Is her past about to confront her present?

October 25, 2009 at 5:11 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

I hope that you are all enjoying Choices. Jackson is one of my favorite characters. Hopefully, you all feel the same way.

As for what I’m reading, I just finished Shiver by Maggie Stievwater! It is about werewolves. If you are a Team Jacob fan, I highly suggest that you pick it up. You will not be disappointed. Now, I am reading The Perfect Liar by Brenda Novak and I can’t put it down.

I hope you all have a great week 🙂

Chapter 6

What the hell was he doing here? 

            Jackson pulled his bike to a stop beside the outer gates of the Westfall estate.  This was a big mistake, and he knew it.  He felt like an idiot for going along with this ridiculous plot of hers.  Agreeing to meet her outside the gate was a sure sign that things were not on the up and up.  It made her plan to capture a “big surprise” all the more obvious. 

            So, why was he still here? 

Was he fueled by some perverse curiosity to see where this hatched scheme would end? 

            Definitely.

            He pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket sliding one into the crook of his mouth.  Bending over to light it, he inhaled deeply.   

            If he had any sense, he would stand her up. 

            A wicked grin took hold of his mouth at the thought of her face when she realized that she had been left waiting.  It would serve her right for coming up with such a cruel prank.  Just as he was about to leave, she appeared between the bars.  The gate squeaked as she closed it behind her, before walking over to stand beside him.  Her auburn hair was pulled in a tight ponytail.  Long legs were revealed by her pink miniskirt.  His hands twitched involuntarily with the need to travel their length.  The outline of her breasts was visible through her white shirt.  The strings to her blue bikini top peaked out of the collar.  He repositioned himself on the seat as he felt a familiar hardening. 

            “Are you ready?” she asked, her eyes bright with mischief.

            The objections he had so recently pointed out seemed to dissolve instantly.  “Yep,” he muttered, his voice sounding foreign.

            When she climbed on the seat behind him and he watched her legs slide around his, he knew it was over.  One way or another, he was going to have to see this through.  His body demanded it.  When he agreed to this, he had unwittingly become her plaything, and though he didn’t like it, he was no longer the ultimate decision-maker.  She pressed her cheek against his back, her arms folding around his middle.  He winced as he noticed the bulge in his pants was becoming more and more noticeable.  All he could do was pray that they reached the Buchman house before his precarious position became embarrassing.

            By some stroke of luck, he was able to do just that, and as they stood together on the front steps, he said a silent thank you.  He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye.  As if she could feel the weight of his stare, she turned to give him a playful wink.  The teasing smile she offered was almost his undoing.  She was way too cocky for her own good, which was probably what he found so damned attractive about her.  Behind that grin, there was no shame. 

            She was going in for the kill, and he was just along for the ride. 

            The door swung inward to reveal Teddy Buchman, a chicken leg held firmly in his hand.  Upon seeing them, his eyes widened.  His gaze traveled back and forth between them for a moment before realization set in.

            “Well, well, well!  Somehow, I don’t think you got an invitation, Hart.  What, did your bike break down?” he inquired with a derisive sneer.

            “He’s with me, Teddy,” Mallory chimed in.  She laced her arm through Jackson‘s, leaning in to press against his side.  “He’s my date.”  When she looked up at him dreamily, he knew he should have put a stop to things earlier.

            Teddy offered a crude snort.  “I sure as hell hope you know what you’re doing, Mallory.  All right, fine by me.  Come on in,” he relented, moving aside so they could enter. 

            Jackson sighed heavily.  This was going to be worse than he thought.  Up until now, he hadn’t been sure how far she would go.  But her performance just now confirmed that she was willing to go all the way.  When they stepped through the French doors onto the back porch, it appeared the party was in full swing.  Kids were jumping into the pool, splashing each other.  Some of the boys had girls on their shoulders and were deep in the middle of a chicken fight.   Most of the adults had gravitated to the side of the house, where tables were set up with red and white checkered tablecloths. 

            Several heads turned as they came out.  He felt the curious stares from the girls, and the suspicious ones from the boys.  Mallory’s meddling had assured that this was definitely going to be a day for the Princeton history books.  Jackson Hart had just invaded the nice and tidy world of the rich and he wasn’t sure any of them would ever be the same again.

            He followed Mallory over to a group of kids who were standing beside the pool.  “Hey Mallory, we didn’t think you would ever get here,”  Leah called out running over to join them.  

            Mallory tucked her arm in his causing Leah’s eyebrows to arch. 

            “So, what took you so long?” she added in a teasing voice, her gaze flicking back and forth between them.

            Mallory rolled her eyes dramatically.  “Not what you’re thinking, I’m sure,” she chided.  “Leah, have you met Jackson Hart?”

            Jackson looked down at the girl.  Her red hair was short and swung playfully around her ears.  Her bikini nearly matched her hair, but was partially covered by a damp towel wrapped tightly around her waist.  He held out a hand, which she gave a firm shake. 

