Could you resist?

May 16, 2010 at 2:29 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

Well, it has been a busy month already.  On May 23rd from 2-4pm, I am going to be signing books alongside Karen Rose, Karen Hawkins, Karen Kendall and James Gillen at B&L Books in Altamonte Springs.  Drop by if you are in the area.  I would love to see you there 🙂

Also, I have finished edits on Shadows of Ecstasy, the third book in the Club X series.  It will be out from Whiskey Creek Press Torrid on July 1st and I can’t wait!

Now, let’s get back to Choices…

Chapter 22

Mallory looked around the shop in awe.  In truth, she never would’ve believed that her little place could actually hold this many people.  Women were lined up along the walls.  All of them were clamoring to get the chance to talk to Jackson.  She allowed herself the indulgence of taking a long look at the man who had been commanding her thoughts for years.  His head was bent down, intent on writing some endearment to the elderly woman standing over him.  The woman sighed, her cheeks turning pink as his head rose to look up at her.  The mischievous wink he gave her made her giggle. 

            He definitely knew how to work a crowd.

The power he had over women, it seemed, extended to all ages. 

The next woman was a busty blonde who was about to burst out of her top.  Stepping up to the table, she leaned over him giving him a generous view of her attributes as she wet her lips.  Jealousy flared through her, making her want to run over and rip the other woman’s eyes out.  She barely held back the raging impulse by reminding herself that the woman was a paying customer. 

Wasn’t that what she wanted? 

Paying customers? 

Wasn’t that the reason he was here right now?

            Deep down, she wanted to scream out that she didn’t care if the woman was paying or not, she needed to step away from the table.  Glancing over, she watched the woman reach out to touch his shoulder. 

That was it! 

She was going to go over there and tell that woman to back off.  Just as she took the first step, she heard the bell jingle.  She winced.  At this rate, she was definitely going to get a visit from the fire marshall for being over capacity.  Besides that, the noise level in the shop had reached eardrum-shattering proportions.  She could barely hear a thing amidst all of the chatter.  When she looked up, she saw Darcy Sampson standing by the door. 

            The look on the other woman’s face left little doubt that she knew she was in enemy territory.  She clutched a couple of books to her chest as if they could protect her.  Mallory’s eyes narrowed, her lips pursing together in a frown.  Darcy had never set foot in her shop before.  In fact, she avoided any place Mallory frequented like the plague.  It had been the only way that they had co-existed for this long without a big blowout.  

Yet, here she stood. 

The other woman’s gaze remained focused on something across the room. 

When Mallory followed her stare, she noticed that it was centered on Jackson.

            She gritted her teeth.  It seemed that even Darcy Sampson was helpless to resist his allure.  Despite herself, she almost growled in anger.  She wanted to drag the other woman out of her shop right now. 

Preferrably by her hair. 

The woman definitely had a lot of nerve.  It was too bad that she didn’t have the same amount of brains.  Well, this time, she wouldn’t sit back all quiet and accepting.  This time she would show Ms. Darcy Sampson that she couldn’t have any man she wanted.

Especially if that man was Jackson Hart.

            “Mallory,” she heard someone say, feeling a gently tug on her arm. 

            She turned to find Leah standing next to her, a confused look marring her features.

“What?” she snapped.

            Leah’s eyebrows rose.  “You okay?”

            “I’m fine,” she replied harshly, turning to grab another stack of books off the counter. 

            Leah nodded.  “Yeah, you sound fine,” she snorted, rolling her eyes. 

            She let out a huff of aggravation.  “Leah, what are you doing here?”

            Leah threw her hands up in the air in surrender.  “Hey, I just came to see the legend,” she explained motioning to Jackson with a tilt of her head.  “But now, I see that I’m needed here for a different reason.”

            Her mouth formed a grim line.  “And just what is that?”

            Leah chuckled.  “To keep you from tearing Darcy Sampson’s hair out,” she pointed out.

            Begrudgingly, Mallory released the tension in her jaw. 

Damn, sometimes having a best friend wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, especially when they could read your every thought. 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she quickly denied, hoping that Leah would drop it.  But it just wasn’t in Leah to leave it alone when she knew there was something there.

            “Don’t you?  You’ve been glaring daggers at her across the room.  I’m half tempted to sit back and watch what happens hoping you will actually finally give her a little piece of what she deserves.  But, then again, I am trying to be a better person these days and give up my evil ways.  So, I guess I have to stop you.  At least, until these people leave so that you don’t cause a scene in front of paying customers.  But once they’re gone I can’t make any promises that I can maintain my good behavior.”

            Unable to stop herself, her lips curled into a smile. 

Leave it to Leah to somehow find a way to make her laugh. 

It was one of the reasons she loved her. 

“Okay, so maybe I gave her a look,” she admitted slowly.

            Leah laughed, the sound barely muffled by the chatter all around them.  “Honey, if those looks were actually daggers then little Miss I Think I’m Perfect would be nailed to the wall right now.  To be honest, I can’t believe that she had the guts to show up tonight.”

            They both turned to stare at the other woman who was moving steadily closer to Jackson in the line.  Sensing their rapt attention, she lifted her chin as if she had every right to be there.  Mallory’s fingers tightened painfully around the books in her hand. 

Damn the woman! 

She was nothing but a two-bit tramp who slept with anyone who came along. 

Well, almost anyone. 

If they were remotely involved with Mallory, it apparently made them extremely attractive. 

The woman was a vulcher. 

But Jackson could see through her, couldn’t he?  Her stomach tightened. 

What if he decided he wanted Darcy?

            After all, it wasn’t like Jackson was hers.  He was free to do whatever or whomever he wanted.  The thought made her heart ache.  When she turned back around, she saw that Leah was staring at her.

            “Come on,” Leah said, tilting her head to the side with a devilish wink.  “I’ll take a night off from being good, and we’ll go deflate her boobs!”

            Unable to stop herself, she burst out laughing.  She had to admit that it was good to have a friend that could make her laugh when she was seriously considering doing bodily harm to another.  Suddenly, her face turned somber.  She stared at the couple across the room whose easy conversation was slowly driving her insane. 

“Jackson can see whoever he wants, Leah,” she explained, even though it was tearing her apart.

            Darcy threw her head back on a laugh, flipping her hair over her shoulder.  Mallory all but snarled in frustration. 

This would not happen to her again. 

She refused to watch Darcy Sampson throw herself at Jackson. 

She wouldn’t let her get away with it. 

Walking across the shop to the table, her eyes blazed fire at her adversary. 

            “Go get em, girl,” Leah prodded.

            Jackson’s head lifted as she came over to stand beside him.  Turning to face the other woman, she hoped that she could contain the overwhelming need to let her claws come out.  Darcy seemed unfazed by her presence, meeting her gaze with a challenging one of her own.  Gritting her teeth, she put the books down with a resounding thump. 

            “Sorry, but we have to keep the line moving,” she bit out, silently daring the other woman to defy her.

            Darcy blinked, her red lips forming a condescending smile.  “I didn’t hear anyone complaining.”

            Mallory had heard of people seeing red when they were angry, but she had never experienced it.

Not until today. 

“I’m complaining,” she explained, her tone harsh. 

A quick glance told her that Jackson was clearly enjoying the show.  His eyes traveled back and forth between the two women, a surprised grin forming on his mouth.

            Darcy placed her hands on the table, as she leaned in.  “Do I have to remind you that I’m a paying customer?” she asked, her lips forming a grim line.

            Leaning in, her face came level with the other woman’s, her voice barely audible to anyone but the intended victim.  “Do I have to remind you that this is my shop, and I can have you thrown out at any time?  Now, take your books and get the hell out before I give these people the scene they’ve all been waiting for.”

            Surprise registered in the other woman’s eyes, as if she couldn’t actually believe she was being threatened.  Seeing the anger in Mallory’s eyes, she scooped up her books.  Her eyes scanned the crowd who was watching avidly with anticipation.  After casting a disgusted look her way, Darcy hurried out of the shop.  She could feel Jackson’s probing gaze, but she couldn’t return it.  Not now.  Trying to put some space between them, she hurried to the other side of the room. 

            Eventually, he would demand an explanation for the little scene she caused.  She also knew that she didn’t have one.  At least, not one that she could share with him.  Her feelings for him were way too powerful, too consuming.  And despite the fact that she had told herself that she would not fall for him again, here she was.  She had been kidding herself by thinking that she could resist him.  Loving him was a habit she never seemed to break.  And it was dangerous.  She had found that out the hard way many years ago. 

But loving him now could destroy the life she had so carefully plotted out for herself. 

            If she gave her heart to him now, she could lose everything.  She would lose Jacob, and that was something she was not willing to risk. 

No, she had to stop this thing between them. 

She had to stop it before it was too late, before she confessed all her sins. 

If she trusted him again, she would be laying everything on the line.  Jackson Hart had more money than she could even dream of.  Once he found out that she had kept his son from him, he would fight her with everything he had.  She had no doubt of that.  

After what she had done to him, she deserved it. 

But she couldn’t risk losing Jacob. 

She wouldn’t. 

Even if it meant turning away from the one man she would love forever.             

