. If that means we have to sleep in separate rooms, I’ll do whatever I have to—”
“You won’t have to. I changed my mind about some things too. I’m no longer a Sentinel.” He held up his tattoos. “I liked that job, but let’s face it. I sucked at it. I’m not cut out for being a hero.”
“What? You gave up being a Sentinel for me?” Her eyes somehow widened more.
He smiled. “Are you joking? I’d give up my left nut to be with you. Anything. Besides, my job has caused us nothing but trouble. If I hadn’t been a Sentinel, we wouldn’t have had to deal with half of the bad shit that happened to us.”
“But if you hadn’t been a Sentinel, we never would have met.” She stroked his arm where whales swam and mermaids frolicked. “Aside from when I gave you this.” She held up the bird.
“True, but all the shit with Scarlet—”
“Scarlet would have come after you regardless.”
“Not being able to wake up beside you every morning—”
She smiled. “Fair enough. Do you feel different now?”
He slipped his thumbs through her belt loops and tugged her hips to his. “I’m heavy with Water, yet light as a balloon. A little empty in some places, but completely full when I look in your eyes. Regretful about the mistakes I made, yet confident I won’t repeat them. Yeah, I do feel different. But I couldn’t be happier.”
He dropped a soft kiss on her lips. Her breath rushed across his skin as she folded herself into his arms. Sentinel or not, he would treasure and protect his muse for goddamn ever. She was the missing piece that made him whole. The Water that Balanced his Fire.
The front door opened, and Adriene hobbled inside on her crutches. “Okay, love bugs, enough with the smoochy-smoochies.”
“I thought you went back to America,” Gavin said.
“Hell, no. I just ran Dani and Elizabeth to the airport. My best friend and I have new jobs with Oceania Whale Trust. I’m not going anywhere.” Adriene grinned and studied her fingernails.
Zoe tugged Adriene over and hugged her. “It took a little bit of convincing, but Adriene talked me into giving Catherine Marchand a call. Turns out, they’ve been so busy at OWT, Catherine needs a co-researcher and another assistant for their humpback whale project in Hervey Bay. It’s not a Vice President position, but I get to keep my whales and my Gavin. I suppose I can settle for that.” Zoe smiled. “Plus, I got to tell Randy to take his job and shove it. You have no idea how good that felt.”
He could only imagine. His heart swelled even bigger.
“Don’t let her fool you, Gavin. She was never going to leave you. The sex is too good.” Adriene winked and high-fived him.
Zoe swatted her ass. “Adriene wasn’t going to leave either. She’s got a thing for Mike.”
“I do not!” Adriene’s eyes nearly popped.
“Mike is made of pure, undiluted trouble,” Gavin said. He opened his arms and hugged Adriene too. He was glad Zoe had such a great friend.
“Exactly why she wants him.” Zoe grinned.
A wistful sigh snuck out of Adriene’s mouth. “That boy is a fool. A beautiful blond fool…”
Gavin shook his head. “Oh, hell. You’re fucked.”
Those two together would actually be amazing. Mike needed someone like Adriene to set him straight. And Gavin had it on good authority that the attraction was mutual.
Zoe squeezed him and Adriene, then let go and gestured to the boxes. “Jack called and said he had to leave town on emergency business, but he’s planning to come back to Oz when things settle—hopefully a couple weeks from now. I gotta admit, my dad is nothing like I expected, but I can’t imagine life without him.”
“Yeah, he’s something else.” Gavin started to say he’d check in with Jack in the Dreaming tonight, but the other realm no longer concerned him. Hell, maybe now that his powers were gone, he’d have dreams of his own again. Wouldn’t that be some shit?
But most importantly, tomorrow morning, he’d wake up in Zoe’s arms. Holy. Fuck. He couldn’t wait.
Blond hair framed his muse’s lovely face. The tear streaks were a dried up memory now. He couldn’t read her aura anymore, but happiness poured off her in great waves and rolled right into him. Her Water. Their Water.
He’d fight legions to keep her. Even as a powerless Wyldling.
The rumble of a car engine averted his attention to the window. Mike.
Adriene lifted her chin. “Looks like my ride is here. I’ll catch you two tomorrow.”
“For Chrissakes, be sure you use condoms. God knows where Mike’s been.” Gavin opened the door for her.
When she got to the threshold, Adriene faced Zoe. “You made the right decision. I love you, my girl.”
Zoe smiled. “We both did. And I love you more.”