“Nice to meet you,” he offered distractedly.  His eyes flickered to the group of boys who were huddled together frowning as they overtly stared at them.

            “You, too!  Mallory’s told me…”  She paused for dramatic effect.  “Almost nothing about you, so I guess you’ll have to fill in the blanks.”  At Mallory’s look of censure, she gave her a wicked grin.

            “Leah!”  Mallory scolded.

            “Well, I see my work here is done.  If you guys want a soda, there’s plenty in the cooler.  I’m going to go find Tim and see why he’s not paying enough attention to me.”  Leah walked over to the group, stopping briefly to chat before taking a seat.

            One of the boys headed their way, and Jackson tensed. 

“What are you doing here, Hart?” 

            His eyes narrowed and his chest bowed out.  Sensing the change in his demeanor, Mallory quickly intervened.  “He’s with me, David.” 

David’s blond hair was still slicked back from the pool, and his wet swim trunks were creating a puddle of water around his feet.  Jackson didn’t know David well, but he knew him well enough to know that he was nothing more than a self-centered rich kid who probably never had to work a day in his life.

            “And just what made you think you could invite him?  I mean, my parents invited you, Mallory.  Not him!”

            Jackson took a menacing step toward him, causing Mallory to put a restraining hand on his chest. 

            “You got a problem, Hart?” David yelled, as several of his friends came to stand behind him.

            “Nothing I can’t take care of right now,” he bit out.

            “Come on, Hart!  Let’s go,” David prodded, as he glanced behind him, giving his friends a satisfied nod. 

            “No!” Mallory screamed.  “Let’s just go, Jackson,” she begged, coming to stand between them as she stared imploringly at Jackson.

            “You don’t have to go, Mallory,” David explained with a sneer.  “I’m sure Hart can find his own way home.”

            He was just about to respond, when Mallory turned to David.  “If he’s not welcome here, then neither am I.”  She spun on her heel, taking Jackson by the arm and leading him out despite his obvious reluctance.

            Once they were safely on the bike and headed out to the main road, she called to him, her voice muffled by the wind.  “I don’t want to go home, yet.”

“Where do you want to go?”

“Anywhere, just not home,” she admitted.

He drove to an old abandoned barn on the outskirts of town, parking his bike out back.  After helping her off the bike, he walked over to pull open the weather-beaten door.  Watching her walk around the room, he noticed the tension in her shoulders.  He could only imagine how she felt right now.  Mallory Westfall had actually been thrown out of a party.  It wasn’t something that happened to people like her.  In truth, he was a little bewildered himself.  The scene that David Buchman caused did not surprise him in the least.  In fact, he had expected it, had been prepared for it. 

What surprised him most was her reaction. 

He had expected her to ditch him once she realized she had pushed them too far.  Instead, she had held her head high and walked out right along with him.  Her motives were still unclear.  Had she done it because she didn’t like being called out or was there another reason?  One thing he knew for sure was that he needed a cigarette—bad.  He walked over to lean against the wall pulling one out to light it. 

She fiddled with the pockets on her skirt.  “I’m sorry about what happened.  I still can’t believe that they threw us out,” she confessed, refusing to meet his eyes.

He snorted.  “Can’t you?  Isn’t that why you brought me there?  To stir the pot?”

Her eyes widened at his accusation.  Deep down, she knew he was right.  When she invited him to the barbeque, it had been in an attempt to make her father angry.  She just wanted him to realize that he couldn’t control everything she did.  She was sick and tired of him expecting her to bend to his every whim.  The fact that Jackson knew what she was up to all along, and still went with her made her feel even worse. 

Walking across the room, she took a seat on a small wooden bench that had been left behind.  “You’re right.  I’m sorry,” she admitted softly. 

He shook his head.  “Don’t sweat it.  I knew what I was getting into.”

She couldn’t help but voice the question that had been plaguing her.  “If you knew, then why did you come?”

Shrugging his shoulders, he dropped his cigarette and stamped it out with his foot.  “I don’t know.  Curiosity, maybe?  What about you?  Was it just your idea of fun to get me thrown out?  You thought you would teach me a lesson.  Try to put me in my place?”

“No,” she replied.  “No, I swear it wasn’t like that.  I admit that I wanted to make my father angry, but I never imagined they would throw us out.  I was just tired of him trying to plan my life for me.  That’s all, I swear.  I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

He pushed away from the wall.  “I guess it doesn’t matter now, does it?  Come on, I’ll take you home.”

Pain sliced through her heart.  She wasn’t sure why his opinion of her was so important, but it was.  Walking over to him, she placed a hand on his arm.  “I really didn’t mean it like that, I swear.”