Stay tuned for more of Choices…

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Things are heating up…

April 25, 2010 at 8:12 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

Well, it has been a productive couple of weeks. I have finished reviewing edits for my new novel, Shadows of Ecstasy, which will be out July 1, 2010. I also finished writing my new young adult novel. Now, I get to decide which project to work on next!

If you would like to come and visit, I have a booksigning planned for May 8th at the Borders in Altamonte Springs from 2-4 pm. And if you miss me there, you can swing by B&L Books in Altamonte Springs on May 23th from 2-4 pm.

I hope to see you there!

Excerpt 21

The air between them felt charged as they watched Jacob disappear down the hall to his room.  Jackson took a seat on the couch, looking completely at home in her inner sanctum.  Nervously, she sat down beside him, not knowing what to expect after what happened between them the other night. 

He turned to face her, his leg easing onto the couch.  His knee brushed against the outside of her thigh.  Memories flashed through her mind.  Memories of his mouth covering her breasts, his head between her legs, his body filling hers.  Every nerve in her body was on ultra-sensitive alert. 

She wanted him. 

Maybe she had denied herself for so long that it made her overly receptive to his advances, but deep down she knew she couldn’t fall back on that stale excuse.  Jackson Hart had always been able to drive her wild with a single touch.  The other night she had practically begged him to take her to the dizzying heights she knew only he could sustain. 

And he had.

Her body still hummed with the satisfaction those hands and lips brought.  But it wasn’t just that.  It was more.  It was the boy she had fallen in love with and the man he had become.  She would never be able to erase those desperate moments, no matter how much she wanted to, but it seemed at least for now that they had come to a truce.  He had fulfilled his long ago promise.  He had come back with enough money and fame to bury all of them. 

But he hadn’t. 

Instead, he had done the one thing she would never expect.  

He offered her help.

She still couldn’t believe that he had actually agreed to a signing after all that had happened between them.  In truth, she had only been half serious when she suggested it.  Sure, it would do wonders for her business, and the revenue it brought in would get her father off her back for the time being. 

But one question created a black cloud over her head. 

What was in it for him?

Why was he doing this?

Instantly, she thought of his earlier warning.  He had told her that he wouldn’t leave until he had the answers she denied him fifteen years ago.  She stiffened. 

The only thing he wanted was the one thing she could never give him. 

Were they truly doomed to repeat the past?

“What’s wrong?” he asked innocently.

She shook her head.  “Nothing,” she lied softly.

Turning to face him, she slid her arm along the back of the couch.  “Jackson, I was only half serious about the book signing.”

One corner of his mouth tugged up in amusement.  “What?  You don’t think I’ll be a big draw?” he teased.

A blush crept into her cheeks, as her tongue snaked out to wet her lips.  “No, it’s not that.  I know you will.  I just don’t want you to feel obligated,” she admitted, her voice low.

Adjusting his position on the couch, his leg brushed against hers again.  His arm slid onto the back of the couch, his fingers almost touching hers. 

“Mallory, you should know by now that I don’t do things out of obligation.”

Her lips curved into a begrudging smile, and his eyes followed the movement.  “Jackson, the things that happened between us…” she trailed off not knowing how to end or even where to begin.  The emotions between them were too raw, too vulnerable. 

He held up a hand to silence her.  “Not tonight.  That conversation will come in time.” 

When his hand resumed its place on the back of the couch, it covered hers.  His long fingers slid in between her own, stroking, caressing.  He entwined them with hers raising her hand so that his thumb could trace lazy circles on the sensitive skin of her palm.  Her eyes met his and her lips parted. 

“Jackson,” she said.

“What, baby?” he answered.

The sound of that rich baritone drifted over her skin like a lover’s caress. 

God, would she ever get enough of him? 

Would she ever be able to turn him away in the interest of self-preservation? 

She was afraid that she already knew the answer. 

It was the same one that had doomed her fifteen years ago. 

His thumb picked up speed, the circles becoming deeper, more intense.  She felt the movement in every part of her body.  Her pulse quickened.  He had promised to be a boy scout, and here she was thinking about ripping off his clothes. 

“I…” she breathed, the sound almost coming out as a moan. 

Suddenly, his movements stopped, and he got to his feet with difficulty from the burgeoning erection that was clearly straining against his pants. 

“I should get going.”

Blinking, she tried to clear her head as she walked him to the door.  When he stood in the entryway, he turned to face her.  His hand came up to caress her cheek as her gaze lifted to meet his.  When his head began to descend, she realized that she wanted this. 

She wanted it more than anything.   

His mouth hovered over hers for a minute before sealing the distance between them.  His tongue stroked the line of her upper lip.  She inched closer, drawn to the heat of his body wanting to feel him against her, needing to feel him against her.  When he pulled away, she released a small moan of protest.  Lust glittered in the depths of his green eyes and she felt a small amount of satisfaction in knowing that he wanted her as much as she wanted him.

“Good night,” he said, turning and disappearing into the darkness.

She hadn’t seen him in a week. 

She couldn’t deny that it had been a productive week.  After all, she had had a lot to do to get ready for the signing.  All of her regular customers got a mailer and she posted flyers throughout the town square.  Everywhere she went someone was asking if Jackson Hart was really going to be at her shop.  The buzz she had created was definitely gratifying. 

After a week of frenzied preparations, the day finally came.  She set up a table in the front of the store stacked with her own stock of his books.  Finally, the bell chimed alerting her that he had arrived.  Feeling her stomach tighten, she watched him come in.  His dark hair slightly ruffled from the wind, he wore a dark green polo shirt that matched the deep color of his eyes.  Holding a box, his muscles flexed in the overhead light.   

“Hi,” he said, his eyes lighting up.

“Hi,” she replied in a strangled tone. 

Thankfully, he didn’t notice. 

Sitting the box down on the table, he glanced around to make last minute changes to the setup for a better flow.  He pulled some books out of the box along with other promotional items bearing his picture.  Insecurity washed over her.  It was obvious that Jackson had done his fair share of signings, while this was her first. 

Had she done something wrong? 

Had she made some terrible mistake that screamed newbie? 

“Is everything okay?”

He glanced over his shoulder.  A grin teased his lips, making her ache to kiss them. 

“Fine, why?”  

“Well, I’ve never actually held a book signing before.  I guess I wasn’t sure what you would need,” she admitted shyly.

Taking a step toward her, he tilted his head to the side.  “It depends.  I mean, when I first started, I think I maybe had five people buy a book throughout the entire signing, and two of those just did it out of sympathy.”

She chuckled.  “Well, things have definitely changed since then.”

“Not so much.  I mean, it’s true that more people know my name.  But it still feels the same.  It still feels like I’m putting myself out there, on display.  And that is never comfortable.”

“I didn’t know.  I guess I just thought…” she trailed off, unsure of how to phrase her thoughts clearly.

One corner of his mouth tugged up.  “What?  That having a certain amount of fame is fun?”  He snorted out a harsh laugh.  “It has its perks, I won’t lie.  Once I even got out of a traffic ticket because the officer was reading one of my books and wanted to discuss who the killer was.”

“Really?” she asked, her eyes widening.

Nodding his head, he gave her a teasing smile.  “I couldn’t believe it either.” 

Taking another step toward her, his body came dangerously close to hers.  His gaze lowered to rest on her mouth.  “But there are other times, times when I want to be alone, and I can’t.  Fame changes things.”

“How?” she couldn’t stop herself from asking.

He reached out to tug on a lock of her hair.  “Well, there’s the women,” he explained.

“Women?” she gulped.

His finger teased the sensitive skin of her earlobe.  “There have been a few,” he taunted.

“I know,” she replied, crimson filling her cheeks.  “I mean…” she stumbled over her words.  Jealousy swept through her as she thought of how many women there had been.  “How many?” she asked, before she could stop herself.

His grin deepened, before turning somber.  “Enough to wonder why they’re with me,” he replied.

Her eyebrows furrowed together on a frown.  “What do you mean?”

His head descended further, bringing their mouths dangerously close to each other.  “Well, are they with Jackson Hart, the man?  Or are they with the writer?”

Her lips parted involuntarily at his nearness.  His hand curled around the nape of her neck, and she knew that she was lost.  He had a power over her that only he could wield effectively.  His lips hovered over hers, teasing her, making her want him to press them against her own. 

“So, what about you?” he inquired, his tone husky.

Her eyelids fluttered closed.  “What do you mean?”

Sliding his other hand around her waist, he kneaded the sensitive skin he found there.  “Are you with the man or the writer right now?” he demanded softly, his voice barely a whisper.

“I…”

Before she could respond, his lips met hers, his tongue plundering the depths of her mouth.  Her arms instinctively rose to circle his neck pinning him against her.  She couldn’t deny it.  She wanted him.  She had always wanted him, and it wasn’t going away no matter how hard she fought it. 

Jackson Hart was the one man she should never have.

And the one man she desired most. 

When his hand rose to cup her breast, she should have stopped him, but she didn’t. 

She couldn’t. 

She had always been powerless to resist him.

And this time it might truly destroy everything.

 Stay tuned for more Choices…

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Can he really keep his hands off of her?

March 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

Well, I just got my copy of New Moon. It was just as good as when I saw it in the theater. Now, I can’t wait for Eclipse!

It has been a long week. I’m almost finished with my young adult novel and then I can ship it off. I’m really excited about this book.

