Could you say goodbye to the only thing you ever wanted?

January 24, 2010 at 3:36 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

Well, it has been a busy week. My son is about to celebrate his eighth birthday, so we have been getting ready. I have also been working on a new book which I hope to finish soon. I got some exciting news from my publisher recently that the 3rd book in the Club X series, Shadows of Ecstasy, would be coming out soon. As soon as I have a release date I will let you know. I hope that you are enjoying Choices. This is one of my favorite books.

Chapter 14

Scanning the road, Jackson parked the bike in front of the cabin.  Too many busybodies were home right now that might overhear what they had to say, so he grabbed her hand to lead her inside.  Once they were in the safety of the house, he turned to face her. 

“You wanted to talk…Talk.”

            She stared at him, not knowing what to say, how to explain.  She wanted to tell him everything.  She wanted to collapse against him, and feel his arms curl around her.  But she couldn’t.  She thought of the scholarship that waited for him.  If she didn’t stop seeing him, her father would ruin him.  She was sure of that.  Her father was not a man of compassion.  He did not have any sympathy for others.  Hadn’t he already threatened to run Jackson out of town?  He would do it.  There was little doubt of that. 

She couldn’t let that happen. 

She loved him too much to watch his dreams die.     

            Jackson would never let her father stop them.  He wasn’t the type of man to let anyone stand in the way of something he wanted.  He would gladly sacrifice his future to keep the promises he made to her.  Tears formed in her eyes.  She couldn’t let him give up everything to be with her.  She refused to be the selfish person her father was. 

There was only one thing she could do. 

            “I know that you talked to Leah,” she explained slowly.

            He lifted his chin.  “She made things seem pretty clear.”

            Squeezing her eyes shut at the pain, she forced herself to continue.  “Jackson, it would never work.”

            “Why?  Are you afraid you might have to get your hands dirty?”

            “No,” she cried out with a shake of her head.  “I’m afraid that I will ruin everything you’ve worked for.”  Her hand came up to cover her mouth, as if she could physically stop the words that had already left her lips. 

But she couldn’t. 

            “What are you talking about?  Ruin everything I’ve worked for?” he asked, his eyes narrowing.

            She turned away, afraid he would be able to see the truth in her eyes.  “I didn’t mean that.  It’s just… It would never work, Jackson.  You have to know that,” she reasoned.

            “Because of your father?” he challenged.

            “Not just because of my father, because of everyone. No one will ever accept us being together.”

He crossed the room in two long strides, his hands covering her shoulders.  He gave her a quick shake.   “I don’t give a damn what everyone will accept! But you do, don’t you?  That’s what this is really about isn’t it?  You care what all the people in this damned town think, and they wouldn’t take too kindly to you being with trash like me.” 

“No!  I didn’t say that!”

“But you meant it, didn’t you?” he demanded, giving her a firm shake.

Tears gathered in the corners of her eyes.  She wanted more than anything to tell him the truth, to make him understand that she was only doing what was best for him, but she couldn’t. 

“I’m sorry,” she murmured, her voice quivering.

Jackson pushed her away, storming to the other side of the room, his hand driving through his hair.  He leaned a hand on the wall as he stared out the window. 

For a few minutes, they didn’t speak. 

“It’s the money, isn’t it?”

She looked at him knowing that this one lie would forever damn her in his eyes. 

She also knew it was the only way. 

“Yes,” she whispered.

His eyes closed, and she knew it was over. 

All of her fantasies about Jackson Hart had just come crashing down.

The pain was so intense she thought for a moment she might die.  But death would have been a much better fate. 

“I’m sorry,” she said.

And, if nothing else, that was true.

 

They didn’t speak the whole ride back.  Clinging to him, she could feel the tension in his body.  She wished that she could hold on to him forever, but she knew she couldn’t.  She had already lost him inside that cabin.  That was the worst part.

 When she reached her locker, Curtis was waiting for her. 

“What took you so long?” he demanded.

“Sorry, I had to stop at the bathroom,” she explained a little too quickly.

“Again?”

“Yes, again.”

Later that night as she lay on her bed doing homework, all she thought of was what Jackson said.  The pain she had seen in his eyes made her want to die.  She tried to tell herself that it was for the best, that at least this way he would have a future, but deep down she was drowning.  How could she spend the rest of her life without him?  How could she watch him leave without telling him how much she loved him? 