She could feel the muscles in his arm flex under her fingers.  Before she could stop herself, she leaned in to press her lips against his.  At first, he didn’t respond.  He merely stood there while she explored the fullness of his lips with her own.  But, then, she felt his arms close around her waist drawing her in deeper.  Her hands came up to blaze trails through his hair.  Her tongue tentatively traced his lower lip.  A low growl escaped his throat. 

Then, he took control.  His tongue demanding entrance to the warm hollow of her mouth.  She moaned softly at the sweet sensation of being claimed.  She pressed her body against his wanting more.

Before she knew what was happening, he pushed her away. 

“I should take you home,” he said gruffly, his eyes clouded with passion.

Her eyebrows drew together in confusion.  She wanted to protest, but the fierceness of her own emotions were too new, too unsettling.  It wasn’t like she hadn’t been kissed before.  She had, but never like that.  It seemed ironic that Jackson Hart could awaken things in her that were so intense, when all others failed.   When he climbed on the bike in front of her, she pressed herself tightly against him.  Resting her cheek against his back, she knew that she was in trouble.

She was falling in love with Jackson Hart.

And she wasn’t going to let anyone take that away from her.

 

Stay Tuned for More of Choices…

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Will her secret come out?

October 18, 2009 at 4:10 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

Wow! It has been a busy October! Last week I was at the Southern Women’s Show. Thanks to everyone who stopped by 🙂

Also, November 7th I will be at the Altamonte Mall doing a booksigning for the Adult Literacy League. Make sure to stop by and say hi if you are in the area and remember the first 100 people to buy a book receive a goody bag full of free books and promotional materials!

Excerpt 5

She had to be insane. 

It was the only thing that explained being here today.  All night she tossed and turned over her decision to let her son spend the day with Jackson.  The “if’s” of what could happen were not good.  Even as she drove down the dirt road that led to the cabin, she told herself she was a fool.  Handing her son over to a lion whose claws were out was not a good idea, especially when those claws were out for her blood. 

            What if Jacob unwittingly led Jackson straight to the truth? 

            She wasn’t sure she could face him if he knew what she’d done, what she had kept from him.  And Jacob!  Would he ever forgive her for lying to him all these years?  She could stand against one, but both would be a fight she wouldn’t win.  Father and son were too stubborn to ignore even the slightest hint of deception.  Of that, she was sure.  To back out now would only generate questions she didn’t have answers to.

            She pulled her car to a stop beside the jeep.  Jacob bounded out of the backseat, before she could move the gearshift into park.  Sighing heavily, she climbed out of the car to watch Jackson step out onto the deck letting the screen door slam behind him.  His black hair was tousled and his Aerosmith t-shirt had several noticeable wrinkles.  After a quick greeting, he led Jacob around to the shed on the side of the house. 

A feeling of dread swept through her. 

            Was she really about to turn her son over to Jackson Hart?

            When they reappeared, their arms were wrapped around several cans of paint.  Jacob ran up the steps to begin spreading out a drop cloth as Jackson put the cans on the steps.  His gaze strayed to where she waited and he crossed the distance to join her. 

“We should be done by two,” he casually informed, running a hand through his hair. 

            Mallory stared past him to where her son was already beginning to work.  Never once did he glance up.  “Jacob, I’ll pick you up at two, then,” she called over Jackson’s shoulder.

            He cast an irritated look her way.  “Whatever, Mom,” he yelled with a scowl of frustration.

            She tried to maintain her wobbly smile at his curt dismissal.  Her gaze returned to Jackson, who was still looking at Jacob a frown marring his features.  To save herself from any further embarrassment, she muttered a quick, “Well, I better get going.”

            She fumbled for her keys as she raced to the car trying to hold back the tears she knew were on the way.  Just as she reached for the door handle, Jackson caught up with her grabbing her arm to spin her around.  “You actually let him get away with talking to you like that?” he asked incredulously.

            “He’s been through a lot,” she defended, unable to return his gaze for fear of breaking down in front of him.

            “He shouldn’t be talking to you that way.  You’re his mother,” he observed in a harsh tone.

            His ready defense shocked her.  “That’s why I get the brunt of it.  He knows I’m not going to leave,” she explained solemnly.

 

            Jackson stared down at the woman who had stolen his sleep for the past few nights.  The bags under her eyes confirmed that he was not alone.  He wasn’t sure why the scene with Jacob disturbed him so much, but it did.  Her lack of reaction to Jacob’s callousness was unsettling. 

“And you just take it?”

            “I’ll be back at two,” she informed curtly, pulling her arm out of his grasp.  She turned back to look at Jacob for a moment, her indecision clear. 

             “He’ll be fine, Mal.”  Her eyes met his and held for a fleeting moment.  “Unless you want to stay?”

            He wasn’t sure why he made the offer, but before he could stop it it was out there.        “I have some errands in town.”  Her fingers fumbled as she unlocked the door and slid behind the wheel. 