Mike got out of the car and waved at Gavin. “Got your party hat, love?” he said to Adriene.
“Hell, yes!” She blew Zoe a kiss and hopped down the drive to the car.
Gavin shut the door and turned to his muse, who stood with hands on her hips. He sauntered to her, his cock waking up as if from a dream. “I don’t believe it.”
She slid her hands up his chest and curled them around his shoulders. “Don’t believe what?”
“We’re finally alone.” He swept some hair from her face and laid his palms on her hips. She pulled them around to her ass.
“What about it?” Zoe tugged the hem of her tee shirt up and over her head, then tossed it to the floor. Hair fanned over her arms. She unbuckled his belt.
A slow grin spread across his mouth as he unhooked her bra. He slipped it off her arms and let it fall. He plotted a line of kisses from her neck down to her breast. “When does the new job start?”
Her gorgeous blues glazed a bit as he breathed against her skin. “Two days.”
“Good. I’m gonna need at least that long to mark all these positions off my list. No interruptions. Just non-stop sex. When I’m done, no part of your body will be untouched. It’ll be the most relaxing first day on a job ever.”
“Sounds like I might need a few days to recover…” His jeans zipper creaked with calculated, agonizing slowness. She pushed everything south of his waist to the carpet. “But you will too.”
“God, I hope so.” He stepped out of the tangle of clothing, tore his shirt off and tackle-grabbed her around the waist. He hefted her up, and her legs wrapped around his arse.
“You know you’re stuck with me now, rock star,” Zoe whispered against his lips between deep, mind-blowing tongue kisses as he trudged down the hall to the bedroom.
“No place I’d rather be stuck than inside—er, with you, Dr. Morgan.”
I thought it would be easier to post all the upcoming tour dates in one place in case I don’t have Internet access while I’m away on vacation. I’ll be back on February 18 with an alternate ending for JUST BREATHE. :-)
|2.9.13||Book Loving Mom|
|Into the Night Book Reviews|
|2.10.13||Jodie Pierce’s Ink Slinger’s Blog|
|2.11.13||Delphina Reads Too Much|
|2.13.13||A Little Bit of R&R|
|Special Valentine’s Post by Gavin at TheSUBCLUBBooks|
|2.15.13||Dear Restless Reader|
|2.17.13||Delphina Reads Too Much|
Delphina was one of the first people to review INHALE, and she blew me away with her lovely comments. A seriously adore this chick! Her review of EXHALE is here. Today she hosts my vlog about Sinnder wherein I go off and gush a lot. ;-)
I’m off to Maui today for a week of whale watching with my family. I’ll have limited access to the Interwebs, email, and social networks, so if you’re looking for me and don’t get a response, I’m not being a douche and ignoring you. I’m just hanging with my whales. Pics to prove it are coming soon. :-)
High school senior Victoria “Tori” Reeve has it pretty good. She’s rich, she’s smart, and she’s popular. What more could a girl ask for? Sure, she’s a little lonely, what with being single and her best friend going off to college and all, but she’s got her work at the Spaulding Crisis Center to keep her busy. When she gets a new boss in the very easy on the eyes form of Isaac Larsen, suddenly her volunteer work feels a lot less like work. Even if he does seem to cause Tori to break out into spontaneous fits of foot in mouth disease. Somehow in spite of her blunderitis, Isaac still seems to be interested in her in a more-than-employer or even more-than-friends kind of way.
So really she should have known that things would go sideways.
Trouble comes to Spaulding, and that trouble seems to be centered on Tori and the Crisis Center. Is she really the focus? Or does this all have to do with the new mysterious man in her life? In her efforts to find out, Tori stumbles across some secrets. Skeletons that might have been better off left in the closet. As it turns out, Spaulding is a hot spot for bad blood…
As a special treat, Ginny gave me permission to share a snippet from Chapter One. Enjoy!
“Oh and that hair color! Right out of a bottle. You know it’s as fake as those perky tits her daddy bought her…” It was the last Friday night before the start of my senior year. By all rights, I should’ve been at some sketchy party in the middle of the woods getting drunk off PBR while convincing myself that letting some totally hot guy feel me up was an awesome idea. Instead, I was the same place I spent almost every other night between the hours of seven and eleven, manning the phones at the local crisis center. That was how I ended up listening to someone who sounded suspiciously like Taylor Johansson- who’s nasal voice was akin to a swarm of ticked off bees- rant about how someone who sounded suspiciously like me was purposefully trying to ruin her life. Clearly this was a crisis of epic proportions.
