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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