A knock on her door made her sit up in bed.  “Come in,” she called out.

Curtis opened the door, tilting his head to the side with a sardonic sneer.  “Your boyfriend is downstairs,” he scoffed.

“What boyfriend?”

He snorted as he rolled his eyes.  “Derrick,” he bit back.

She pursed her lips.  “Derrick is not my boyfriend,” she refuted.

His harsh laughter filled the room.  “That’s not what Dad seems to think.  He seems to think the two of you will make the perfect couple.”

Climbing off the bed to stand in front of him, she put her hands on her hips.  “Well, I don’t care what daddy thinks,” she replied.

His lips tugged up on a sarcastic smile.  “Really?”

“Really,” she answered a little more firmly as she tried to pass him. 

He blocked the doorway, his arms crossed over his chest as he stared down at her.  She pushed him, barely budging him from the doorjamb. 

“Curtis, get out of my way,” she demanded, her temper rising.

He gave her a look of derision as he shook his head.  Moving to the side, he opened his arms wide.  “Go!”

She huffed in aggravation.  “God, Curtis.  You are such a jerk.”

She hurried down the stairs to find Derrick waiting in the foyer.  His head rose at her arrival. 

“Derrick, what are you doing here?  Were we supposed to go out tonight?”

“We are now.  There’s a double feature at the theater tonight, and you’re coming with me,” he explained with a boyish grin.

“I wish I could, but I have a lot of homework to do,” she answered a little too hastily.

“Surely your homework can wait, Mallory,” her father instructed. 

She spun on her heel to stare at him in shock.  The look in his eyes warned her not to refuse.  She turned around to face Derrick. 

“Alright, then.  Just give me a minute,” she said, before running up the stairs.

And so her life went for the next two weeks.  She played the part her father wanted knowing that the face she was putting on had nothing to do with the person she held inside.  She went out with Derrick almost every night at her father’s insistence.  In truth, she couldn’t even lie and say that it was a hardship.  Derrick was funny and charming.  Being with him was…easier.  He was accepted.  He was one of them. 

The more time she spent with him the clearer her father’s intentions became.  He left little doubt that he thought they were a good match, and he was doing everything in his power to make sure that they ended up together.  She hated going along with his plans, and the rebellious part of her nature wanted to fight him.  Still, she wouldn’t risk Jackson’s future just to prove a point.  Besides that, it seemed like everyone was happy that things were back to normal.  Even Leah seemed relieved.

“Don’t you have anything better to do than to watch your sister all day?  She doesn’t need a bodyguard,”Leah mocked.

Curtis sneered.  “I think I’ll be the judge of that.”

One eyebrow quirked up.  “You?  Curtis, you’re not qualified to make my cat’s decisions.  Why don’t you get out of here so I can talk to Mallory?” she prodded.

“Anything you have to say to her, you can say in front of me,” he warned.

A mischievious look covered her face.  “Really?  Okay,” she said turning to face Mallory with a wide grin.  “I was just going to ask if you have any tampons in your locker.  My flow is pretty heavy today…”

“Oh, gross,” Curtis choked as he walked away, his head held high.

Leah shook her head.  “Thank God.  I thought he would never leave,” she explained as she rolled her eyes.

She couldn’t help but chuckle at her friend’s antics.  Leah was not afraid of anything or anyone, and she proved it every day.  “What was all that about?” she asked.

“Did you hear about what happened out by the lake last night?”

“No.  What happened?”
            Leah looked both ways, before leaning in.  “I heard that Cherie Brightwater got drunk and did a little striptease for
Jackson.”

Her heart seemed to sink into her stomach.  “What?”

Leah offered her a tilted grin.  “I know.  Can you believe it?  She is such a slut!  Kendall Parker told me that some of the other boys stuck around to watch the show.”

It shouldn’t have hurt so much.

But it did. 

The fact that he was moving on so quickly made it cut even deeper.  She slammed her locker door shut, and practically ran toward the bathroom ignoring Leah’s call.  Once she was locked inside a stall, she let the tears fall. 

How had everything gotten so messed up? 

More than anything she wanted to confront him, but she couldn’t.  She didn’t have any right.  She had given up the rights she had when she broke up with him. 

At the sound of someone else entering the bathroom, she tried to calm herself.

“So, what did you do with Jackson Hart last night, because let me tell you the rumor is that you two slept together?”