            Jackson watched her drive away.  She was running again, but she couldn’t run forever.  Before he left, he would have the answers he needed, the answers he had been denied.  In truth, he wasn’t sure that hearing her admit what she had done would fill the hole she created years ago, but it was worth a try.  When he left Princeton this time, she would not be able to close her eyes to the pain she caused.  For the first time in her life, she was going to own who she was.  He just hoped that she did it soon, or the town was going to have a hell of a lot more to gossip about.

 

Fifteen years ago

            “Come on, Mallory,” Derrick pleaded.

            “Derrick, I told you no,” she repeated, she hoped for the last time. 

He had been pestering her all week to attend the Buchmans’ barbeque with him.  Despite her countless refusals, he would not let it go.  After what happened at the dance a couple of weeks ago, she didn’t think she could stand to spend another minute with him, let alone an entire evening.  Between Derrick and her father, they were making her life miserable.  They were determined to make everyone in town think that she and Derrick were dating. 

            He grabbed her arm to prevent her from walking away again.  “Mallory, everyone will be expecting us to go together, including your father,” he reasoned with a wounded look.

            “Well, I guess they will all be disappointed then!  Now, let go of my arm!”

            Suddenly, his grip tightened painfully.  His eyes narrowed and the vein on his neck began to pound furiously.  “No!  It’s time you stopped playing games with me!” 

She looked up at his face.  Fear made her heart beat faster.  His eyes were almost black.  In all the time she spent with him, she had never seen him like this. 

            “I suggest you let her go,” a harsh voice instructed from behind.

            Derrick glanced over her head.  “This isn’t your business.”

            “If you don’t let her go, it will be,” Jackson retorted, his deep voice booming.

            Mallory held her breath, every nerve in her body on edge.  Derrick’s eyes pinned her with a look of disgust, before shifting to look at Jackson.  “What are you going to do about it?  You gonna make me?” he challenged.

             “You’re about to find out,” Jackson assured.

            Before she knew what was happening, Derrick released her, shoving her toward Jackson.  His arms came up quickly to catch her. 

“Take her.  She was never good for much anyway,” Derrick spat, before stalking off into the distance. 

            A shiver raced up her spine at the feel of Jackson’s hands on her body.  His worried look made her move away quickly to avoid further embarrassment. 

“Are you okay?”

            “I’m fine.  He just surprised me, that’s all.  I never expected him to act that way,” she confessed.

            He glanced in the distance, his expression unreadable.  “People aren’t always what they seem.”
            She turned to face him trying to muster her best smile.  “So, I guess this makes two times you’ve saved me.”

            Shaking his head, his gaze traveled over the length of her body in a way that left her breathless.  “I’m nobody’s hero,” he admitted with a lazy grin.

            “You were for me today.  I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to thank you,” she offered softly.

 

            Jackson stared down at her slim figure.  He could think of more than one way she could thank him.  His hands curled into fists in the pockets of his jeans as he stamped down the thoughts that raced through his mind.  It wouldn’t do any good to think about things like that with a girl like this.  She was off-limits, and had been ever since they were both born.  Still, despite the internal pep talk, he felt his erection thicken.

            “Actually, there’s a barbeque at the Buchman’s, and I don’t have a date,” she hinted shamelessly with a precocious smile.

            He walked over to the stack of books he had left forgotten on the steps behind him.  “That’s too bad,” he agreed over his shoulder, ignoring her obvious attempt to rope him in.

            To his dismay, she followed behind him. 

“Well, it wouldn’t be if you take me,” she observed, all of her subtlety gone.

            His notebook lay open, his pen cradled in the center.  He quickly scooped it up.

“What are you writing?” she asked curiously, peaking around his shoulder as he slammed the book shut.

            “It’s nothing,” Jackson dismissed a little too quickly.

            “You write?”

            He grimaced at her obvious interest.  “Sometimes,” he replied.

            “What do you write?  Can I read some?”

            His grip on the book became painful.  He didn’t let other people read what he wrote.  It was too personal, like they would be able to see into his soul.  Even his mother, who had begged on occasion, had yet to read a single line.  His writing was private.  It wasn’t something he was ready to share with the world. 

“No.”

            His curt refusal brought an embarrassed blush to her cheeks.  “Sorry,” she apologized.  “So, will you take me?” 

            He turned to face her.  The smile on her face, he was afraid, would damn them both.  She batted her eyelashes playfully causing an unwelcome stir in his lower region.  He knew he shouldn’t go.  She was obviously baiting someone with his presence at the event.  Still, the thought of seeing the faces of all those stuck-up snobs when he came in did have its perks. 

            Even as he told himself he shouldn’t, his hand came up to trail along the side of her cheek causing her mouth to fall open.  

She was playing a game with him. 

A game she obviously thought she was going to win. 

What would happen if he began to play a little game of his own?

Stay Tuned for more of Choices…

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Free Read! Check out Excerpt 4 of Choices!