Next, I will start another romantic suspense called Deadly Secrets. I think you will like it.

But now…can Jackson really get through an entire meal and keep his hands to himself? And more importantly, does she want him to?

Chapter 20

Jackson looked down at his watch. 

Right on time. 

Finding the house had been no trouble at all.  He glanced up at the single story dwelling, noting the small touches that made it a home.  Flowerbeds lined the front door with blooms of orange and red.  The window frames of the brick house were trimmed in white. 

He had to admit that it was more modest than he expected. 

            Climbing the two steps to the front door, he looked down at the doormat.

It read, Wipe your paws

He couldn’t help but grin as he reached over to push the glowing button next to the door.  In a matter of minutes, Mallory opened it wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  A lock of hair fell into her eyes, which she blew out of the way. 

“Hi,” she said in a breathless tone.

            He couldn’t help but feel like he had the wind knocked out of him. 

God, she was beautiful. 

For years, he had tried in vain to erase the sound of her voice, the smell of her skin.  Having her in such proximity these past few days had been a lesson in torture, and now that he’d had her again it only made the ache worse.  Staying away from her wasn’t a viable option any more.  But he wasn’t that boy whose heart she had easily claimed years ago.  Now, he was a man, and he wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice. 

This time he would be the victor in their little game. 

This time he would take what he wanted and leave her as coldly as she’d left him. 

            “Hi,” he replied. 

His eyes locked on hers, and they stood there for a moment, each very aware of the other.  

            “Come in.”

            Stepping aside, she let Jackson edge in beside her.  His body brushed against hers.  Sensation shot through his arm.  Being a boy scout might be harder than he thought, but he would damned sure do his best.  Scanning the room, he noticed an overstuffed blue couch that was flanked by two glass coffee tables.  A large coffee table sat in front of the couch holding a wide variety of books and magazines.  A white pillow with the saying Home is where the heart is embroidered on it was smashed into the corner of the couch.  The house looked lived in.  It was a home, a place where someone could feel comfortable immediately.

And he did.

            His eyes narrowed as he glanced at the pictures on the wall.  One was of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice.  The other was a painting of the Coliseum.  The pictures looked strangely out of place with the furniture, and he couldn’t help but wonder why she had chosen them. 

He walked across the room to get a better look.  “Have you been to Italy?”

            A blush crept into her cheeks.  “No, I’ve just always wanted to go there,” she admitted.

            He turned, his eyes meeting hers.  “Why don’t you?”

            “There just never seemed to be time.  I mean, I had Jacob…” she trailed off.

            He was just about to push her on the subject when Jacob entered the room. 

“Hi, Mr. Hart,” he greeted cheerfully.

            “Jackson,” he supplied with a smile.

            Jacob shrugged, offering him a shy grin.  “Sorry, Jackson, I mean.  I just finished reading your new book,” he explained in a rush.

            “Already?” he exclaimed with a chuckle.

            Jacob bobbed his head excitedly.  “It was awesome!”

            “Well, I still have a few things to do in the kitchen.  I’ll let you two talk,” she offered, as she started to leave the room.

            When she reached the kitchen, she let out the breath she had been holding.  This was going to be harder than she thought.  Having Jackson Hart in her home was more intimate than she could have ever imagined.  She had thought about canceling a million times, had even reached for the phone, but in the end she knew she wouldn’t be able to.  She had always been a fool for him, and now that he needed her she couldn’t possibly turn away. 

            Still, just feeling him near was a torture that she hadn’t expected.  When he brushed past her in the entryway, her nipples had tightened instantly.  After all these years, she still wanted him just as much as she ever had.  Time had done nothing to ease her attraction to him. Gripping the edge of the sink, she sent up a silent prayer. 

To get through tonight without make a fool of herself, she would need all the help she could get. 

            Jackson listened as Jacob gushed enthusiastically about his latest novel.  His eyes caught sight of Mallory through the open door to the kitchen.  The jeans she wore hugged the curve of her ass, and he could see the outline of a lacy bra through her shirt.  He tried to focus on what Jacob was saying, but it was getting harder by the minute. 

            “So, you’ve got a thing for my mom, huh?” Jacob prodded.

            When he looked at him, the boy was watching him intently.  Suddenly, he felt like a teenager being cross-examined about his motives. 

“I…” he trailed off. 

How could he explain something he didn’t truly understand himself? 

            “It’s cool.  But my mom’s been through a lot lately, and I don’t want to see her get hurt.”

            His eyebrows furrowed together. “Why do you think I would hurt her?” he asked. 

He hadn’t expected Jacob to display such a protective nature, but it was clear the boy meant every word.  Jacob had been able to see through him and his motives.  He wanted to deny his concerns, but he couldn’t. 

Hadn’t he planned to hurt her?  To seduce her and then leave? 

Hadn’t he wanted to make her pay for leaving him? 

He shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

            Jacob shrugged nervously.  “Look, it’s just that you’re a big time writer.  You’re not going to want to stick around here.”

            The kid was right. 

And he knew it. 

There was no logical reason for him to stay. 

So, why was he still here? 

Why was he playing this game with Mallory? 

Because he hoped that winning this round would finally purge her from his soul.  He hoped that when he walked away, this time he would walk way a whole person.    

            Before he could answer, Mallory called out to say that dinner was ready.

            As they ate, Jacob’s warning echoed through his mind.  He knew the boy was right.  But he couldn’t leave.  Not yet.  For once, they would settle this thing between them and he would be free of her.  For months, he had felt stunted, like life was moving all around him but he was still.   Success had fallen at his feet, but he didn’t feel it. 

            It was the worst kind of irony.  

 “Jackson?” he heard Mallory’s soft voice.

            He lifted his head.  “What?”

            One corner of her mouth tugged up.  “I asked if you liked it?”

            He nodded.  “It’s great.  You’re a good cook,” he answered.

             “Well, I try.”  Her eyes met his and held.

            “So, how long are you planning on staying?” Jacob asked.

            It was a trap. 

He knew it the second the question left the boys lips. 

“I’m not sure.  I just started working on a new book.” 

It was the truth.

Sort of. 

Okay, so he hadn’t written a single, salvageable line.  But he couldn’t very well tell them that he planned to stay until he had revenge for what had happened fifteen years ago.   Still, Jacob’s protective nature struck a chord.  Wouldn’t he have done the same thing for his mother?  The fact that the kid saw him as a threat hurt more than he wanted to admit.  He liked the kid.  He didn’t want Jacob to hate him when this was over. 

            “What’s your new book about?” she inquired.

            Good question, he wanted to say, but didn’t. 

“It’s a mystery,” he admitted. 

Even to me, he didn’t add.

            “Well, I’m sure that it will be a bestseller.  Your books just fly off the rack at the store,” she admitted.

            He tilted his head to the side.  “So, business is good?”

            She bit the corner of her lip.  “Business is…great.”

            She was lying. 

The way she bit her lip made that clear.

“It must be hard in a small town like this to find enough business to stay afloat,” he prodded.

            Pulling her lower lip further beneath her teeth, she worried it gently.  “It can be a challenge at times, but I love it.  I love being able to grow the business from the ground up.”

            Her honesty tugged at a part of him he didn’t want to acknowledge.  Wasn’t that exactly how he felt about his books?  He could only blame the fierce determination in her eyes for his next offer.

            “Anything I can do to help bring in business?” 

What the hell was he doing? 

Had he lost his mind? 

He didn’t need to entrench himself any further with her. 

Getting involved was a mistake. 

But before he could stop himself, the offer was on the table.

            With a quick shrug, she tilted her head to the side.  “Actually…you could do a book signing.  I mean, having you at the store is bound to bring in business,” she suggested.  Pink tinged her cheeks and she looked away sheepishly.

            His gut tightened with arousal. 

God, she could seduce him with the merest tilt of her head. 

“Why not?”

It was as if his cock could talk for him.  

Still, having a valid reason to be close to her might serve a purpose. 

After all, a grateful woman was more likely to give into her lustful needs than an ambivalent one.  

He would do her little signing, but he would demand a reward. 

A reward he was sure to enjoy.

              

Chapter 20

Jackson looked down at his watch. 

Right on time. 

Finding the house had been no trouble at all.  He glanced up at the single story dwelling, noting the small touches that made it a home.  Flowerbeds lined the front door with blooms of orange and red.  The window frames of the brick house were trimmed in white. 

He had to admit that it was more modest than he expected. 

            Climbing the two steps to the front door, he looked down at the doormat.

It read, Wipe your paws. 

He couldn’t help but grin as he reached over to push the glowing button next to the door.  In a matter of minutes, Mallory opened it wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  A lock of hair fell into her eyes, which she blew out of the way. 

“Hi,” she said in a breathless tone.

            He couldn’t help but feel like he had the wind knocked out of him. 

God, she was beautiful. 

For years, he had tried in vain to erase the sound of her voice, the smell of her skin.  Having her in such proximity these past few days had been a lesson in torture, and now that he’d had her again it only made the ache worse.  Staying away from her wasn’t a viable option any more.  But he wasn’t that boy whose heart she had easily claimed years ago.  Now, he was a man, and he wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice. 

This time he would be the victor in their little game. 