“Let’s put it this way, Jackson Hart definitely lived up to my expectations,” she heard Cherie say.

“Meaning?”

“Meaning he is the only man in this school.  The rest of them are just boys.”

Squeezing her eyes shut, she shook her head as if she could block out the truth.

“But I heard he was seeing Mallory Westfall?” the other girl asked.

Her eyes shot open as she waited for the other girls’s response.

Jackson told me that she was all talk.  He said that it was never anything serious.”

Mallory barely heard the rest of the conversation as they walked out.  Her heart felt like it had broken into a million pieces.  She couldn’t believe that Jackson could be so cold.  Did he really mean that?  Did he really think that it had never been anything serious?  How could what they had together mean so little to him? 

Rushing through the other kids, she made her way to the parking lot.  She had to get out of here before she did something crazy like claw Cherie’s eyes out.

When she reached the curb, she saw him.

He was walking toward his motorcycle.  Knowing that she was about to make a fool of herself, she ran over to him.  “Jackson,” she called out.

He eased onto the seat, his eyes never meeting hers.

Jackson, we need to talk.”  

She could feel everyone watching them, but she didn’t care.  She had to know if he really said those things to Cherie. 

He reached over to the put the key in the ignition without looking at her.  “Careful Mal, people might think you know me.”

Her eyes narrowed.  “Is it true about you and Cherie Brightwater?”

A cynical smile teased his lips.  “Not sure why it would matter to you.  Don’t you belong to Lange?” he challenged.

 “I don’t belong to anyone,” she replied, her patience running thin.

His eyebrows rose.  “Really?  You sure about that?”

She pulled her lower lip into her mouth.  “Did you sleep with her?” she asked.

Suddenly, his gaze turned cold.  She forced herself to stand tall, even though, inside she was trembling.  “What I do is my business.  You made it very clear that you wanted no part of my life.”

“I didn’t think…”

“What?  That I would move on.  Why not?  You did.”

Tears formed in the corners of her eyes but she refused to let them fall.  “I just…” 

“What?”

More than anything she wanted to tell him the truth.  She didn’t want this.  She didn’t want him to be with anyone else but her.  “It’s not what I…”

“Well, look, here comes prince charming now,” he said, his eyes focused on something in the distance.

Jackson,” she said.

“Save it, Mallory.  It’s over.  It probably never should have begun in the first place.”

With that, she watched him start the motorcycle and ride away.  She barely noticed when Derrick joined her to offer her a ride home.  How had everything gotten so messed up?  The one thing she knew that she wanted was the one thing she couldn’t have.  Jackson hated her, and he had every right.  It was hard to believe that just a few short weeks ago she had promised to be his wife.  She had been so sure of herself. 

And now it was over. 

Everything she dreamed, everything she hoped for was over.    

Stay tuned for more of Choices…

 

 

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Could you give up the one thing you wanted most?

January 10, 2010 at 10:29 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

I just recently finished my latest book.  This is the third book in the Club X series. 

Here’s a little teaser:

Cal Rutledge never expected to see Emma Lake again after she walked away from him fifteen years ago.  As the daughter of his father’s worst adversary, getting involved with her had been a mistake, a mistake he couldn’t make again. But when she walks into Club X, a club he secretly owns, logic and reason seem to disappear.
Emma Lake has lived a lie for the past fifteen years.  Ever since she walked away from the only man she ever loved to marry another man.  But now the only thing she wants is to get her life back together. 
Fifteen years ago, they kept their affair a secret.
But someone else knows the truth.
Someone who is watching them.
Someone who will do anything to keep them apart.

Excerpt 13

With her father’s eyes boring into her the entire evening, Mallory did her best to keep up the façade that they were indeed a happy family.  But, deep down, all she could think about was Jackson.  What would he think when she didn’t show up tonight?  Would he hate her?  She wished that she could talk to him, that she could explain what happened, but her father had made sure that that was impossible. 

            After they finished dinner, Derrick turned to her.  “Why don’t we take a walk outside, Mallory?” Derrick suggested.

The look on her father’s face warned her not to say no.  “Okay,” she agreed.

            Once they were on the other side of the house, Derrick turned to face her.  “So, why did we ever break up, Mallory?” he inquired.

            She took a deep breath.  “We were never together, Derrick,” she explained, rolling her eyes.

            “True,” he conceded.  “But we could’ve been.”