My eye roll was wasted on the empty office.
The truly maddening part was that after knowing her for my entire life, you would have thought I’d be used to brushing aside her idiocy, but ho-no. Instead, I was sitting here on the very last Friday of Freedom wondering why. Why would someone call a crisis hotline to complain about the size of anyone’s breasts, let alone mine? Why was she so preoccupied with the size of my breasts? Why anyone would dye their hair brown? Had the expression changed to “brunettes have more fun” when I wasn’t paying attention? When the rant reached the fifteen minute marker- and I was totally not wondering if Taylor would even notice if I set the phone down to get a cup of coffee- she heaved an exaggerated sigh.
Only, you know, it sounded more like a whir.
Because her voice was so nasal.
It wasn’t mean since it was true.
“So what are you going to do about this?”
“Do about what?” I asked dumbly, wondering what I could have possibly missed.
Another loud sigh. “What are you going to do about Victoria?” HA! I had been right, she was talking about me. Though why she spat out my name in a tone normally reserved for offensive curses, I was at a loss for.
But then, that was kind of par for the course in this trainwreck of a conversation.
“I’m afraid that I can’t do anything about her, ma’am. We’re just here to help you talk through your problems”
“Well, what the hell good does that do me?” She snapped. “Can’t you like, take care of her or something?” Like the crisis hotline was actually a volunteer organization staffed by mobsters.
“You mean like make her sleep with the fishes?” I know, I know, I shouldn’t have been encouraging her, but honestly, this entire call had become too ridiculous for words. She was using a hotline for kids who were had actual issues to plot my demise. I did stop myself short of laughing.
I do have some class.
“No, no. Don’t be stupid. If we killed her, everyone would just feel sorry for the dumb cow. No, we should like, mess with her hair dye, so her hair turns all green. Or better yet, just cut all her hair off while she’s sleeping”
“I’m sorry ma’am,” I said, massaging the bridge of my nose and wondering if she could stop acting five. I’d even say pretty please. “All I can do is help you talk through your issues. If you’d like to discuss what the real issue is with this woman,” I began, but her snarl cut me short.
“I’VE BEEN TELLING YOU THIS ENTIRE TIME. THE EVIL RICH BITCH IS PURPOSEFULLY OUT TO GET ME. SHE’S PLOTTING TO STEAL MY BOYFRIEND!! JUST TODAY HE SAID THAT I SHOULD BE MORE LIKE HER…. HE’S LEAVING ME FOR HER…” and she broke into hysterical sobs. I tried to remember the identity of the guy I was supposedly plotting to steal, but since I had no interest in any of the chuckleheads from school, I doubt it actually mattered. It mattered even less a moment later when she screeched “FORGET IT, YOU’RE NO HELP ANYWAYS” and hung up.
I had never been so happy to end a call in my entire life. I celebrated by groaning and slamming my head down on my desk.
A deep voice asking “rough night?” from behind me had me smiling into my desk. I didn’t raise my head, I didn’t have to. Another side effect of so many sevens to elevens spent here, my boss’s rumble was now part of my psyche. I could even picture what he looked like. His hair, which was always cut military short, was the same chocolate brown color of his eyes. In his mid thirties, he was 6 feet tall, and while he wasn’t muscular he had the toned body of a man who ran every day. The only thing he was more devoted to then his workout schedule was his wife. Which might just have been why so many of the teenage girls who volunteered here didn’t last longer than a week. He would be wearing a dress shirt- the sleeves rolled up and the top button unbuttoned- paired with black slacks. His wire rimmed glasses would be sitting just slightly crooked. Rick was nothing if not predictable.
I merely grunted in reply without even bothering to lift my head.
“I uh, I have something to tell you Tori.” He continued. It was strange to hear him pause since he was usually calm and confident. When I didn’t reply, he continued. “As you know, Lisha is pregnant” Rick’s wife was in their second trimester with their first child, and was just starting to show. She looked utterly adorable with a baby bump. “Now that I’m going to be a daddy, I’m going to be changing my shift here at the center. I can’t stay until midnight every night. It’s not fair to Lisha. So I’ve hired someone to cover the seven to eleven shift with you. Nice boy, going to college for pre-med, plans on becoming a shrink…” there was no way that Rick rambling meant anything good for me. I finally lifted my head from my desk and turned to look at him. His shirt cuffs were still buttoned, along with the top button of his shirt, and he was actually wearing a tie. No, this was no good at all.
“Who is it Rick?” I asked while eyeing him suspiciously.