This time he would take what he wanted and leave her as coldly as she’d left him. 

            “Hi,” he replied. 

His eyes locked on hers, and they stood there for a moment, each very aware of the other.  

            “Come in.”

            Stepping aside, she let Jackson edge in beside her.  His body brushed against hers.  Sensation shot through his arm.  Being a boy scout might be harder than he thought, but he would damned sure do his best.  Scanning the room, he noticed an overstuffed blue couch that was flanked by two glass coffee tables.  A large coffee table sat in front of the couch holding a wide variety of books and magazines.  A white pillow with the saying Home is where the heart is embroidered on it was smashed into the corner of the couch.  The house looked lived in.  It was a home, a place where someone could feel comfortable immediately.

And he did.

            His eyes narrowed as he glanced at the pictures on the wall.  One was of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice.  The other was a painting of the Coliseum.  The pictures looked strangely out of place with the furniture, and he couldn’t help but wonder why she had chosen them. 

He walked across the room to get a better look.  “Have you been to Italy?”

            A blush crept into her cheeks.  “No, I’ve just always wanted to go there,” she admitted.

            He turned, his eyes meeting hers.  “Why don’t you?”

            “There just never seemed to be time.  I mean, I had Jacob…” she trailed off.

            He was just about to push her on the subject when Jacob entered the room. 

“Hi, Mr. Hart,” he greeted cheerfully.

            “Jackson,” he supplied with a smile.

            Jacob shrugged, offering him a shy grin.  “Sorry, Jackson, I mean.  I just finished reading your new book,” he explained in a rush.

            “Already?” he exclaimed with a chuckle.

            Jacob bobbed his head excitedly.  “It was awesome!”

            “Well, I still have a few things to do in the kitchen.  I’ll let you two talk,” she offered, as she started to leave the room.

 

            When she reached the kitchen, she let out the breath she had been holding.  This was going to be harder than she thought.  Having Jackson Hart in her home was more intimate than she could have ever imagined.  She had thought about canceling a million times, had even reached for the phone, but in the end she knew she wouldn’t be able to.  She had always been a fool for him, and now that he needed her she couldn’t possibly turn away. 

            Still, just feeling him near was a torture that she hadn’t expected.  When he brushed past her in the entryway, her nipples had tightened instantly.  After all these years, she still wanted him just as much as she ever had.  Time had done nothing to ease her attraction to him. Gripping the edge of the sink, she sent up a silent prayer. 

To get through tonight without make a fool of herself, she would need all the help she could get. 

 

            Jackson listened as Jacob gushed enthusiastically about his latest novel.  His eyes caught sight of Mallory through the open door to the kitchen.  The jeans she wore hugged the curve of her ass, and he could see the outline of a lacy bra through her shirt.  He tried to focus on what Jacob was saying, but it was getting harder by the minute. 

            “So, you’ve got a thing for my mom, huh?” Jacob prodded.

            When he looked at him, the boy was watching him intently.  Suddenly, he felt like a teenager being cross-examined about his motives. 

“I…” he trailed off. 

How could he explain something he didn’t truly understand himself? 

            “It’s cool.  But my mom’s been through a lot lately, and I don’t want to see her get hurt.”

            His eyebrows furrowed together. “Why do you think I would hurt her?” he asked. 

He hadn’t expected Jacob to display such a protective nature, but it was clear the boy meant every word.  Jacob had been able to see through him and his motives.  He wanted to deny his concerns, but he couldn’t. 

Hadn’t he planned to hurt her?  To seduce her and then leave? 

Hadn’t he wanted to make her pay for leaving him? 

He shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

            Jacob shrugged nervously.  “Look, it’s just that you’re a big time writer.  You’re not going to want to stick around here.”

            The kid was right. 

And he knew it. 

There was no logical reason for him to stay. 

So, why was he still here? 

Why was he playing this game with Mallory? 

Because he hoped that winning this round would finally purge her from his soul.  He hoped that when he walked away, this time he would walk way a whole person.    

            Before he could answer, Mallory called out to say that dinner was ready.

            As they ate, Jacob’s warning echoed through his mind.  He knew the boy was right.  But he couldn’t leave.  Not yet.  For once, they would settle this thing between them and he would be free of her.  For months, he had felt stunted, like life was moving all around him but he was still.   Success had fallen at his feet, but he didn’t feel it. 

            It was the worst kind of irony.  

 “Jackson?” he heard Mallory’s soft voice.

            He lifted his head.  “What?”

            One corner of her mouth tugged up.  “I asked if you liked it?”

            He nodded.  “It’s great.  You’re a good cook,” he answered.

             “Well, I try.”  Her eyes met his and held.

            “So, how long are you planning on staying?” Jacob asked.

            It was a trap. 

He knew it the second the question left the boys lips. 

“I’m not sure.  I just started working on a new book.” 

It was the truth.

Sort of. 

Okay, so he hadn’t written a single, salvageable line.  But he couldn’t very well tell them that he planned to stay until he had revenge for what had happened fifteen years ago.   Still, Jacob’s protective nature struck a chord.  Wouldn’t he have done the same thing for his mother?  The fact that the kid saw him as a threat hurt more than he wanted to admit.  He liked the kid.  He didn’t want Jacob to hate him when this was over. 

            “What’s your new book about?” she inquired.

            Good question, he wanted to say, but didn’t. 

“It’s a mystery,” he admitted. 

Even to me, he didn’t add.

            “Well, I’m sure that it will be a bestseller.  Your books just fly off the rack at the store,” she admitted.

            He tilted his head to the side.  “So, business is good?”

            She bit the corner of her lip.  “Business is…great.”

            She was lying. 

The way she bit her lip made that clear.

“It must be hard in a small town like this to find enough business to stay afloat,” he prodded.

            Pulling her lower lip further beneath her teeth, she worried it gently.  “It can be a challenge at times, but I love it.  I love being able to grow the business from the ground up.”

            Her honesty tugged at a part of him he didn’t want to acknowledge.  Wasn’t that exactly how he felt about his books?  He could only blame the fierce determination in her eyes for his next offer.

            “Anything I can do to help bring in business?” 

What the hell was he doing? 

Had he lost his mind? 

He didn’t need to entrench himself any further with her. 

Getting involved was a mistake. 

But before he could stop himself, the offer was on the table.

            With a quick shrug, she tilted her head to the side.  “Actually…you could do a book signing.  I mean, having you at the store is bound to bring in business,” she suggested.  Pink tinged her cheeks and she looked away sheepishly.

            His gut tightened with arousal. 

God, she could seduce him with the merest tilt of her head. 

“Why not?”

It was as if his cock could talk for him.  

Still, having a valid reason to be close to her might serve a purpose. 

After all, a grateful woman was more likely to give into her lustful needs than an ambivalent one.  

He would do her little signing, but he would demand a reward. 

A reward he was sure to enjoy.

            Stay tuned for more of Choices…

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Can he really keep his hands off of her?

March 15, 2010 at 12:40 am (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

Well, it was an interesting weekend to say the least. Soon, I will be starting edits on Shadows of Ecstasy, the third book in my Club X series. I’m also in the middle of working on a new project. This will be a slight departure from what you are used to, but I hope that everyone will love it.

I also hope that you are enjoying Mallory and Jackson’s story. This one is near and dear to my heart. It’s also set in my old hometown.

Excerpt 20

Jackson looked down at his watch. 

Right on time. 

Finding the house had been no trouble at all.  He glanced up at the single story dwelling, noting the small touches that made it a home.  Flowerbeds lined the front door with blooms of orange and red.  The window frames of the brick house were trimmed in white. 

He had to admit that it was more modest than he expected. 

            Climbing the two steps to the front door, he looked down at the doormat.

It read, Wipe your paws

He couldn’t help but grin as he reached over to push the glowing button next to the door.  In a matter of minutes, Mallory opened it wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  A lock of hair fell into her eyes, which she blew out of the way. 

“Hi,” she said in a breathless tone.

            He couldn’t help but feel like he had the wind knocked out of him. 

God, she was beautiful. 

For years, he had tried in vain to erase the sound of her voice, the smell of her skin.  Having her in such proximity these past few days had been a lesson in torture, and now that he’d had her again it only made the ache worse.  Staying away from her wasn’t a viable option any more.  But he wasn’t that boy whose heart she had easily claimed years ago.  Now, he was a man, and he wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice. 

This time he would be the victor in their little game. 

This time he would take what he wanted and leave her as coldly as she’d left him. 

            “Hi,” he replied. 

His eyes locked on hers, and they stood there for a moment, each very aware of the other.  

            “Come in.”

            Stepping aside, she let Jackson edge in beside her.  His body brushed against hers.  Sensation shot through his arm.  Being a boy scout might be harder than he thought, but he would damned sure do his best.  Scanning the room, he noticed an overstuffed blue couch that was flanked by two glass coffee tables.  A large coffee table sat in front of the couch holding a wide variety of books and magazines.  A white pillow with the saying Home is where the heart is embroidered on it was smashed into the corner of the couch.  The house looked lived in.  It was a home, a place where someone could feel comfortable immediately.

And he did.

            His eyes narrowed as he glanced at the pictures on the wall.  One was of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice.  The other was a painting of the Coliseum.  The pictures looked strangely out of place with the furniture, and he couldn’t help but wonder why she had chosen them. 

