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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