“Well, it’s Isaac Larsen.” I couldn’t help but groan. Well this explained the caginess. The Larsens were members of an “alternative religion”, aka cult, that had a “homestead” on the edges of town. There was an unspoken arrangement between the Larsens and the town of Spaulding. You ignore us, and we’ll ignore you. It would appear that Isaac was about to break that uneasy truce.
“One of those cult freaks?” I asked and even to my own ears it sounded like whining.
“We actually prefer the term ‘alternative religion’ freak” came a disembodied voice from behind Rick. I starred at Rick in abject horror. To his credit, he attempted to look sheepish.
I shot from my chair as a man emerged from Rick’s office. Simply put, the man was stunning. He had dirty blonde hair in that ‘I just rolled out of bed’ style that was currently popular, and it perfectly framed eyes that looked remarkably like multi-faceted emeralds. They stood out even more against his ivory skin that looked like it had never even heard of a blemish. He had angular cheekbones, a strong jaw and a perfectly straight nose. His face was almost too perfect. He was taller than Rick, probably 6’1 or 6’2, and while he’d never be mistaken for a body builder, he had a muscular physique. It was as if someone had dressed a Greek statue in a suit. And his shoulders. Dear lord, even in that suit you could tell he had perfectly delicious broad shoulders. I had the most distressing desire to dig my fingers into those shoulders.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Ms. Reeve.” He extended his hand, and I hesitantly accepted. “Mr. Murphy speaks highly of you.” Because it wasn’t enough that he was- dare I say it-dreamy, there was also the not-so-small matter of his voice. Oh, his voice. His voice was like warm honey. Like being caressed. Like being wrapped in velvet. It was also entirely to blame for what happened next.
“I am so sorry.” I stammered. “You see I just got this call for a girl in my class and I’m pretty sure she was trying to get someone to, I dunno, do away with me. Pretty funny, calling a suicide hotline and asking the person on the other end of the line to commit suicide.” I broke into a nervous giggle before continuing at a breakneck pace. “It appears that I’m trying to steal her boyfriend, something about dying my hair and getting my breasts enhanced. Because obviously if I dyed my hair I’d go for the box labeled ‘mud’.”, I just couldn’t seem to stop myself. “Not to mention that with these hips, that ass, and my waist line that I seem to have misplaced you can tell that my 36Cs are a little on the small side and definitely not something I’d have wasted my trust fund on.” Thankfully I ran out of breath.
Then I realized what I had just said. Except that, no, I did not just say that. I couldn’t have. From the expression of shock on Rick’s face, I guess I had. The devilish glint in Isaac’s eyes and the smirk that graced his lips confirmed it.
Oh dear god. Please just let the earth open up and swallow me whole.
“Oh I don’t know,” he said, barely containing his laughter, “I think you look quite… proportionate”
Anytime now with that swallowing me whole thing. I covered my face with my free hand, hoping to hide the fact that I had assuredly just turned a brilliant shade of crimson. Oh lord, had I actually been shaking his hand this whole time? Yes, yes I had. When I noticed, and tried to pull my hand away, he brought it to his lips and brushed my knuckles in a kiss. It was a charming, old fashioned gesture. Which just made me feel like an even bigger idiot. The corners of his lips had turned up into a slight grin. He lifted his head slightly so that he could peak at me from under his hair and our gazes locked. For a second, his eyes seemed to turn blood red and his smile suddenly seemed ominous. Rick chose that moment to not so subtly clear his throat, reminding us that we were not alone. Isaac dropped my hand, and I carefully inspected my shoes. When I looked back up, Isaac’s eyes were back to resembling many faceted emeralds. I must’ve just imagined them being red. No one’s eyes are red.
So there we were. Stuck in an awkward silence with me once again wishing that the earth would get on with the swallowing me whole thing. Promising anything for this moment to end. In answer to my prayers, the phone rang.
“Saved by the bell.” Rick muttered while he ushered Isaac away, promising him a tour of the rest of the small office.
I took a deep breath before picking up the phone. “Spaulding Cares Crisis Hotline.” To my credit I sounded pleasant enough given the slight feeling of guilt that I had knowing that my relief came at the expense of someone mid crisis.
“I’m having quite the crisis,” came a familiar male voice, and I smiled in spite of myself. “You see, I’m in love with my best friend, but my penis is just SO LARGE that I just know that it will scare her off forever. I’m just too much man for her delicate sensibilities to handle.” He let out an exaggerated sigh.