            “Derrick…”

            He held up his hands.  “Now, hear me out.  I’ll admit that I was a jerk before.  You just got me so worked up that I couldn’t control myself.  I’ve never been with anyone like you, Mallory,” he admitted.

            She stared into his eyes.  She couldn’t deny that she had given Derrick plenty of mixed signals.  Had she driven him to do the things he had done? 

“Maybe your right,” she conceded.

            He held out his hand to her in silent invitation.  “So, will you give me another chance to prove to you that I’m not such a bad guy?”

            The sincere look in his eyes made her relent.  “Okay,” she replied.

            To her surprise, Derrick was the perfect gentleman for the rest of the night.  They talked about school and music.  She couldn’t deny that they had a lot in common.  They hung out in the same circles, had the same friends.  Before he left, Derrick pulled her aside.  “David is having a pool party tomorrow.  Would you go with me?” 

            When she hesitated, her father answered for her. 

“I’m sure Mallory would love to go with you, Derrick,” he said, giving him a wink over her head. 

            Derrick’s eyebrows furrowed together in confusion, as he glanced back and forth between father and daughter.  “Well, great!  I guess I’ll pick you up at noon, then.”

            As the door closed behind them, her father turned to face her.  “For once, you made me proud, Mallory,” he said.  “Just don’t screw it up.”

            He disappeared into his study leaving her alone in the foyer.  How could this be happening?  She felt like everything was collapsing all around her.  She had become a prisoner in her own home.  Lying in bed that night, she prayed that sleep would claim her, but it didn’t.  Memories of Jackson clouded her mind.  What was he thinking right now?  Did he hate her?  She felt the tears slide down her cheeks to wet her pillow. 

The next day she went to the party hoping to see Leah.  When she spotted her across the patio, she quickly disengaged herself from Derrick’s arm. 

            “Hey, Mallory,” Leah exclaimed.  “Long time no see.  I was beginning to think you had fallen off the earth.”  Leah poured her a glass of punch, sliding it into her hand.

            Mallory took a sip.  “Almost,” she admitted, one eyebrow arching up.

            “Here with Derrick?” Leah inquired, motioning to him. 

At Mallory’s nod, she continued.  “Well, then, I guess the gossip was true.”

            Her eyes narrowed.  “What gossip?”

            “That you and Derrick are back together.  I mean, when Jackson Hart came over to me…” 

Before she could finish her statement, Mallory grabbed her by the arm. 

Leah choked for a minute on her drink, before regaining her composure.  “Hey, watch it!” she yelled, grimacing.

She pulled her over to the side, where no one would overhear.  “What did he say?” she demanded, her heart beating wildly.

“He asked me where you were.”

“And you said?” she asked, her eyes widening.

Leah tilted her head to the side.  “I told him that I heard you were having dinner with Derrick…which I see now was true.”

She squeezed her eyes shut as pain sliced through her chest.  Her grip on Leah’s arm tightened. “What did he say?”

Leah jerked her arm away, rubbing the skin on her forearm.  She pursed her lips together.  “Well, I wouldn’t say that he seemed happy about it.”

“Oh my God,” she murmured, falling into the lawn chair behind her.  Her hands covered her face.  He must hate her, but he didn’t know, didn’t understand.

“What’s the big deal, Mallory?  It’s true, isn’t it?  I mean, you’re here with Derrick,” she prodded.

“My father…” she began shakily, causing Leah to take a seat next to her.

Concern marred her features, as she put a reassuring arm around her shoulders.  “What is it, Mallory?  What happened?”

“He…”

Before she could begin, Derrick came over to stand beside them.  “Ladies,” he greeted with a smile.  At their strained expressions, a frown creased his forehead.  “What’s wrong?”

Mallory put on her best fake smile as she looked up at him.  “Nothing, Derrick.”

After a moment of hesitation, he relented.  “Oh, well, good.  Hey, I think we are going to get a game of chicken going.   Are you in?” he inquired.

She nodded her head, ignoring Leah’s curious look, as she followed him over to the pool.  Jackson probably hated her after what Leah told him.  Still, it wasn’t Leah’s fault.  She had told him the truth.  The rest of the day went by in a blur.  Playing the part her father demanded ripped her soul apart, but she did it to perfection knowing that she had no other choice.  Even as she laughed at Derrick’s jokes and joined in the fun at the party, her heart was aching.  She wanted to go to him, to tell him what happened, but she couldn’t.  If her father found out that she defied him again, Jackson would pay the price. 

