Things are about to heat up!!!!!

September 27, 2009 at 4:24 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

Things are about to heat up!  I hope that you are all enjoying my book, Choices.  And I hope that you check out my Club X Series from Whiskey Creek Press Torrid.  You can find it at http://www.whiskeycreekpress.com/torrid/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=140&zenid=a64e746a975c7849244b1e2d4349accf

 

Chapter 2

After a stop at the grocery store, Jackson drove the fifteen miles to his mother’s cabin on the river.  The entrance was well-secluded by trees.  He turned the jeep onto the steep hill of the dirt road following it around a field of corn.  One thing you could count on in Indiana, he thought with a smile, corn fields.  It was the local staple.  Many times as a kid, corn fields had been the perfect hiding place when he wasn’t ready to come home despite his mother’s reminders that it wasn’t their property.   Only children had the purity of mind to see open land instead of property lines. 

He parked the jeep in front of the cabin sliding out to walk around to the back.  After retrieving his bags from the trunk, he made his way to the front porch.  The soothing sounds of flowing water and birds chirping made him smile.  An animal’s paradise.  He climbed the five steps to the front door.  After living in Florida for the past twelve years, where change was expected, he wasn’t quite ready for the similarities to the days of his youth. 

The cabin was fairly small with wooden paneling on the outside.  Blue shutters still adorned the windows reminding him of the long hours it took to paint them.  Now, the paint was chipped and peeling.  He grimaced.  His mother had needed him more than she would ever admit.  And, for his own selfish reasons, he had left her here to fend for herself.

He shook himself mentally pushing through the door.  There would be plenty of time for guilt later.  He stepped inside, completely unprepared for the familiar scents that washed over him.  Standing in the middle of his mother’s house, he felt her presence all around him. 

A patchwork quilt covered the back of the small brown couch, which sat to his left.  A blue recliner accompanied by a wooden coffee table sat in front.  The big screen television on his right was the only obvious display of wealth in the house.  His mother had never been one for glitz. 

He remembered the first time she visited him in his condo with its sleek black lacquer tables and leather couches.  She had shaken her head in disdain saying the place didn’t feel like a home.  She had told him it needed a woman’s touch.  He had laughed at her suggestion. 

A woman! 

That was the last thing he needed.

His long strides brought him to the small walk-in kitchen, and he set the bags down on the bar.  He put everything away trying desperately to focus on the task at hand rather than face the brutal reality.  Standing here in her house, surrounded by her things, was a stark reminder that she was really gone.  She wouldn’t be walking through the front door.  Pain sliced through his chest at the thought that he would never see her again. 

He tried to busy himself with getting everything settled, before taking a seat on the couch.  Letting his head fall back on the cushion, he popped open a beer, silently wishing that he had bought something stronger.  When he brought it to his mouth, he lifted his gaze and saw it. 

Jesus! 

A portrait of Jesus hung on the wood paneled wall staring down at him.  The picture had been a legacy from his grandmother.  It had been placed strategically in her house to overlook the candy dish she set out.  He would never forget the way the eyes seemed to follow him around the room.  Even now, it still made him uncomfortable. 

His past was all around him. 

And if he wasn’t careful, it would consume him. 

After four beers and a lot of Andy Griffith reruns, sleep thankfully took over.  When he woke up the next morning sprawled out on the couch, he was instantly sorry that he had not taken the time to go to bed.   He winced as he got to his feet, his back aching.  Walking into the small bathroom, he flipped on the water in the shower and turned to take a look at himself in the vanity mirror.

His bloodshot eyes said it all.  Shedding his clothes, he stepped into the shower only to groan loudly at the cold rush.  He should have remembered that well water never quite warmed as quickly as city water.  By the time it got hot, he was done and already pulling a towel around his hips.  A car engine purred in the distance, and he slid the curtains on the bathroom window aside.  A silver Mercedes was pulling in next to his jeep.  

Shit! 

The last thing he needed was visitors, especially visitors who arrived in a Mercedes.  He hastily made his way to the bedroom to grab a pair of jeans as he heard the first knock.  His hair still wet, chest bare, he crossed the room to open the door.  He blinked, as if that might clear the vision from his eyes. 

But it didn’t. 

She was really here. 