He walked across the room to get a better look.  “Have you been to Italy?”

            A blush crept into her cheeks.  “No, I’ve just always wanted to go there,” she admitted.

            He turned, his eyes meeting hers.  “Why don’t you?”

            “There just never seemed to be time.  I mean, I had Jacob…” she trailed off.

            He was just about to push her on the subject when Jacob entered the room. 

“Hi, Mr. Hart,” he greeted cheerfully.

            “Jackson,” he supplied with a smile.

            Jacob shrugged, offering him a shy grin.  “Sorry, Jackson, I mean.  I just finished reading your new book,” he explained in a rush.

            “Already?” he exclaimed with a chuckle.

            Jacob bobbed his head excitedly.  “It was awesome!”

            “Well, I still have a few things to do in the kitchen.  I’ll let you two talk,” she offered, as she started to leave the room.

            When she reached the kitchen, she let out the breath she had been holding.  This was going to be harder than she thought.  Having Jackson Hart in her home was more intimate than she could have ever imagined.  She had thought about canceling a million times, had even reached for the phone, but in the end she knew she wouldn’t be able to.  She had always been a fool for him, and now that he needed her she couldn’t possibly turn away. 

            Still, just feeling him near was a torture that she hadn’t expected.  When he brushed past her in the entryway, her nipples had tightened instantly.  After all these years, she still wanted him just as much as she ever had.  Time had done nothing to ease her attraction to him. Gripping the edge of the sink, she sent up a silent prayer. 

To get through tonight without make a fool of herself, she would need all the help she could get. 

            Jackson listened as Jacob gushed enthusiastically about his latest novel.  His eyes caught sight of Mallory through the open door to the kitchen.  The jeans she wore hugged the curve of her ass, and he could see the outline of a lacy bra through her shirt.  He tried to focus on what Jacob was saying, but it was getting harder by the minute. 

            “So, you’ve got a thing for my mom, huh?” Jacob prodded.

            When he looked at him, the boy was watching him intently.  Suddenly, he felt like a teenager being cross-examined about his motives. 

“I…” he trailed off. 

How could he explain something he didn’t truly understand himself? 

            “It’s cool.  But my mom’s been through a lot lately, and I don’t want to see her get hurt.”

            His eyebrows furrowed together. “Why do you think I would hurt her?” he asked. 

He hadn’t expected Jacob to display such a protective nature, but it was clear the boy meant every word.  Jacob had been able to see through him and his motives.  He wanted to deny his concerns, but he couldn’t. 

Hadn’t he planned to hurt her?  To seduce her and then leave? 

Hadn’t he wanted to make her pay for leaving him? 

He shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

            Jacob shrugged nervously.  “Look, it’s just that you’re a big time writer.  You’re not going to want to stick around here.”

            The kid was right. 

And he knew it. 

There was no logical reason for him to stay. 

So, why was he still here? 

Why was he playing this game with Mallory? 

Because he hoped that winning this round would finally purge her from his soul.  He hoped that when he walked away, this time he would walk way a whole person.    

            Before he could answer, Mallory called out to say that dinner was ready.

            As they ate, Jacob’s warning echoed through his mind.  He knew the boy was right.  But he couldn’t leave.  Not yet.  For once, they would settle this thing between them and he would be free of her.  For months, he had felt stunted, like life was moving all around him but he was still.   Success had fallen at his feet, but he didn’t feel it. 

            It was the worst kind of irony.  

 “Jackson?” he heard Mallory’s soft voice.

            He lifted his head.  “What?”

            One corner of her mouth tugged up.  “I asked if you liked it?”

            He nodded.  “It’s great.  You’re a good cook,” he answered.

             “Well, I try.”  Her eyes met his and held.

            “So, how long are you planning on staying?” Jacob asked.

            It was a trap. 

He knew it the second the question left the boys lips. 

“I’m not sure.  I just started working on a new book.” 

It was the truth.

Sort of. 

Okay, so he hadn’t written a single, salvageable line.  But he couldn’t very well tell them that he planned to stay until he had revenge for what had happened fifteen years ago.   Still, Jacob’s protective nature struck a chord.  Wouldn’t he have done the same thing for his mother?  The fact that the kid saw him as a threat hurt more than he wanted to admit.  He liked the kid.  He didn’t want Jacob to hate him when this was over. 

            “What’s your new book about?” she inquired.

            Good question, he wanted to say, but didn’t. 

“It’s a mystery,” he admitted. 

Even to me, he didn’t add.

            “Well, I’m sure that it will be a bestseller.  Your books just fly off the rack at the store,” she admitted.

            He tilted his head to the side.  “So, business is good?”

            She bit the corner of her lip.  “Business is…great.”

            She was lying. 

The way she bit her lip made that clear.

“It must be hard in a small town like this to find enough business to stay afloat,” he prodded.

            Pulling her lower lip further beneath her teeth, she worried it gently.  “It can be a challenge at times, but I love it.  I love being able to grow the business from the ground up.”

            Her honesty tugged at a part of him he didn’t want to acknowledge.  Wasn’t that exactly how he felt about his books?  He could only blame the fierce determination in her eyes for his next offer.

            “Anything I can do to help bring in business?” 

What the hell was he doing? 

Had he lost his mind? 

He didn’t need to entrench himself any further with her. 

Getting involved was a mistake. 

But before he could stop himself, the offer was on the table.

            With a quick shrug, she tilted her head to the side.  “Actually…you could do a book signing.  I mean, having you at the store is bound to bring in business,” she suggested.  Pink tinged her cheeks and she looked away sheepishly.

            His gut tightened with arousal. 

God, she could seduce him with the merest tilt of her head. 

“Why not?”

It was as if his cock could talk for him.  

Still, having a valid reason to be close to her might serve a purpose. 

After all, a grateful woman was more likely to give into her lustful needs than an ambivalent one.  

He would do her little signing, but he would demand a reward. 

A reward he was sure to enjoy.

Stay tuned for more of Choices…

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It’s getting HOT!!!!

February 28, 2010 at 5:15 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

Well, it has been a lazy weekend!  Pretty soon, I will begin edits on Shadows of Ecstasy, the third book in the Club X series.  If you haven’t read the rest of the Club X series, you can check it out at www.shaunahart.com.

I hope that you are all enjoying Choices.  Let me know what you think 🙂

Without further ado, let’s get right to Mallory and Jackson:

Excerpt 18

Jackson twisted his tie, scowling at his reflection.  Despite his best efforts, the damned thing still wasn’t straight.  Yanking it out, he began the laborious process of starting over again.  After several minutes of cursing, he was able to get it on right.  He leaned over the sink, gripping the porcelain edges as he hung his head. 

How the hell was he going to get through this day?

            Last night, as he stared at what was left of his mother, things had become real to him.  He supposed that his mind had played tricks on him since he came back.  He hadn’t wanted to face her death, and his mind had done the humane thing by pretending that she was just on a vacation. 

            Lifting his head, he stared at his own reflection.  Putting this off wouldn’t make it go away.  He had to face it, no matter how painful it was.  The service seemed to pass by in a blur.  He sat alone in the front row, which was always reserved for family.  He knew that he made a pitiful display.  But a part of him didn’t care.  The people in this town would remember this day as they remembered everything else, with a half-true version of it.  It didn’t matter anymore what the town’s elite thought about him.  Now, they were clamoring for his attention, but the second his star lost its luster they would be telling each other they had never thought much of him. 

            Climbing into the black limousine, he leaned his head back on the seat.  Rain glided down the windows in sheets.  When they reached the cemetery, he let out the breath he had been holding.  Standing beneath the green tent, the raindrops created a clattering sound overhead.  He felt the presence of people all around him, but he didn’t see them.  He didn’t see anything, except his mother’s casket perched above her plot.

As he climbed back into the limo to leave, he caught a glimpse of the woman who made him run from this place years ago.  Her eyes met his, and he realized how costly her hold on him had been.

            Mallory watched him drive away, her heart aching for him.  Walking back to the car, she tried her best to shield herself from the pouring rain.  Derrick, she couldn’t help but notice, had chosen not to make an appearance today.   She had to admit that she was grateful for that.  With Jacob spending the night there, she was left alone again.  The thought of going home made her stomach turn.  She hated being alone.  True, there were moments when she was glad for some quiet time, but there were other moments where she felt lost.  If it wasn’t for Jacob, she wouldn’t know what to do with herself.

            She spent the rest of the day at the store trying to keep her thoughts centered, but no matter how she tried they always returned to Jackson.  Deciding to punish herself, she began to do inventory in a vain attempt to keep her mind centered. 

She was in the back when she heard the bell ring. 

“I’ll be right there,” she called out.

            Pushing a wayward strand of hair off her forehead, she walked up to the front.  Curtis lounged against the counter, his arms crossed over his chest. 

“Hey sis, how’s it going?” he asked with a smile that didn’t quite meet his eyes.

            She put the stack of books down on the counter.  “Curtis,” she replied with a nod.  “What brings you here?”

            Cocking his head to the side, he gave her a sly wink.  “Can’t a big brother check in on his little sister every once in a while?”

            Her eyes narrowed.  “Did Dad send you?”