She couldn’t risk that. 

She wouldn’t.

The next day Curtis drove her to school.  She searched the halls in between each class, but there was no sign of Jackson.  Curtis watched her like a hawk, never leaving her side.  Finally, after fourth period, Derrick came up to join him.

“Hi Mallory,” he said, his face beaming.  He glanced over at Curtis.  “How’s it going, Curtis?”

“Not bad,” Curtis replied.

“Hey, do you mind if I talk to Mallory for a minute?”

Curtis scowled, his gaze shifting back and forth between them.  He leaned his head back.  “I guess it would be all right,” he agreed.  He gave her a pointed stare.  “I’ll see you after fifth period.”

She watched him disappear down the hall, ignoring Derrick’s curious look.  “What was that all about?” he inquired.

“Nothing,” she replied, shaking her head.  “What did you want to talk to me about?”

Suddenly, she spotted Jackson at the end of the hall.  His eyes met hers across the distance.  She could see everything he was feeling.  Pain.  Anger.  And the worst of all…betrayal.  He spun on his heel to walk out the side door.  Slamming the door to her locker, she turned to face Derrick.

“I’m not feeling too good, Derrick.  Would you excuse me?” she lied.

“Sure,” he answered, a look of surprise covering his face.

Rushing down the hall, she ran out the door in an attempt to catch up with him.  Finally, she spotted him walking toward the parking lot. 

Jackson, wait!” she exclaimed, her breath coming out in short pants.

Ignoring her cries, he continued over to his bike, throwing his leg over it to straddle the seat. 

“Jackson, please,” she begged as she finally caught up with him.

He put the key in the ignition, his eyes never meeting hers. 

Jackson, please talk to me.”

The bike roared to life, but she refused to let him go.  She grabbed his arm.  “Mallory, let go,” he commanded furiously.

“No, not until you listen to me!”

“We don’t have anything to talk about,” he bit out.

“Please just give me a chance to explain!  You don’t understand.”

His gaze pinned her.  “I understand perfectly,” he said, his voice harsher than she had ever heard it before.

Tears began to slide down her cheeks.  “Jackson, the least you can do is let me explain.  You owe me that much,” she demanded on a sob.

He leaned back in the seat for a moment, his eyes closing.  Suddenly, he scooted forward, his eyes meeting hers.  “Get on,” he instructed, with a gesture of his head. 

She climbed onto the seat behind him, her arms curving around his middle.  Pressing her face into his back, she inhaled the rich scent of him.  She knew that being with him was dangerous.  If her father found out, he might literally kill her.  And she didn’t even want to think about what he would do to Jackson.  But she had to make sure he didn’t hate her. 

She had to be with him.           

Even if it was for the last time.

Stay tuned for more of Choices…

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A bitter end…

January 4, 2010 at 1:51 am (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

I hope you are all enjoying the New Year!  The holidays were wonderful, but it is time to start something new.  Another good thing that happened at the end of the year is that I finished the third book in the Club X series.  So, it is on its way to my publisher! 

Wish me luck!

Excerpt 12

Jackson stared at the ceiling overhead, his arm curled around Mallory.  He couldn’t sleep.  His mind was racing.  Nothing in his life could have prepared him for the way he felt about her.  When she told him that she loved him, he thought his chest would explode.  He had never intended to feel this way.  He had done everything in his power to make sure this didn’t happen, but now he knew that it had all been a wasted effort. 

A quick glance at the clock let him know that it was almost four in the morning.  She would have to leave soon.  His arm tightened around her instinctively.  He didn’t want her to go.  He wanted to spend the rest of the morning with her in his arms.  She stirred against him.  He couldn’t deny what he felt anymore.  He had fallen for her, and there was no turning back.  Somehow, they would find a way to be together.  Glancing over to the table, which was still shrouded in darkness, he spotted the envelope that lay on top was his future, a future that he had never shared with her. 

After what happened tonight, he had to tell her. 

Her hand moved across his chest, as she snuggled closer to him.  “Jackson,” she murmured sleepily.

He pushed a lock of her hair over her shoulder, the back of his hand skimming her cheek.

“What time is it?” she asked.

“Almost four,” he answered, his hand covering the hand that rested against his chest.

“I have to go,” she observed with a pout.