“Hello, Jackson.” 

Jackson stared at the woman who had destroyed his life years ago.  Her auburn hair cascaded over her shoulders in loose curls.  Memories of that hair spreading across his chest made his jaw clench.  Hazel eyes held flecks of gold, and her cheeks were perfectly highlighted with blush.  Her full lips were a shade too dark for his taste, and her high collared pink polo shirt could not hide the gentle swell of her breasts.  The dip of her waist made his hands burn with the need to span its length. 

What kind of changes would he find if he stripped her down right now? 

If he bared her? 

Despite her traitorous heart, she was and always would be a vision of perfection.  He hated her for that.  Hated her for the ache she could still create in him.  He felt his manhood stir and hated her even more for the reaction.

So, he did the only thing he could do.

He fought back.

“Still slumming after all these years?” he bit out gritting his teeth. 

Her hands closed into tight fists at her side.  “I came to pay my condolences.”

He let out a crude snort as he walked back into the house leaving the front door wide open. 

Realizing that it was the best invitation she was going to get, she walked in closing the door behind her.  She wasn’t exactly sure why she had come.  She’d told herself that she only wanted to pay her respects, but a part of her knew it was a lie. 

All morning she coached herself for a backlash, a tirade of verbal abuse.  But nothing prepared her for his current state of undress.  Whoever said Jackson Hart looked good was clearly insane.  He looked amazing.  His black hair fell into curls around his face, still wet from the shower she had obviously disturbed.  Green eyes widened at her presence causing the faint lines around them to pull tight.   His chest was bare, muscles glistening in the light.  A ring of hair circled each taut nipple reminding her of how it used to tickle her lips.  A thin line of hair seemed to form a path into the wasteband of his jeans.  Her body burned at the memory of feeling him covering her.       

Dear God, why was he still able to affect her like this?

When he came back into the room, he had thankfully pulled on a white cotton t-shirt.  She breathed in a sigh of relief as she allowed herself to glance around the room.  It had been years since she had been in the house, but oddly it remained just as she remembered.

“So?” he prompted brusquely.

Mallory took a deep breath.  “I’m sorry about your mother.  I liked her.  She was a kind woman,” she observed softly.

He glared at her, his continued silence adding to her unease.  Realizing that if she was waiting for help she was doing so in vain, she continued. 

“I wasn’t sure you would come back.”  She hadn’t meant to voice it allowed, but before she could think of something else, it was out there.

“I’m not cold-blooded like you.”

She supposed she deserved that, but it still cut deep.  Her gaze rose to meet his.  His anger was almost palpable and she had to muster all of her strength to face it. 

“I wasn’t sure if you would want me at the funeral,” she corrected.

He ran a hand through his damp hair.  “What I wanted never seemed to matter too much to you.”

His fierce look was almost her undoing, but she was determined to remain strong. 

“It matters now,” she replied firmly.

He rolled his eyes letting out a disgruntled groan.  “I don’t care what you do, Mallory.  Your actions haven’t concerned me for a long time.”

The finality of the statement didn’t shock her.  She had expected as much after what she had done.  Still, she couldn’t help but feel intense pain at the verbalization.  “Well, if you need anything…” she said trailing off turning to leave.

He let out a harsh chuckle at the mere notion of calling her for help.  

“So, how are things with Derrick?  Everything you’d hoped it would be?” 

When she faced him, guilt clouded her features.  “Oh, I guess you haven’t heard.  We’re divorced.”

He whistled and his eyebrows arched.  “I’ll bet daddy had a field day with that one,” he remarked, his voice laced with sarcasm.

“Yes, well,” she replied.

“So, what now?  Who’s next on the chopping block?”

“What?”

“Who’s the next victim?”

She knew what he was doing. 

But she refused to let him get the rise he was so desparately searching for. 

“I don’t have any victims,” she denied. 

“That’s not how I remember it.  I remember quite a few casualties along the way.”

“You seemed to have done okay for yourself,” she countered.

“Would you be here if I hadn’t?”

The contempt in his eyes was too much, and she was forced to look away.  “People change,” she answered evenly.

“Not you.”