            “He’s a little bit concerned,” he admitted.

            Glaring at him, her hands flew to her hips.  “Concerned about what exactly?”      Holding his hand in the air, his eyebrows arched high.  “Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, okay?”

            Her lips formed a grim line.  “Let me guess, he heard that Jackson Hart was back in town?”

            “You have to admit that you don’t have the best track record in that department,” Curtis defended.

            “He’s unbelievable,” she exclaimed, shaking her head in frustration.

            “He just wants you to remember that you’re a Westfall,” he relayed evenly.

            She rolled her eyes.  “How could I ever forget?”

“Great!” he said, walking over to the door.  When he reached it, he turned to face her.  “You really should visit him more.  He misses you and Jacob.”

            Before she could respond, he was gone. 

            She sighed heavily.  Years after she had made the ultimate sacrifice for him, her father still attempted to run her life.  She hated him for the years he had cost her, for the lie he made her live.  As she closed the store, her thoughts returned to Jackson.  She couldn’t help but wonder how he was doing.  Before she could think things through, she found herself heading toward the cabin.  The lights inside created a halo around it.  Parking her car next to his jeep, she climbed out.  Fighting the mosquitoes, she walked across the dirt road, climbing the steps to the front door. 

            As she stood on his porch, she began to question her sanity.  After all, she wasn’t naïve enough to think he would be glad to have a visitor right now, especially a visitor that hurt him as badly as she had.  Before she could think about it any further, she lightly wrapped her knuckles on the screen door.  The door opened to reveal Jackson, bare-chested in sweatpants.  Memories washed over her, heating her in all the wrong places.  His black hair was tousled, and his eyes were glazed. 

            She waited for his reaction, not sure if she was about to be thrown off the patio. 

Instead, he opened the door, one arm hanging lazily on the doorjamb.  “I knew you’d find your way here sooner or later,” he drawled. 

            Before she allowed herself to ponder that statement too much, she came inside.  Out of the corner of her eye she saw a stack of empty, half-crushed beer cans on the coffee table.  He closed the door behind her, his hungry gaze traveling over the length of her body.  Heat pooled in sensitive places, making her mind swim. 

            “I just wanted to see if you were okay,” she explained softly.

            “Uh uh,” he said, shaking his head.

            “What?” she asked, clearly confused.

            “That’s not why you came,” he replied, stalking toward her.

            The look in his eyes worried her.  “What are you talking about, Jackson?” 

Her eyes searched the room for a way to escape as he came dangerously close.  The smell of alcohol drifted up to her nostrils.  In her attempt to move away from him, he had effectively cornered her against the wall. 

He leaned in, his breath teasing her ear.

            “I know why you came, Mallory.  It’s the same reason you always used to come to see me, and it sure as hell doesn’t have anything to do with making sure I’m okay.”

            Her body tingled with his nearness, but she struggled to maintain control.  “You’re drunk, Jackson,” she pointed out, her voice sounding way too breathless.

            The corners of his lips tugged up on a grin.  “Maybe…But I can still give you what you want.”

            Gripping her hips, he hauled her against him.  Her hands instinctively splayed across his nipples, causing a low groan to rumble from deep in his throat.  The feel of him against her made her nipples tighten.  His tongue reached out to tease her earlobe making her eyelids flutter closed. 

She was losing this battle. 

And fast. 

Unable to stop herself, her palms turned to cover his nipples fully.

He moaned.  “That’s right, baby.  Take what you came for.”

            The words jolted her out of her sensual haze.  Pushing away from him, she raced to the other side of the room. 

“Jackson, I did not come here for this,” she vehemently denied.

He stalked her like a lion stalks his pray.  For each step he took forward, she took one back. 

            “Sure you did, baby.  It’s the only reason you ever came to me, isn’t it?”

            “That’s not true.”

            Tilting his head to the side, his steps never faltered.  “No?  Perhaps you forget how quickly you left when you were done.”

            A quick glance made her realize that somehow he had trapped her in his old bedroom.  Looking inside, she realized that nothing had changed.  It was as if she had stepped into a time warp.  Memories assaulted her, making her eyes squeeze shut. 

            “Remember the night I had you for the first time?  You were so wet I could barely hold out long enough to make you come.”

            Biting her lower lip, she tried to block out the images his words were conjuring.  He backed her up against the wall, his hands splaying on either side of her head. 

“Do you remember what if felt like to have me inside of you?” he whispered, his breath tickling the side of her neck. 

            When he leaned in, she felt the length of his arousal against her stomach.  She knew that answering him would give him what he wanted, but she couldn’t help herself. 

“Yes,” she breathed, her head falling back against the wall.

            She felt his hands cover her breasts, taunting her nipples to full points.  “Did you miss me, baby?” he asked, his breathing ragged.

            His tongue snaked out to trace the length of her jaw.  He sucked her earlobe into his mouth, his teeth nipping at it gently.  His hands slid around her waist to cup her buttocks, lifting her against his bulging erection and causing her to gasp. 

“I’ve missed you.  Can you feel how much?”

            Instinctively, her arms came up to encircle his neck, her hands delving into his hair.  His hands curved around the cleft of her ass, lifting her off the ground.  Her legs circled his waist.  A breathy moan escaped her lips at the intensity of feeling him against her, cradled in the one place that needed him most.  Heat pooled between her legs as he rubbed against her.  Her mouth fell open and he took the advantage to cover it with his own.  His tongue plundered her mouth, taking what he needed.  Her tongue curled around his. 

She knew that her willpower was slipping away, but she couldn’t find it in her to care.  She wanted him.  God, did she want him.  There was no more denying it.  Like an addict crying out for one last taste, her body refused to be denied.  Walking over to the bed, he let her slide down the front of his body. 

When he pulled away, his eyes seemed to devour every inch of her.   

“Take your clothes off,” he ordered, his eyes dark with passion.

“Jackson…” she began slowly.

“Take them off, Mallory,” he repeated more firmly this time.

She searched for some kind of understanding, but she found none.  “No,” she answered, her chin lifting in defiance.

His head tilted to the side, a cynical smile forming on his beautiful mouth.  “No?” he asked, clearly amused.  “Would you like me to do it for you?”

“No,” she answered honestly.   She had no doubt that he would do just that. 

His eyes narrowed dangerously.  “Then, take them off.”

She should have refused him.  But the truth was that she wanted him as much as he wanted her.  Her fingers came up to slowly pull the buttons of her shirt free, his eyes following every movement.  It fell to the floor moments before she pushed her jeans over her hips.  Trying to block out the resemblance to the first time they made love, she unclasped her bra, sliding it over her arms to free her breasts.  When she pushed her panties down her hips to reveal an auburn patch of curls, she heard his quick intake of breath.

“Lay down,” he instructed. 

Climbing onto the bed, she watched as he pushed the sweatpants down his legs to free his erection.  Staring up at him, her body tingled.  He was even more beautiful than she remembered.  His lips tugged up on a smile as her mouth fell open.  Then, he was on top of her, his mouth plundering hers, taking what she offered.  Spreading her thighs wide, he pressed his erection against her. 

His mouth traveled lower to cover her nipple, his tongue toying with the pink bud.  Her fingers dove into his hair imprisoning him against her.  He tilted his head giving the same attention to the other peak that strained against him.  When he began to move lower, she caught his shoulders. 

Her eyes searched his uneasily.

“I want to taste you.” 

Her eyes never left his as his mouth covered her.  She cried out at the exquisite feeling of his tongue parting her tender folds.  He slid a finger inside of her as his tongue toyed with the sensitive nub at the top.  One of his hands curled around her thigh as he slid another finger inside.  Her lower body tightened as the first wave of pleasure swept through her.  Gripping the sheets, her body moved against him.  Finally, she could take no more.  She needed to feel him inside of her. 

“Jackson, please,” she begged, her breathing coming out in short pants.

Moving up her body, he pressed himself against her slick folds.  He drove into her in one long thrust.  Crying out against his neck, her nails bit into his back. 

“God, you’re tight.”

Slowly, he began to move inside of her.  When her legs wrapped around his waist, his hands curled around her wrists hoisting them high over her head.  Her eyes widened and she gasped in surprise.  Bucking against him, her movements only served to drive him further into her body.  He plunged into her again, his body bent on its own satisfaction. 

“Jackson, please.  Not like this,” she whimpered. 

His grip loosened on her arms, his tongue teasing the sensitive skin of her neck.  She shivered against him, her hands gripping the muscles in his back. 

“Can’t wait,” he murmured. 

His hand moved between their bodies to rub the notch at the apex of her thighs.  He caught her moan in his mouth as his tongue danced with hers.  Curling a hand around her thigh, he spread her legs wider as he pounded into her.  His positioning brought him hard against the tight little nub that cried out for attention.  Suddenly, it was all too much.  She could feel him everywhere, and she didn’t want it to ever stop.  Waves of pleasure washed over her causing her to cry out.  Letting out a low groan, he joined her. 

For a moment, neither of them moved. 

Then, he pushed himself up, his eyes searching hers. 

Sanity began to return. 

God, he hadn’t come that hard since…since the last time they were together. 

There was nothing like being inside of her, having her naked and shaking beneath him.  He hated her for that.  He hated her for the feelings she made him feel, but refused to share. 