He bent to kiss her.  “I know, but I don’t want you to.”

She rose up on one elbow, a contented grin forming on her mouth.  “I know.  I wish I could stay here forever.”

He took a deep breath.  “I have to tell you something, Mal.”

“What is it?”

He sat up in the bed, his back resting against the headboard.  She scooted closer to him, nervously pulling her lower lip beneath her teeth.  “Jackson, what is it?  You’re scaring me.”

One hand came up to caress the side of her cheek, while the other imprisoned her hand against his chest.  His silence made her shift uneasily on the bed.  “You know I’m graduating in a couple of weeks…” he started.

At her inquisitive stare, he continued. 

“Well, I got a scholarship to Indiana University.”

Her eyes widened.  “Jackson, that’s wonderful!” she exclaimed, throwing her arms around his neck.

The feel of her naked breasts pressed against his chest made his manhood stir.  He gently put her away from him, knowing that he had to push forward.  If he didn’t get this out now, he wasn’t sure that he would have the courage to later. 

“I want you to come with me.”

Her mouth dropped open, as her eyes met his.  “What do you mean?” she asked, her voice little more than a whisper.

His hands came up to frame her face.  “When you graduate, I want us to get married.  I love you, Mallory.”

He stared at her, noting the way her breath rushed out of her lungs.  Her silence seemed to drag on for an eternity as he waited.  Finally, he could wait no longer. 

“Say something,” he demanded.

“Yes,” she mouthed, tears forming in her eyes.

“Yes?”

She climbed on top of him, her legs straddling his hips.  “Yes, Jackson.  I would love to be your wife…on one condition,” she informed, her eyes twinkling with mischief.

He edged down on the bed, his hands coming up to cradle her hips.  He lifted her over him, slowly easing her down to take him inside.  His eyes closed at the exquisite feeling of her closing around him.  Opening his eyes, a grin tugged at his lips.

 “And what would that be?”

Her hands covered his where they dug into her hips.  “That we spend every morning just like this,” she breathed softly, as she tried to follow the rhythm he set.  Her head fell back as the sensations began to sweep through her body. 

“I think I can live with that.”

His eyes squeezed shut, as he let her set the pace.   His hands covered her breasts, his fingers toying with the taut peaks.  Unable to contain himself, he raised his hips to meet her.  Her body clenched around him, sucking him deeper inside.  He felt her begin to convulse, as she cried out his name.

He looked up at the picture she made as she moved over him.  God, nothing had ever felt so right as when he was inside of her.  He loved everything about her.  He loved her smile, her humor, the rebellious streak that brought them together, the way she moaned beneath him, the way she kept him on his toes.  No other girl could ever come close.  And she was going to be his wife.  The thought made his body react, and his climax burst inside of her. 

She fell on top of him, both of them greedily sucking in air.  As he cradled her against him, he absently realized that they forgot to use protection.  His eyes widened.  Never in his life had he forgotten to use protection.  Lazily, his hand began to stroke the length of her back.  It wouldn’t matter.  Soon, they would be husband and wife.  If she got pregnant, they would just have to bump the date up.  He couldn’t deny that the thought was appealing.  After all, he couldn’t even begin to think about leaving her to go to school.  It would be the hardest thing he would ever do.  A part of him wanted to delay attending for a year so that he could wait for her to finish high school, but he knew that his mother would have his head.  She would say that he had worked too hard to risk losing the scholarship. 

She stirred on top of him, lifting her head to stare down at him dreamily.   His eyes met hers as he pulled her head down into a heated kiss.  Later, as they stood by her car their fingers intertwined, she leaned up on tiptoes to fuse her mouth against his.  When she finally pulled away, they were both breathing hard.  He rested his forehead against hers. 

“So, I’ll see you tonight?”

“Are you sure that your mother won’t mind me coming over for dinner?” she inquired.

His eyes twinkled.  “Not when she finds out that you’re her future daughter-in-law,” he mused.

She smiled, excitement dancing in her eyes.  “I can’t wait,” she explained, reaching up to place a tender kiss on his mouth.

Jackson watched her drive away, his arms crossing over his chest.  He couldn’t wait to make her Mrs. Jackson Hart.  As he climbed the steps to the cabin, he realized that he would have a lot of explaining to do once his mother returned home.  She would have a lot of objections to her son getting married so young, but he didn’t care.  He loved Mallory, and he was going to spend the rest of his life showing her just how much.