She tried to tell herself that he was just lashing out because of his recent loss.  She tried to tell herself that coming to his house to pay her condolences and calling him an ass at the same time would defeat the purpose. But the truth was that she was getting closer and closer to not caring. 

“I should go.”  

When she reached out to grab the doorknob, she heard him say, “Never could stand a fair fight, could you?”

Damn him! 

She spun around to face him.  “Jackson, I am trying very hard to remember that you are in a lot of pain right now,” she said, having been pushed way beyond her limits.  She refused to stand here all day and let Jackson Hart degrade her.  She had been walked on for too many years, not to push back.

“The last person I need pity from is you, Mallory,” he bit out furiously.

She shook her head, closing her eyes as she took a deep breath.  “I just came to pay my respects, Jackson.  That’s all.  Think of me what you will.  You always have.”

With that, she left.

She didn’t want to hear any more, didn’t want to face any more of the anger she had seen in his eyes.  As she drove back to town, she realized she was a fool to think they could actually be civil to each other.  Too much had happened between them to be forgiven. 

They were sworn enemies now. 

But it hadn’t always been that way. 

 

Fifteen years ago

Derrick sat beside her at the table, his friends clamoring around him to discuss the latest football game.  She rolled her eyes. 

Why had she agreed to the date?

The answer came to her with glaring clarity. 

Because her father had insisted.

Derrick was a star quarterback for the Princeton Lions, and his parents had money.  All of the makings for a wonderful relationship, or so her father thought.  In truth, she wasn’t the least bit attracted to him. 

Not that he wasn’t handsome.  Even with her sitting next to him, all of the girls were making eyes at him.  With his blond hair feathered perfectly and his flawless smile, almost any girl in town was his for the taking—except Mallory.  His athletically toned body did nothing to set her heart a flutter.  Instead, he had the opposite effect on her.  Her main complaint with him lately was that he was mind-numbingly boring.  If she had to listen to the story of how he won the big game one more time, she thought she would puke. 

Tonight, he had convinced her to come with him, but she refused to let him drive.  Finally, after a lot of hesitation on his part, they agreed to meet at the dance.  He had been waiting for her at the entrance wanting everyone to know that they were together.  She wished she could share his enthusiasm.  Giving him a quick sidelong glance, she realized he was still droning on about the local coach refusing to let him call all of the shots.

In all the time she had been here, he hadn’t asked her to dance once.  It was no surprise, though.  Derrick wasn’t the best host, and he definitely wasn’t solicitous of anyone’s needs except his own.  She quickly made a hushed excuse about a headache leaving him to stare after her as she made her exit.

She was halfway home when the engine on her BMW began to smoke. 

Great!

The perfect end to the perfect night. 

She quickly got out walking around to the front.  She wasn’t sure why she bothered.  She didn’t know a thing about engines.  A dark cloud poured out from under the hood causing her to cough loudly.  Waving her hands through the air briskly, she tried to swat it away.  Glancing back and forth down the quiet country road, her arms gathering around her middle.

Suddenly, she heard the sound of a motor in the distance.  She mumbled a prayer of thanks for the stroke of luck.  Maybe she wouldn’t be stuck out here all night, after all.  As the sound came closer, she realized that it wasn’t a car.  It was a motorcycle. 

Wonderful.

 It was just what she needed to ruin her dress.

She watched him pull up behind her car, easing the kickstand down as he killed the motor.  “It looks like you could use some help,” he said.

“Yes, please.  Smoke just started pouring out.”

As he walked around to look under the hood, Mallory took a moment to check him out.  Jackson Hart was what her father would say was “the wrong type of boy.”  She had heard the other girls talking about him.  Leah thought he was the hottest boy in school.  Staring at him, Mallory had to admit that she could see why.  His faded jeans hung low on his hips.  His black hair was neatly trimmed.  His worn leather jacket stretched over his arms as he reached under the hood. 

He turned to face her, wiping his hands on his jeans.  “Your radiator is bone dry.  You’ll have to add some water before you can get it out of here.”

Mallory’s gaze focused on the fullness of his lips and she couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like to kiss him.  “Okay,” she stammered.

He looked around for a moment, before offering, “I could take you home.”

“That would be great.”

When they reached his bike, he held out a hand to help her get on.  She took it, trying to ignore the erratic beat of her heart as she climbed onto the seat awkwardly.  He sat down in front of her, revving the engine.