His chest aching, he struck out.  “God, you always were a good fuck.”

Stay tuned for more of Choices…

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What do you do when your past confronts you?

February 21, 2010 at 2:31 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

It has been a long weekend for me.  Unfortunately, I have some kind of bug and have been feeling bad since Friday.  I did get to make it to see Percy Jackson, though, with my husband and son.  It was very good and I know my son loved it!

I hope that you are all enjoying Choices.  The past is about to collide with the present in a BIG way…

Excerpt 17

Jackson walked into the room where his mother’s lifeless body lay. 

“I’ll just give you a few minutes alone.”

He heard the door close behind him.   A shiver raced up his spine as he realized that this was really happening.  Denial was so powerful, that it was sometimes hard to give up.  But there were no more hiding places left.  He was really about to bury his mother.  Never again would he hear her laughter or her stern, all-knowing lectures about what she wanted out of life for him.  She would never pat him on the back again giving him that unspoken sign that everything would be okay.

He didn’t want to say goodbye, wasn’t ready to face this moment.

But here it was, and it wasn’t going to go away.   

            Taking a couple of steps into the room, he stood before the beautiful ivory casket that he had chosen for her, despite her wishes.  A variety of brightly colored roses surrounded her.  The sweet fragrance wrapped around him.  He was sure that he would get a harsh scolding when he met her in heaven for disobeying her direction.   But he didn’t care.  He wouldn’t see her out without something that was as grand as she was.

She looked so hollow.

So empty. 

Makeup had been applied to even out her coloring.  Leaning over her, he reached up to push an errant strand of gray hair back into place.  He placed his hand on top of hers.  This was really it.  This was really the end. 

How was he supposed to say goodbye? 

            In vain, he wished for all of the things that he knew could never be.  He wished that he had visited more often.  He wished that he had spent more time with her.  He thought of all the moments she would never share with him. 

His wedding. 

His children.

Gripping the edge of the casket, his head fell between his shoulders. 

His shoulders shook as he wept for everything they would never share. 

****

            Mallory sat in her car, her hands gripping the steering wheel.  The old funeral home loomed high reminding her of a long ago day when she had put her own mother into the ground.  On that day, she vowed never to come back here.  Yet, here she sat.  She only came today for Jackson.  Despite his harsh words, she knew what he was feeling right now. 

            Still, a part of her knew that she was a fool for coming here.

            But then again, she had always been a fool for Jackson Hart. 

Taking a deep breath, she opened the car door.  If Jacob was here, it would be easier.  For the last year, he had been her support system.  Maybe she had leaned on him too heavily, depended on him too much, but she couldn’t help it. 

He was all she had. 

Unfortunately, tonight he was with Derrick. 

            With him away, she couldn’t help but worry.  Derrick had been a sorry excuse for a stand-in father over the years.  He seemed to make it a point to miss Little League games and school plays.  Despite Jacob’s best efforts at getting his attention, Derrick had remained at a distance.  The indifference caused Jacob to wilt every time his efforts failed, and it killed her a little bit every day to witness it.  In the beginning, she tried to make Derrick see the harm that he was doing, had begged on more than one occasion for him to at least put in an appearance, but it had all been a wasted effort. 

            Only she knew the real reason for his indifference.  Jacob would always be a constant reminder of what happened to him.  He had never forgiven her for her indiscretion with Jackson, no matter how short-lived.  He had made her pay in too many ways to count, including the rough way he had taken her on their wedding night.  Watching her son suffer at his hands had been the ace up his sleeve.  It had done more damage than any physical pain he might have inflicted. 

            Slowly, she climbed the steps realizing that it was just as she feared.  She was early.  The half empty parking lot confirmed that fact.  In truth, she wanted to get here before everyone else.  If Jackson changed his mind about wanting her here, it would be better to find it out in private rather than subject herself to a public scene.  She pulled the door open stepping inside.  The familiar smells washed over her.  She fought the urge to leave, to run back to her car, but refused to give into the impulse.

With no one to greet her, she took a step further stopping beside a table filled with pamphlets.  Memorial announcements were scattered along the top with scriptures neatly printed on them.  Picking one up, she idly fingered the edges. 

A sound caught her attention, bringing her head up.  The door was cracked slightly, and she couldn’t help but peak inside.  Jackson stood alone in front of his mother’s casket, his shoulders shaking as he wept for her.  Tears filled her eyes at the solemn sight.  She wanted to go to him.  Every part of her cried out for it, but she couldn’t.  She wouldn’t intrude on such a private moment.  Besides, she of all people knew how raw the emotions were at a time like this.  No words could ease a person’s suffering as they said goodbye to someone they loved.

            Jackson watched as people milled about in the large room.  People he hadn’t seen for years turned out to say goodbye to his mother.  It always amazed him how quickly fame changed people’s opinions.  After all, he was still the same person that they had all turned their noses up at years ago.  Only now, his recent success seemed to buy him a one-way ticket into Princeton’s elite.  He watched them as they watched him.  They sat in chairs leaning over the backs to whisper the latest rumors. 

Remaining by his mother’s side, he calmly greeted the guests as they strolled in.  An elderly group of women came up to him, one coming to stand directly in front of him.  Her gray hair was pulled into a neat bun, her navy blue dress covered in cheerful flowers.  She grabbed his hand, holding it tight. 

“I’m Gladys Ridgefield.   I knew your mother from church.  She was such a wonderful woman.  She talked about you all of the time.”

“All good I hope,” he joked.

She laughed.  “She was so proud of you.  Always going on and on about what a great son you were.”

“That was nice of her.”

“She was always such a help over at the church, sang in the church choir.  We’re all going to miss her so much.”

His gaze inevitably strayed to the woman who had broken his heart years ago.  The black dress she wore outlined the curve of her breasts, the flare of her hips.  As she moved, it flowed with her brushing against her long legs as she made her way to the front of the room.

“Now, we’ve made sure to leave you plenty of food in the refrigerator in the back,” the older woman said, as she patted his hands.  “We’ve left instructions on every dish, so that you know how long to cook it.”

“I can’t thank you enough for how kind you were to me and my mother.”

She pulled him into a bear hug, and when she drew back he saw fresh tears in her eyes.  “Your mother was one of the finest women I’ve ever known.  I’m going to miss her something awful.”  As if embarrassed by her lack of composure, she quickly moved away. 

He stared after her for a moment, before Mallory moved into view.  Her hair was pulled into a clip at her nape, but a few curly tendrils had escaped the rigid hold.  More than anything, he wanted to pull her against him and block out everything else. 

But he couldn’t. 

Too much had happened now. 

“I’m so sorry about your mother, Jackson.  I know how hard it is.  If there’s anything I can do…” she trailed off.

He offered her a cynical sneer.  “Don’t worry, Mallory.  I won’t be coming to you for any late night talks about my feelings.”  

He was being an ass, and he knew it.  After all, she was only here to pay her respects.  Privately she would turn her nose up at him, but publicly she would play the part. 

It was one of the things he hated most about her. 

“I only meant that I’m sorry for your loss,” she said, her lips pursing together.

His gaze strayed to her mouth.  Her lips were so full that they beckoned a man to take them.  He wanted to.  God, did he want to. 

He wanted to taste every inch of her…slowly. 

He hated himself for it.   

But it didn’t stop the ache.

****

Her lips fell open, and her eyes widened.  Her pulse began to race.  She glanced to the side to see that others were waiting to pay their respects.  Offering him a quick smile, she excused herself to escape the heat that emanated from him.  She felt his gaze on her as she walked away.  Why did he still have this hold on her?  As she moved to the back of the room, she noticed that Derrick had finally arrived. 

A leggy blonde on his arm appeared at his side.  She wasn’t sure why she was surprised that he brought Darcy with him.  After all, they had been dating for a long time, even before the divorce.  Still, watching them walk in together twisted in her side.  Furtive glances were cast her way from all areas of the room.  As if they all expected her to run over and scratch out the other woman’s eyes.  Well, they would be sadly mistaken tonight, because she refused to be a part of any more gross displays. 

Lifting her chin, she looked around the room.  She knew what they were saying.  It was probably the same thing she had been listening to for months.  Poor Mallory, I don’t know how she deals with it.  In truth, she was sick of being Poor Mallory. 

So her husband had run off with another woman? 

So what? 

Did this town never forget?  Or forgive? 

The answer, though unfortunate, was a simple no. 

She watched as Jacob separated himself from Derrick to walk over to Jackson.  Jackson reached out to shake his hand.  Fear raced up her spine as she saw the similarities between them.  Glancing around the room, she couldn’t help but wonder if anyone else could see how alike they were.  But no one else seemed to notice.  Only she felt the sharp pain in her chest as they watched them together.

****

Jackson watched Derrick walk in with a blonde woman on his arm, Jacob already a few steps ahead of them. He searched the crowd to find Mallory.  She sat in the corner, her eyes following Derrick.  So, this was the woman that Derrick Lange left his wife for.  He couldn’t deny that the other woman was overtly sexual.  Her breasts were barely contained in the black halter dress she wore.  She clung to Derrick’s arm, her short skirt riding up on her thigh as she pressed herself against him. 

It was a display of possession.

And it was obviously meant for Mallory. 