 

Mallory snuck into the kitchen as quietly as she could.  She closed the door behind her, listening carefully to the sounds of the house before moving toward the hall. 

“Mallory Westfall!”

She spun on her heel, her heart in her throat.  “Daddy?”

He thundered toward her, his eyes blazing.  “Where the hell have you been all night?” he demanded, the anger on his face evident even with the poor lighting.

Her mind searched for a suitable answer.  “Nowhere, I thought I left my purse in my car, and I went to check,” she stammered.

Towering over her, his hand grabbed her wrist to hoist it high.  He ripped the keys out of her hand painfully.  “Is that right?”

He pulled her out to the garage, the grip he had on her wrist biting into her skin.  Reaching over, he touched the hood of the car.  “Then, why is the engine still warm?  Did you decide to take the car out for a test drive, too?”

She winced at the pain he was causing, her mouth falling open.  Fear raced up her spine.  “I’m sorry, daddy!  I just went for a drive.”

His sneer left little doubt that he knew she was a liar.  Dragging her behind him, he pulled her through the kitchen and up the stairs.  “Do you really think I’m that stupid?” he yelled, pushing her into her room and slamming the door behind them.

Her eyes widened as he came toward her.  “It’s not what you think, daddy!”

Looming over her, his eyes narrowed.  “Where the hell were you?”

Panic seized her heart.  The look in his eyes told her that the time to lie was over.  It was obvious that he knew more than he was letting on.  Lying would only serve to make him angrier, and by the look on his face that was something she could not afford to do.  “I was with Jackson Hart,” she confessed, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“Goddamn it!” he yelled furiously.  His fist rose as if he was going to strike her.

She crouched on the floor, her arms coming up to defend herself.  “It’s not what you think, daddy!  He’s asked me to marry him!”

Grabbing her by the arms, he hauled her to her feet.  “Are you out of your mind?” he screamed, as he shook her violently.  Her head bobbed like a rag doll.  “There is no way in hell you will ever marry that boy!  You go out in the middle of the night to whore around with trash and have the nerve to come into my house and tell me you’re getting married!”

“But I love him, daddy,” she cried out.

He shoved her away from him, her back hitting the wall.  She slid to the ground in a heap.   He turned to leave.  Reaching the door, he spun on his heel to face her again.  When he spoke, his voice was ominously low. 

“I’m taking your car keys.  You will not see that boy again.  Do I make myself clear?  If you do, I will destroy him.  Do you hear me, Mallory?  You don’t want to know what I’ll do if you push me on this.”  He took a deep breath to calm himself, before continuing on.  “The Langes’ are coming over for dinner tonight.  If you do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or embarrasses me, I’ll make sure that that boy is run out of town by the end of the night.”

She shook her head, her eyes squeezing shut.  “You wouldn’t do that?”

“Wouldn’t I?  Just try me.  I don’t give a damn if you think you’re in love.  You obviously haven’t thought things through.  If I have to save you from making a mistake, I will…even if I have to do it with you kicking and screaming the whole way.  Do you hear me?”

Mallory’s lower lip quivered as she reluctantly met his gaze. 

“Answer me,” he commanded, his lips forming a grim line.

“Yes, sir,” she bit back.

He walked over to the nightstand, grabbing the telephone and ripping the cord out of the wall.  “Just so you don’t get any ideas,” he bit out, before storming out of the room.

Mallory lay on the floor, unable to move.  Her head fell into her hands.  She reached out for her nightstand, slowly pulling herself upright.  Pain seized her back as she slowly got to her feet.  Sweat broke out on her forehead, as she drew in deep breaths.  Wincing with each step, she walked over to the full-length mirror.  Pulling her shirt over her midriff, she turned around to see a large bruise forming on her back.

She made her way back to the bed, collapsing on top of it.  Her sobs racked her entire body as she curled on her side.  What was she going to do?  Without her car, she couldn’t run.  The thought of Jackson waiting for her made her chest squeeze in pain.  What would he do when she didn’t show up tonight?  She hated her father!  He never loved her.  Her fingers curled in the bedspread. 
           Please don’t hate me,
Jackson, she thought as she curled her knees into her chest.
****
         Jackson waited on the couch, his knee shaking impatiently.   His mother stared at him from across the room.  He knew what she was thinking.  After the fight they had had about the choices he was making, her feelings were very clear.  Glancing over at her, he saw the look of pity in her eyes.  Anger coursed through his veins.  He got to his feet, walking out on to the porch. 