“Hold on,” he instructed.

And she did.

 

Present Day

Mallory tried to hold back the tears as she drove home.  If she had known all those years ago how things would end, would she have ever gotten involved with him?   Her fingers tightened around the steering wheel as she realized she already knew the answer.  Her love for Jackson had been a fire that had consumed her.  And despite the way it ended, she wouldn’t give up the memory.

That kind of love was only meant for the young. 

Only they had the strength to sustain themselves when it burned out. 

All that was left now was pain and anger.  She had seen it in his eyes.

But would he still hate her if he knew the truth?

Stay Tuned for more of Choices…

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Check out my new blog book! Free Read!!!!

September 20, 2009 at 6:00 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

I’ve been a little lax on posting lately, I know.  It has been a busy summer.  I’ve got a new book coming out on October 1st called The One Nighter.  Some of you might remember it! 

I’m starting a new blog book just for YOU!  Each week I will post a new excerpt 🙂  Choices is about a young love lost, and the hope that things will be made right.  Jackson and Mallory are two of my favorite characters.  I hope you love them as much as I do!

Choices

By Shauna Hart

Excerpt 1

 

Princeton, Indiana 

 

Why the hell had he come back?

His mother was gone.  Facing the town where he grew up would not bring her back.  He glanced up at the green sign as he merged onto US41.  It read, 3 Miles to Princeton.   His jaw clenched.  The decision to fly into Indianapolis instead of Evansville was no fluke.  He thought the three hour drive would give him time to get his head together.  He wasn’t ready to face things.  He needed more time.  Burying his mother would be one of the hardest things he ever had to do. 

But there was another reason that he didn’t want to come back to Princeton. 

Her. 

Fifteen years had passed since he left, and in all that time he had never looked back.  The memories were too painful.  Staying away was an last ditch effort at self-preservation.  But staying away hadn’t lessened the pain or the knowledge that the one person he trusted the most was the one who struck the cruelest blow. 

He wasn’t going to kid himself that people like her changed.  Even if she had, the memory of what she had done would never leave him.  For years after she betrayed him, he couldn’t get her out of his mind no matter how he tried.  The rose colored glasses had been smashed a long time ago.   He had spent half his life trying to make something of himself, trying to prove that she had been wrong to throw him away.  When he made the New York Times Bestseller List as a novelist, he had even thanked her for being such a calculated bitch.

            But things were different now.  He wasn’t some low class boy she could push around.  He was a successful author whose last book sold thousands of copies.

            Even now, as much as he wanted to rub his success in her face, he didn’t want to see her.  Seeing her would only make him remember what a fool he had once been.  When he thought about how he had fallen for her lies, it made him sick.  He had never let a woman get that close again.  Sure, he dated, but he had never let any of them mean something.  It was too dangerous.  He had learned that lesson the hard way.

            He slowly maneuvered his car around the old town square. So much had changed, but so much remained the same.  The City Hall building still sat proudly in the center looming down over all the inhabitants of the town.  He could remember coming to see Santa Claus here.  Perched on the steps, he would hand out candy canes to the children.  Did they still do it each year?  An Asian restaurant had replaced the old Five and Dime store where he spent many allowances on toys and bubblegum.  Like people, places changed, even when we aren’t ready for them to.

            Finally, he turned onto Prince Street looking at all of the historic houses that lined the road.  Tree branches created a canopy that filtered the glare of sunlight.  He passed Colvin’s funeral home taking a deep breath.  His mother lay inside waiting for him to make decisions he wasn’t ready to face.  He had seen her through the years, but he had never once come home.  His mother was the only thing that had kept him sane, the only person who refused to allow him to give up. 

            She had saved him from himself.

            Her death had been sudden.  No time for last words.  No time for goodbyes.  He had spoken to her on the phone on Sunday.  She sounded fine, healthy.  By Monday night, she was gone.  Heart attack, the doctor said.  She hadn’t even made it to the hospital.  Pain speared through him at the cruel twist of fate.  His mother, who had given him everything, had died alone.  His hands gripped the steering wheel tighter.

            Colvin’s could wait. 