October 11, 2009 at 8:33 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

I hope that you are all enjoying my blog book, Choices.  I’m sure, like me, you are all getting ready for Halloween.  This is one of my favorite times of year.  It’s when a person’s creative side can definitely come out.

Excerpt 4

The rest of the day seemed like an eternity to Mallory.  Every few minutes, her gaze would be inevitably drawn back to the novel he left on the counter.  She would never understand him or his motives.  All she knew was that whatever Jackson Hart did these days, it certainly wasn’t in her best interest. 

She was just counting out the register, when she saw Jacob in the window.  She waved him in.  “How was school?” she inquired with a smile.

The door shut behind him, his dark brown hair still blowing in the breeze.  His faded brown corduroy jacket almost completely concealed the blue polo shirt he wore beneath it.  His jeans were faded, but not from long years of use, the washed-out color was factory generated.  The tennis shoes he wore, made famous by a basketball star, had been something he just had to have.  Mallory couldn’t keep up with the latest trends, but she didn’t have to worry.  Jacob was all too happy to keep her apprised of what was cool to wear to school.

“A pain in the ass,” he answered candidly.

“Jacob Daniel Lange!” she yelled.

“Sorry, but it’s true,” he said, kicking his feet against the bottom of the counter.

“You know how I feel about that kind of language, Jacob,” she admonished.

“I know.  You can use it, but I can’t,” he retorted with a roll of his eyes.

She gave him a stern glare.  Ever since the divorce, he seemed to feel he could say anything to her.  Her first instinct was to punish him severely, but in the end she usually backed down.  Soon, she would have to put a stop to his acting out.  She couldn’t let him think this was acceptable.  Somewhere, in the middle of her own personal trauma over the divorce, she had loosened the reigns on her son’s behavior.

And now she was paying the price for it. 

“I try very hard not to use that kind of language, Jacob.  And you need to do the same.”
            “Whatever,” he bit out on a harsh sigh.

She closed the register drawer, grabbing her coat from the stool.  “Are you ready to go to dinner?”  Coming around the counter to follow him out the door, she took care to make sure the lights were off and the door was securely locked.

She had hoped Jacob’s sour mood would sweeten by the time they reached Dick Clark’s, but unfortunately, it hadn’t.   When they slid into a booth, he grabbed the menu ignoring the waitress’s chipper greeting.  By the time their drinks came, he was slouched low in the seat. 

“Didn’t you have a math test today?” she asked, as she took as sip of her soda.

He let out a sarcastic grunt.  “When am I ever going to use Algebra anyway?”

She wasn’t really sure she had ever used Algebra in her adult life, either; but, she forced herself to play devil’s advocate.  “You can use Algebra for all sorts of things,” she assured evenly.

He held up a hand to halt her.  “Spare me the pep talk, Mom.”

She sighed heavily.  Her son was becoming a smart ass, and she wasn’t sure what to do to stop it.  In less than a year’s time, he went from a straight A student on the basketball team to not wanting to participate in anything, especially conversations with her.  She glanced around the small interior of the restaurant just in time to see Jackson Hart come through the front door. 

Great, just what she needed to make a bad day worse

She quickly lowered her gaze to the placemat, which held a sketch of the restaurant along with facts about when it first opened.  Feigning interest in the cost of a tenderloin sandwich in the fifties, she tried to ignore the man who was lithely moving toward her.  She told herself not to look up, that he would hopefully soon be seated far away from her, but curiosity got the better of her.  She raised her head only to find him hovering over her. 

“Small world,” he observed.

“Isn’t it though?” she replied, trying to muster her most congenial smile.

 He gave Mallory an expectant look as he glanced over at Jacob.  “So, are you going to introduce me?”

All of the air in her lungs seemed to vanish in an instant.  Somehow, she regained enough of it to say, “Jacob, this is Jackson Hart.”

Her son’s eyes widened as he quickly slid out of the booth extending his hand to Jackson and giving it a firm shake.  Mallory stared at him in amazement. 

Was this really the same child she was just having dinner with? 

“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Hart.  I’ve read all of your books.” 

Suddenly, she felt like she was in the middle of a science fiction movie.  Had her son been invaded by an alien force that compelled him to be pleasant?  The warmth of Jackson’s smile when he gazed at him made her insides shake.

 “You’ve read my books?”

Jacob bobbed his head excitedly.  “Yes, sir.  My favorite is Twisted Paradise,” he beamed.  “Do you want to have dinner with us?”

“Honey, I’m sure Mr. Hart is too busy to have dinner with us,” she interrupted.  Jacob was beginning to take this nice act a little too far.

Jackson turned to give her a look of admonishment.  “Actually, I don’t,” he said turning back to her son with a grin.  “I would love to have dinner with you.  Thank you, Jacob.”