Where the hell was she? 

Had she changed her mind? 

This morning she had seemed so sure of him, of herself. 

Had she reconsidered when she got home? 

He heard the screen door slam behind him moments before he felt his mother’s comforting hand on his shoulder. 

Jackson,” she began slowly.  “Maybe we should start dinner.  It is after eight.”

He pushed away from her, shaking his head.  “She’ll be here, mom.  She probably just got hung up,” he assured, even though he didn’t really believe the words.

“All right, Jackson.  We’ll wait,” she relented, before walking back into the house.

Damn it! 

His hand raked through his hair, before gripping the wooden railing tightly.  What happened?  Did she regret what they had done?  His mouth formed a grim line.  Curling his hands into fists, he banged them on the railing.  Why?  Why hadn’t she come to him?  They could’ve talked things through.

Jackson, are you alright?” his mother called out through the screen door.

He stalked down the stairs, heading for his bike.  “I’m fine.  I just need to take a drive.”

“But what about dinner?”

When he reached the bike, he looked over his shoulder.  “Go ahead and eat.  I’m not hungry, anyway.” 

Before she could protest, the bike roared to life.  He drove down the dirt road, ignoring her cries of protest.  He drove through the streets like a man obsessed.   All he could see was Mallory.  Mallory leaning over him, her eyes glazed with passion.  Mallory pressing tender kisses to his mouth.  Mallory professing her love to him.  Mallory saying she wanted to be his wife.

Before he even realized his intent, he pulled into the parking lot at Dick Clark’s.  He wasn’t sure what he expected to find.  When he climbed off the bike, his eyes searched the crowd.  His gaze stopped when he saw Leah chatting with some friends.  He closed the distance between them, watching the eyes of the crowd around her widen.  She spun around to see what they were looking at, her gaze colliding with his. 

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” he asked, his voice firm.

Her eyebrows drew together.  “Sure,” she replied uneasily.  She took a few steps toward him.

“Hart, what the hell are you even doing here?” a voice cried out from the crowd.

Leah shook her head, turning to face them.  She rolled her eyes as she pursed her lips.  “David, shut up!” she scolded, walking over to Jackson‘s bike with him.

“Sorry about David.  Sometimes, he can’t control his mouth.”

When he reached the bike, he spun on his heel to face her.  His eyes met hers, his look intent.  “Where’s Mallory?” he demanded.

Her eyes widened, as she shrugged her shoulders.  “I don’t know.  I haven’t talked to her today.”

Closing his eyes, he nodded his head.  He turned away to climb onto his bike.  “But…” she began slowly.

“But what?” he asked, his eyes narrowing.

She sighed heavily.  “Well, I don’t know if it’s true…”

“If what’s true?”

She huffed a sigh of aggravation.  “Well, I heard Derrick talking, and he said that he was going over to her house for dinner tonight,” she confessed, her eyes full of the same pity he had seen in his mother’s eyes.

His heart hammered in his chest, as his jaw clenched painfully.  He looked away, not wanting her to see the pain her words caused. 

“Look, I’m sorry,” she offered.

 His hands gripped the handlebars, as he started the bike up.  “No problem,” he lied.  “Thanks for letting me know.”

“Like I said, I don’t know if it’s true,” she yelled over the sound of the bike.

But Jackson didn’t want to hear anymore. 

He pulled the bike out on to the street, feeling the wind whip through his hair.  All this time, he didn’t want to see the truth.  She had never loved him.  Oh sure, she might have felt something for him.  After all, he was the one to take her virginity, not Lange.  But in the end, she realized that being with him would be nothing more than a mistake.  A mistake because he didn’t have the kind of money that Lange could offer.

Damn her!

This morning he had believed every word she said.  Maybe she had even meant it?  But when push came to shove, she had sold him out.  Why had he ever thought she would want to live hand to mouth with him, when she could live with everything Derrick’s family had?  Maybe she had just been using him from the start, using him to make Derrick jealous?  The thought made his stomach turn.  He was a fool.  He had been too caught up in her to realize what was happening.  As he drove through the darkened streets, he made a vow. 

He would never be that stupid again.

He would never again fall for a woman like Mallory Westfall. 

Stay Tuned for more of Choices… 

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