            For now, he needed to eat.  He eased his car into the back parking lot of Dick Clark’s Family Restaurant.  It was the one thing that never changed in this town, and it was beginning to be the last lone holdout to a time most had forgotten.  He walked around the side of the building looking at the carefully manicured trees that replaced the cement where many had carved their initials.  He smiled when he saw that the pickup window on the outside was still there.  Many nights he had come here with his friends to get ice cream.  He glanced at the side parking lot in front remembering the first time he brought her here.

            But getting mired down in his past, especially the part that involved her would not do him any good.  He took the few steps up to the entrance and walked inside.  He slid into a booth beside the waitresses’ station.  His mother had waited tables here for years.  He could remember many summer days when they ate lunch together on her break.  The place had definitely changed since then.  The jukebox that had once been a fixture was gone.  The red booths were now black.  And the black and white checkerboard floor had been replaced with carpet. 

            Yes, things changed.

            A young waitress who couldn’t have been more than twenty walked over to take his order.  Her blond ponytail bounced around her shoulders as she grabbed the pad from her apron.  “Can I get you something to drink?” she asked, her eyes studying him curiously.

            “I’ll have a cherry coke,” he replied, his eyes still scanning the room.

            When she returned with his drink and a menu, she leaned over to place her hand on the edge of the table.  “You new around here?” she inquired, her eyes searching his.

            He couldn’t stop the grin that came from the necessary small town intrusion of privacy.  “Not exactly.  I used to live here a long time ago,” he answered.

            “You look familiar.  Have we met before?” she observed quickly.

            He chuckled.  Probably because my picture is on the back of thousands of books, he wanted to say but didn’t.  He wasn’t ready to let people know he was back yet, and word traveled fast in a town as small as Princeton. 

“I think I would have remembered you,” he chided.

            He opened the menu to signify that the conversation was over, but the girl did not take the hint. 

“I know who you are!  You’re that writer!  Jackson Hart!” 

He did his best to put on a good publicity smile before turning to her and nodding.  “Oh my God!  You’re like famous!” she exclaimed.

            The girl’s exuberance was beginning to draw stares from the other people in the restaurant.  “Not really.  I’ve just been lucky,” he responded humbly.

            She scooted into the booth to sit across from him, her job apparently forgotten.  “My name’s Ellie.  How do you come up with all that stuff?  I mean, I can barely write my term papers!”

            He chuckled.  “It’s nice to meet you Ellie.  You know, I think I’m going to have a breaded tenderloin sandwich.  I haven’t had one in ages.”

            She laughed a little nervously, as she jerkily wrote down his order.  “Oh, sure.  I’m sorry, it’s just that I’ve never met anyone who actually got out of this town and did something with their life.”

            Guilt made him sigh heavily.  He leaned back in the seat to look up at her, her brown eyes downcast.  He understood how she felt.  One day, not so long ago, he had walked in her shoes. 

            When she started to walk away, he called to her.  “It’s me that should be sorry.  I had a long flight.  And I’m just a little tired.”

            Her face brightened instantly.  “Don’t worry about it.  I understand.  I’ll put your order in right now.  You’re probably starving.”

            He watched her shuffle over to the kitchen.  At least he wouldn’t have that on his conscience.  Being here was harder than he thought.  The familiar smells invaded his senses reminding him of moments he wanted to forget.  It always amazed him how a drift of perfume could transport a person so effortlessly back to their past, to memories they wished to leave behind.  At the moment, he needed an air purifier they were so strong.

            After answering a million questions, leaving a big tip, and successfully lightening Ellie’s spirits, he walked out to the parking lot.  He sighed heavily.  He wouldn’t be here long, only long enough to pack everything and sell the house.  He might not even see her.  But when he reached the jeep, a sense of foreboding told him it wasn’t going to be that easy.  He looked around taking a deep breath.   

This would definitely go down in history as the longest week of his life.

           

            “Did I tell you that Jackson Hart is back in town?”

            The question made Mallory Westfall’s fork stop in midair between her plate and her mouth.  “What?”

            Leah Clark stifled a laugh as she nodded.  “That’s what Ginny Thomas said.  She saw him walking in to Dick Clark’s earlier,” she said leaning in further.  “And from what I heard, he’s looking better than ever.” 