Jackson motioned his head toward Mallory.  Just when she thought he was obviously kidding, he sat down next to her forcing her to move over.  Jacob returned to his side of the booth completely enamored with their new dinner guest.  Mallory scooted in as far as she could, trying desperately to ignore the heat of his leg pressing against hers. 

“So, you liked Twisted Paradise?  It wasn’t too violent for you?” Jackson asked with raised eyebrows.

Jacob shook his head.  “No sir, I thought it was great.”

The waitress appeared at their side, and Jackson quickly ordered a sandwich.  All through dinner, Mallory watched her son talk to Jackson in the most animated tone she had heard him use in months.  Although she didn’t completely understand it, Jackson Hart was the one person who seemed to have the ability to bring her son out of the funk he had been in since the divorce.  It was disturbing to watch how easy their encounter was.

Especially, when her own were so difficult. 

“I’m going to go to the restroom,” Jacob said standing up to head toward the back of the restaurant.

Jackson leaned an elbow on the table turning to face her in the booth.  “Good kid you have there,” he observed with a casual smile.

“He has his moments,” she replied keeping her gaze trained on her plate.

“Don’t we all,” he agreed with a chuckle.  “How old is he?  Thirteen, fourteen?”

Panic made her blood pressure shoot up.  Did he know?  Would he guess?  The look in his eyes told her that she didn’t have much choice but to answer.  “Fourteen,” she heard herself say.

His jaw clenched and his hand curled into a fist.  “So, you were screwing Lange even then?” he bit out angrily.

He didn’t know.

He hadn’t guessed the truth. 

The realization was tampered with the knowledge that he thought she was a whore. It hurt more than she wanted to admit. 

“You can think what you want, Jackson.”

He leaned in closer.  His chest rubbed against the side of her arm leaving a trail of fire in its wake. 

“I just want to hear you say it, Mallory.  For once in your life, I want you to own up to every dirty thing you’ve ever done.”

Before she could reply, Jacob returned. 

“Jacob, I was thinking, if you want to earn some extra money, I could use some help at the cabin,” Jackson offered. 

Mallory’s head whipped to the side to stare at him.  He switched gears so easily it made her head spin.

“I’d love to!”  “He can’t!”  Mother and son both spoke at the same time.

Jackson looked back and forth between the two of them, his amusement clear.              “Come on, Mom.  You know I’ve been saving up for a Yamaha YZ250,” he cried out.

At Jackson’s apparent confusion, she tilted her head to the side murmuring, “A dirt bike.”

Jackson’s eyes widened and he nodded his head appreciatively.  “Don’t worry, Mal.  I won’t let him get into anymore trouble at my place then he would on a dirt bike,” he promised with a mischievous wink.

An unwelcome fluttering began in her stomach, and she wasn’t sure if it was because of the wink or his use of the familiar nickname.  With both of them staring at her, Mallory knew she had only one option if she wanted to avoid further questioning. 

“Fine, but only for a few days.  I’m sure Mr. Hart has to be getting home,” she relented.

“Actually, I was thinking about sticking around for a while,” he explained.

“What?”

He smiled at her obvious unease.  “Well, I have some work to do around the cabin.  I was going to sell it, but now I’m starting to reconsider.  After all, it would be a nice, quiet place to write.”

Mallory twisted the napkin in her hands.  He wasn’t serious.  He couldn’t be.  He was just trying to rattle her, and unfortunately, it was working.  When the waitress came with the check, Jackson quickly threw out several bills.  She stilled his hand with her own.

“I can’t let you buy dinner.” 

Jackson’s gaze remained on the hand that covered his own.  She quickly pulled it away, uncomfortable with his intense scrutiny. 

“I insist,” he replied firmly.

“But…” she began.

He gave her a look of warning.  “I’m not letting you pay for dinner, Mallory.”

She let out the breath she had been holding as her gaze returned to her son.  The look on his face told her that the bizarre encounter was not lost on him.  She could only guess what he might be thinking right now. 

Jacob followed Jackson out the entrance leaving her to trail behind them, apparently forgotten.  As she followed them out, she realized that for now she had successfully dodged the bullet.  Jacob was enthusiastically detailing the highlights of the dirt bike he wanted when she caught up with them. 

“Do you need a ride back to your car?” Jackson offered.

“No,” Mallory dismissed, ignoring her son’s look of protest.  “The fresh air will do us good.”

“Oh Jacob, I have something for you,” he explained, leading them both to the parking lot out back.  He reached inside the front seat to pull out a manuscript.  He handed it to Jacob.  He finished the book six months ago, and was waiting for the final edit to come in.  Jacob stared down at it with reverence.  “It’s a copy of my new book.  Maybe you can help me think of a title?”  

Jacob’s eyes lit up at the request.  “Thanks,” he said walking to the back of the truck already reading the first page.

Before she could walk away, Jackson grabbed her arm.  He pulled her against him, his voice low in her ear.  “I haven’t forgotten, Mallory.  You will tell me everything, before I leave.”