“Hello Drew,” I said with feigned exasperation. Andrew Anderson was my oldest and closest friend, and just hearing his voice made me smile.
“Oh no, Tori, is that you?” He knew it was me, who else would be stupid enough to be here on a Friday night. He groaned, loudly. “TORI! NO, TORI! THIS IS NOT HOW I WANTED YOU TO FIND OUT!” Now he was just being a ham.
“What, that you’re in love with me? I hate to tell you, but I already knew that. You told me when you were like six, remember?”
“No, no. I mean about my,” dramatic pause, “sensitive condition.” I could hear the grin in his voice, he was loving this.
“Oh I’m sure it is quite sensitive,” I snorted, “though this does give it a whole new meaning when I ask if you took the blue pill, Mr. Anderson.” It’s unbelievable, but Matrix jokes never got old and never failed to win me a chuckle. “So how are you adjusting to dorm life?” Drew had just moved into the dorms in preparation for his freshman year at Syracuse University where he’d be studying Architecture.
“Well I found out why my father relented so easily on the whole apartment thing. It would appear that I am the only freshman on campus to be in a single dorm room. Just once I wanted to prove that I could make it on my own, but no, he just has to single me out by buying me preferential treatment.” He didn’t have to say he’d been dealing with this his entire life, we both had, and we both knew it. Our fathers were both old money and had been in the same fraternity at Harvard. It was a minor scandal that Drew hadn’t gone to Harvard. After all, he was a legacy. To be honest, I think it was the main reason he wasn’t going. As long as I was being honest I might as well admit that I was thrilled that instead of being about six hours away in Boston, he’d be less than an hour away in Syracuse. “Enough of my melodrama though, what the hell are you doing playing Mother Teresa on a Friday night?”
“What else would I be doing?” I thought back on my disastrous meeting with my new boss and shuddered. “I don’t think I quite have the social skills required for anything more glamourous. I just made a royal ass out of myself.”
“You? Get out of town.”
“I know, it’s shocking, but as hard as it is to believe, it’s the truth. My new boss is Isaac Larsen, as in the Larsens, and after calling him ‘one of those cult freaks’ while he was in hearing range, I then tried to cover my social faux pas by telling him about my hair and the size of my breasts.”
Drew actually choked. “You did what?”
“I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow night. We are still on for tomorrow night, you’re not calling to bail on me?”
“Not on your life. I was actually calling to see how insistent you were on going to a party tomorrow. I was thinking that since I ended up in a single room, I might as well make the best of it. How ’bout instead of playing a rousing game of ‘avoid the vomit,’ we order pizza and Netflix it up?”
“Well, I guess that would be alright.” I sighed and acted put out. I hated parties and Drew knew it. He was doing me a solid, but I wasn’t going to let that get in the way of pressing my advantage. “It’s going to cost you though.”
“Of course it is. Let me guess, you want to pick the movies and the pizza toppings? So we’ll be going with pepperoni and pineapple pizza and ‘Hello Dolly’ then?”
“How did you know?”
“You’ve gotten predictable in your old age, Reeve. Anyways, I should let you go so you can save the world. I’ll pick you up at six tomorrow.”
“See you at six.” I hung up feeling slightly less mortified and settled in for the last hour of my shift.
About the Author:
Ginny Lurcock lives in New Hampshire with her husband whom she adores, her daughter, whom she also adores, and their cat. Who she likes alright.
Oh, and her father, his two cats, her sister and her sister’s boyfriend.
When not writing she enjoys playing games (of the board and video variety) or reading to the point of obsession (she’s not an addict, she can quit whenever she wants), watching intelligent television, mindless television, sports, movies and listening to music.
Basically, she likes all the things.
And somehow she still manages to find the time to be bored.
Also, I forgot to post this the other day, but the hot babes at TheSUBCLUBBooks are hosting a Love Parade for Valentine’s Day. Guess who’ll be there, wooing the woman of his dreams? Yep, that sweet, sexy, hot, lip-pierced, tattooed rock star bad boy Gavin Cassidy will be featured on February 13. You won’t want to miss this. Check out the video the SUBCLUBBooks girls made to kick off the event. It’s totally fucking awesome!
I leave tomorrow for my annual whale watching trip to Maui. I’ve scheduled blog tour posts in advance because I’m not sure how reliable my Internet access will be. I’ll have limited access to Twitter, Facebook, and email via my phone. If I can logon, I will definitely post whale pics and maybe even some video. :-)