            Mallory didn’t doubt that for a moment. 

Jackson Hart had always looked good—too good. 

Fifteen years had passed since she’d last seen him, fifteen long years.  She wondered if he had changed.  Just thinking of his face made her ache in places she thought dead.  She had seen the announcement in the paper that his mother passed away.  Losing a parent wasn’t easy.  She ought to know. 

            Fifteen years.

Fifteen years and he had never come back. 

After what she had done, she couldn’t blame him.  All these years she had tried to forget him, tried to ignore the articles in magazines and the interviews on television.  Remembering was too hard.  The look in his eyes the last time she saw him still haunted her.  

Pain. 

Anger. 

It had all been there. 

She shifted in her chair under Leah’s knowing glance.  Not many people knew how serious her relationship with Jackson had been.  Most people thought they were barely acquaintances.  Only Leah knew the truth.  That her feelings for Jackson had been real.  Leah had been her best friend for as long as she could remember, and she knew her too well.  In most cases, that fact was a blessing, but in the case of Jackson Hart it was a curse. 

            “That’s interesting,” she replied, trying to sound as nonchalant as she possibly could.  The sparse salad that was supposed to be lunch blurred before her.  So much pain had been caused by the choices she had made. 

            Jackson was just one of the casualties.

            Leah’s eyes narrowed as she continued.  “Isn’t it?  I wonder if he’ll stay in town.”

            The thought made Mallory’s body tense.  He couldn’t stay in town.  He just couldn’t.  If he did, her little house of cards would fall.  “Surely, he won’t,” she said as much to herself as to Leah.

            “Don’t look now, but it’s your favorite person,” Leah muttered sarcastically, her eyes fixed on the door.

            Mallory slowly turned to see Darcy Sampson stroll through the entrance, her blond curls bouncing around her shoulders.  Tight jeans hugged the curve of her hips.   The scoop neck of her pink sweater revealed far too much of her ample bosom for appropriate company.  Their gazes met and hung briefly before Mallory turned back to face Leah.

            A year ago, her husband Derrick had announced after almost fifteen years of marriage that he was leaving her for Darcy.  She had heard whispers for a while that the two had been having an affair, but refused to believe them.  Burying her head in the sand was a trait she had picked up long ago.  But when Derrick asked for a divorce, hiding was no longer an option.  After six months of battling with each other in court, they had finally put an end to the farce that was their marriage.  The only victim in the fight was her son, Jacob.  Mallory couldn’t help but notice that the other people in the restaurant were staring and beginning to whisper. 

            The affair and subsequent divorce had been the town’s hottest gossip, and a year later it still had not died down completely.  If she hadn’t had the store, she wasn’t sure she would’ve survived it.  It had been her father’s idea originally.  He told her that she needed to find something that excited her, something she could do with her life.  That was an understatement.  She hadn’t been truly excited in years.  However, the small used bookstore, appropriately named The Bookworm, did provide the distraction she needed to get through most days.

            “Do you want to get out of here?”  Leah asked, her features laced with concern.

             Mallory glanced around the small restaurant counting the curious stares she was receiving.  “No,” she replied with a sigh.  “It would only feed the frenzy.”

            “How is Jacob doing?”

            “Stoic, as always.  I never know what he’s thinking.  He says he’s fine, but he won’t talk about his father.  I don’t know if he will ever forgive him.”

            Leah sneered.  “And, why should he?  Derrick Lange doesn’t deserve forgiveness from anyone after what he did.”

            It was the ready response from everyone she was close to, but deep down she knew the truth.  Derrick wasn’t the only person at fault for the dissolution of their marriage.  After the anger and shame subsided, she had spent a lot of time learning to face that. From the beginning, things between them hadn’t been right.  She had only married him at her father’s insistence, and she spent years regretting her decision. 

            For a while, she tried to make it work, thinking that she would come to love him.  At times, she had even convinced herself that she did.  But she never really had.  He had eventually seen through her charade, and he had never forgiven her for it.  In the end, she had suffered more from the embarrassment he caused, than from his absence. 

Only one man had ever been able to arouse intense feelings in her well-guarded heart. 

Now, he was back. 

She only hoped she was strong enough to face him and the choices she made.

Stay Tuned for more of Choices…

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