“I’m not telling you anything, Jackson.”

“Then, I guess I’ll just have to stay.” 

 

Stay Tuned for More of Choices…

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What do you do when your Choices come back to haunt you?

October 4, 2009 at 3:10 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

I’m sooo excited to announce that Den of Desire, the second book in the Club X series, is a #1 Bestseller!!!

I also wanted to let you know that The One Nighter is now available at http://www.whiskeycreekpress.com/torrid/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=140&zenid=a64e746a975c7849244b1e2d4349accf

Now, for Excerpt 3 of Choices…

Excerpt 3

Jackson stood by the door of the funeral home not wanting to take another step further.  Shock had prevented him from making the arrangements over the phone before he left Florida.  He hadn’t wanted to face the truth, then. 

Now, he had no choice. 

Time had run out, and he had to make the decisions he had been putting off.  Mallory’s visit didn’t help.  He wasn’t sure why she had come.  He only wished she hadn’t.  Somehow, she always found a way to turn his world upside down.  Seeing her had stirred emotions that he wasn’t ready to deal with.  He had berrated himself the whole way here for his physical reaction to her.  He wasn’t sure how his body could betray him for a woman he hated so much, but then again his body had never been under his control when she was around. 

            “You must be Mr. Hart,” an elderly gentleman said coming out from one of the rooms in the back.  He closed the distance between them holding his hand out to Jackson. 

Jackson took it, giving it a firm shake.  “Mr. Kale?”

Mr. Kale’s white hair was neatly trimmed around ears that stuck out a little bit.  His pale blue suit was a generation behind the times, and his wire rimmed glasses looked like they might have been repaired on the side too frequently to last much longer.

He nodded at Jackson.  “If you want to follow me, we can take care of the arrangements in here.”

Following him into a sitting room on the left, he couldn’t help but notice the way the tan carpet crunched beneath his feet.  Mr. Kale motioned for him to sit on an overstuffed ivory couch.  A fluffy, white hand-stitched pillow was pushed into the corner of the cushions.  Tables equipped with boxes of Kleenex sat on either side.  Jackson wondered how many boxes they went through in a year.  Nobody died in Princeton without a visit to Colvin’s funeral home.  As the only funeral home, they pretty much had the market cornered. 

Mr. Kale pulled out several binders that held glossy photos of caskets.  His jacket stretched over his arms as he laid them on the table.   He pushed his glasses up a little higher on the perch of his nose as he looked up at Jackson. 

“Fortunately, for you, your mother already made most of the arrangements,” he explained, grabbing a folder labeled HART from the table. 

“She did?” Jackson asked, his surprise evident.

“You know your mother.  She wanted to be prepared.  Nothing left to chance.”

A somber smile crept across Jackson’s face.  It sounded like something his mother would do.  He glanced at the choices she selected for her “send-off” party.  Despite the wealth he had accumulated over the last few years, her choices remained modest.  He wished that he had been able to spend more time with her before she died.  But his quest for success had robbed him of the opportunity. 

He just always thought there would be time.

Time to spend with family.

Time to do the things he wanted. 

In all the years he had been gone, he had never once regretted the amount of time and energy he spent on his pursuits…until now.  Through the years, his single-minded focus on achieving his goals had been the only thing that kept him sane.  Now, with his mother’s choice of casket and plot laid out before him, he thought of how much he had missed in life. 

He had no family left. 

He was truly alone. 

Everything, especially success, had a cost.  Even if you didn’t know what it was up front, you still had to pay.  And he had, in full.

In spite of his need to give her something more elaborate than she was accustomed to, he knew he would comply with her wishes.  An hour later, he found himself sitting in the flower store amid yet another set of books with different displays.  After he muddled through the decidedly feminine choices, he pushed open the door stepping out onto the sidewalk to take a deep breath.  All he had left to face was the viewing and the funeral. 

He felt empty, barren, deserted. 

He glanced around the city streets.  Streets he knew so well, but now felt like a stranger in.  A small shop on the corner caught his eye, The Bookworm.  Maybe a book was just what he needed to relight the fire.  When he was younger, he had been able to disappear in books.  Then, when he began to write his own, he disappeared in his characters.  It had always been a safe place he could retreat to. 

But, for the past four months, he hadn’t been able to write anything he was proud to put his name on.  He felt tapped out, and it scared him.  He told himself that it was just a momentary burnout, but the longer it continued the more fearful he became.  The one constant in his life had always been his writing.  It had been a friend when no one else was there. 

He could depend on it.

Until recently. 

When he got closer to the store, a smile crept across his face.  The shop was charming.  The bottom half of the exterior was covered with classic book titles, as if they were stacked on a bookshelf.  A bright caricature of a bookworm held center stage with a top hat and a cane on the picture window next to the name of the store. 

Now, this was a place he could feel comfortable.

He pulled the door open, causing the small bell above it to jingle.  Scanning the front bookshelves, he noticed a prominent display of his books to the left with a large sign that read Princeton’s own local author, Jackson Hart.  He couldn’t help but chuckle as he picked up one of his titles.  Fifteen years ago, no one would’ve dared put his name on anything they wanted to sell.  Now, they were all lining up to capitalize on his fame.

“I’ll be right there,” a woman called out from the back of the store. 

The hair on the back of his neck stood up.  It couldn’t be, he thought, quickly dismissing the idea.  Glancing at the other books on the shelf, he took a few steps to peruse some of the other titles.  He was just about to pick up a new Stephen King novel, when she popped her head around the corner of the aisle. 

“Finding everything…”

Jackson stared at her unable to believe the cruel irony.  It was fitting that the second he found some kind of peace she would have to ruin it. 

“What are you doing here?” he asked curtly.

Her eyebrows rose at the terse inquiry.  “This is my shop,” she answered.

Snorting, he shook his head.  “That sounds about right.” 

For his luck, he wanted to say, but didn’t.

She walked over to the counter, putting the stack of books she’d been carrying down.  “Looking for anything in particular?”

Her question took him by surprise.  His gaze lowered to the book he had just picked up.  “Something to take my mind off things,” he replied absently.

The carefully disguised despair in his voice brought her head up.  She stared at him for a moment before looking away.  He looked so desolate.  Her visit was probably partially responsible.  It had taken its toll on her, as well.  Still, he didn’t want her sympathy.  He had made that very clear at the cabin earlier. 

“If you like King, I have some of his older books in the back.”

He closed the distance between them causing her head to come up. 

“Why, a bookstore?”

His question stunned her momentarily, but she quickly recovered her composure.  “I’ve always liked to read.  A person can pick up a book and feel like they’re somewhere else.  I don’t know.  I just always thought there was something special about that.”

A hint of a smile ghosted across his face.  “I remember,” he murmured.

She tried to ignore the way it made her feel that he still remembered the tiniest details.  “Besides, this town needed a bookstore that wasn’t twenty minutes away.”

“What are you reading now?” 

Mallory tried to stop her heart from beating so fiercely, but his nearness wouldn’t allow it.  “Mostly murder mysteries,” she answered. 

His lazy grin took her by surprise.  “I thought you liked romance,” he chided.  Before she could reply, he continued.  “I remember you used to read two or three a week.”

When her lips parted, his gaze followed the movement. 

“I don’t read those anymore,” she admitted softly.

“Why?”

“Murder mysteries seem more realistic to me these days.”

He exhaled, his eyes scanning the small shop.  “You have a point.  But people still believe in happily ever after, because the books still sell.”  He paused for a moment before continuing.   “So, what happened between you and Derrick?”

Her eyes widened.  “What do you mean?”

“Why, the breakup?  I thought you two were the perfect couple,” he added sarcastically.

He hadn’t heard the gossip. 

She wasn’t sure how anyone could be in this town for more than eight hours and not hear about her very public divorce and the reason for it.  But somehow Jackson hadn’t been informed.  Suddenly, she realized why.  Jackson was not one for idle conversation.  He had never been one to gossip with the crowd.  After all, he had been a victim of those same whispers for years.   

“No one is perfect,” she replied noncommittally.

He leaned a hip against the edge of the counter, his face coming devastatingly close to hers.  “So, what finally did it?  Did he realize just how fickle you could be?  Or was it the fact that you slept around?”

Before she could stop herself, her hand came up to slap him.  A red mark began to form on his cheek. He grabbed her arm, yanking her against him.  Their bodies pressed against each other from head to toe. 

“Is that it?  You like it rough now?”

“Bastard!” she hissed through her teeth, as she tried to pull her arm free of his grasp.

“Back to my old nickname, are we honey?  Well, I’ve been called worse.”

The gruff tone of his voice and the feel of his body against hers made her soften in all the wrong places.  She cursed herself and him for the reaction her body was having to his nearness.  His other hand slid around her waist making any chance for escape impossible.

For a moment, the only sound was their breathing. 

“Why are you doing this to me?” she asked, her tone defeated as she felt her body giving in to him.  Her nipples hardened against his chest. 

His eyes darkened, and his head dipped lower to bring his mouth closer to hers.  “I don’t know,” he admitted softly.  Her eyes widened as she felt his breath waft against her lips. 

The bell above the door jingled as an elderly woman with a cane walked in.  Mallory and Jackson sprung apart, but not before the other woman caught a glimpse of the embrace.  After a brusque “Excuse me”, Jackson disappeared out the front door leaving Mallory to lean heavily against the counter.  She had expected rage, fury; that she could’ve dealt with.  But she had been completely unprepared for this last onslaught.  She could deal with his anger. 

But his passion…that she wasn’t so sure about.  

Stay Tuned for more of Choices…

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