Watching the scene play out should have amused him. 

But it didn’t. 

Lange, himself, looked just as he remembered.  His chin was thrust upward as he strutted into the room in a navy suit.  He watched as Derrick made a quick scan of the room, and he couldn’t help but wonder if he brought the other woman just to make Mallory jealous. 

It shouldn’t have bothered him. 

But it did.

Jacob came forward to stand in front of him.  “I’m real sorry about what happened to your mom,” he offered solemnly.

“It teaches you to appreciate the time you have.  You never know what might happen,” he replied pointedly.

Jacob nodded, giving his hand a quick shake before moving to the side.  Derrick moved over to stand in front of him.  His gut tightened as he stared at the man who had been handed everything he had ever wanted out of life simply because he had the right last name. 

“Hart,” Derrick said slowly with a nod of his head.  “Sorry about your mother.”  He held out his hand expectantly.

After a moment of tense silence, he took his hand giving it a firm shake.  “Thanks, Derrick.  I don’t believe I’ve met your…” he trailed off not knowing what to call the woman at his side.

“My fiancé, Darcy Sampson,” Derrick beamed, a possessive look gleaming in his eyes.

Derrick moved aside to include Darcy.  She extended her hand.  “It’s so nice to meet you, Mr. Hart.  I’ve read all of your books.”

Jackson shook her hand.  “I hope you enjoyed them,” he replied, noticing the way Derrick tightened his hold on her waist.  He couldn’t help but take a perverse pleasure in the other man’s unease.

Her hold on his hand tightened marginally.  “I always do.  I’m your number one fan.  I’ve bought all of your books.  I loved that last one ‘Death’s Last Dance’.  I think that was my favorite of all time.”

Noting Derrick’s scowl at her enthusiasm, he smiled at the young woman, his other hand coming up to cover hers.  “Thank you.  That really means a lot.”

Derrick took Darcy by the arm, pulling her away.  “It was really nice to meet you,” she muttered over her shoulder.

Watching the couple walk out the back door, he couldn’t help but notice Mallory’s gaze following them.  Once they were gone, her eyes met his.  He looked away. 

Mallory Westfall was not his problem. 

She hadn’t been for a long time, and he wanted to keep it that way. 

He just hoped that he could.

Stay Tuned for more of Choices…

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The past has a few more secrets to tell…

February 14, 2010 at 8:49 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope that you are all having a spectacular Valentine’s day with someone special. Valentine’s Day is a wonderful day to celebrate the people you care about.

I also hope that you are enjoying Choices. Mallory and Jackson’s story is far from over, but the past has more secrets to tell…

Chapter 16

Jackson pulled onto the dirt road, his eyes squinting against the darkness as he tried to steer.  He had to admit that it wasn’t just the darkness that blurred his vision tonight.  It might have something to do with the bottle of Jack Daniels that he had consumed all by himself.  It had been two weeks since Mallory Westfall had walked out of his life for good, and it had been the longest two weeks of his life.  He pulled the bike to a stop across from the cabin, leaning heavily on the handlebars as he tried to get his leg over.  He stumbled, falling to the ground.  Unable to stop the chuckle that escaped his mouth as his bike landed beside him in a loud chatter. 

It seemed that even gravity had turned on him. 

            Bracing a hand against a large oak tree, he slowly got to his feet.  He barely made his way up the steps to the front door, before it was wrenched open. 

“Jackson Hart!  What do you think you’re doing?” his mother demanded, her voice echoing in a high-pitched squeaking sound that made his brain cry out in pain.

He winced.  “I’m trying to get in the door,” he admitted, his words slurring together.

She shook her head in exasperation.  “Get in here,” she instructed, moving aside.

Once inside, she rounded on him again. 

“You think you’re just going to throw your life in the toilet because some snooty girl doesn’t love you anymore?  Are you even my son?”

He fell onto the sofa, wishing that she would stop yelling.  “You don’t know anything about it, mom,” he complained, his hand coming up to rub his forehead.

Hovering over him, she pointed her finger.  “Don’t I?  You’ve been licking your wounds for weeks!  Drinking while you’re out on that bike…it’s a wonder that you’re still alive.  What?  You think you’re nothing because a Westfall tells you so?”

Mom, just stay out of it!”

Shaking her head solemnly, her lips formed a grim line.  “I think I’ve done enough of that.  I thought that if I left you alone, you would find a way to deal with what happened.”

Leaning back, he propped his feet up on the coffee table as he closed his eyes.  His mother kicked his feet to the floor, her eyes shooting fire. 

“That girl waltzes into your life and suddenly the sun rises and sets with her?  Is that it?  You’re not going to be the man you should be because she doesn’t love you anymore?”

“You don’t understand,” he yelled, getting to his feet to tower over her.

She didn’t back down an inch.  “Don’t I?  I’ve lost more than you will ever know, but I didn’t crawl into a hole and bury my head like a coward.  I got out of bed each day and went about making a life for myself.  If it’s the last thing I do, I’ll make sure that you do the same.”

Fuming, he stood before her.  He wanted to yell at her, wanted to hurt her the way she was hurting him, but he couldn’t. 

Because she was right. 

And deep down, he knew it.

“What?  This Westfall girl walks into your life and suddenly you’re ready to throw all of your plans away?  Suddenly you don’t have a future unless she’s in it?  Am I getting close?”

Stumbling to his room, he slammed the door behind him.  He fell onto the bed, looking around the room.  She had called him a coward.  Never before had she been so harsh with him.  It hurt.  But the knowledge that it was true hurt even more.   For the past two weeks, he had done nothing but find comfort in the bottom of a bottle, and it wasn’t making things any better. 

It wasn’t making the pain go away.

Mallory’s scent filled the room. 

It was in his pillow, on his sheets, and he couldn’t even bring himself to get rid of it.  It was like a self-inflicted punishment that he chose to face every day.  Smelling her without being able to touch her was torture. 

Why had she done this? 

Why had she thrown away everything they had for a paycheck? 

He stripped down to his boxers falling back on the bed. 

The next morning he packed his things.  When his mother woke up, her surprise was evident. 

Jackson, what are you doing?” she asked.

“I’ve packed all of my things.”

“You have?”

He hesitated for a moment before pushing forward.  “I’m leaving for Indiana University today.  I know it’s a little bit early, but I think it’s for the best.”

Concern laced her features.  “But…” she trailed off.

“I can’t stay, Mom.”

At her shocked silence, he continued.

“If I stay, things will only get worse.  I need to do this,” he assured more firmly.

Standing up, she crossed the room to wrap him in her arms.  He closed his eyes wishing that things could be different, wishing that he could stay.  But he couldn’t.  She didn’t offer him any words of wisdom, and he was glad for that. 

It was too late for advice anyway. 

The damage was done. 

All he could do now was try to pick up the pieces.

And that was just what he intended to do.

 

Mallory lay in bed staring up at the ceiling.  It had been three weeks since she had walked away from the man she loved.  Every day hurt a little bit more.  Each day her father pressured her more and more to say yes to Derrick’s proposal, but she stubbornly held out.  She wasn’t sure why.

 There was no reason to now. 

Jackson would never take her back even if she wanted to change her mind.  And she did.  Ever since she left him in that jail cell, she had thought of nothing else.  She grabbed her purse off the bed, reaching inside for a stick of chewing gum when her hand collided with something. 

Everything inside of her went still. 

Five weeks…It had been five weeks. 

Her fingers curled around the tampon, and a sickening feeling spreading through her stomach.  She had given herself to him five weeks ago, and since then, she hadn’t…

Oh my god!

It couldn’t be. 

She rushed down the stairs.  It wasn’t possible.  Climbing into her car, she turned the key in the ignition.  Thank God, her father finally loosened his tight hold and allowed her to have access to her car again.  After the scene at the courthouse, he figured that the damage was done.

 And he was right. 

She told herself to calm down as she drove the thirty miles to Vincennes to pick up a home pregnancy test.  Picking one up at the grocery store in Princeton would be tantamount to announcing that she was pregnant to the world. 

She couldn’t risk it. 

Three minutes later her worst fears were confirmed by a single pink line. 

She was pregnant.    

She had destroyed everything between them, and now she was pregnant with his child.  How could she have been so foolish?   The truth was that protection hadn’t seemed necessary when she thought she would soon be Mrs. Jackson Hart.  

Unable to sleep, she stared at the ceiling overhead for the entire night.   What was she going to do?  The answer hit her with blunt certainty.  She had to tell him.  She was carrying his child.  He had to know.  It was his right. 

The next morning as she got dressed, she gave herself a mental pep talk.  She would just go and tell him.  He wouldn’t want to listen to her, but he would have to.  He would yell and scream, but he wouldn’t be able to turn her away. 

Whatever they decided to do, they would make the decision together.  First, she had to find him and tell him the truth.  She would deal with the fallout later.  Driving to the cabin, her heart jumped into her throat.  Parking her car underneath a huge oak tree, she sat glued to the seat.  Her hands gripped the steering wheel so hard it hurt.  Staring out at the field ahead, she wondered what he would say, what he would do. 

There was only one way to find out.

Slowly, she climbed the steps to the cabin, trying to block out the memories.  Memories that were too painful to face. 

Would he ever be able to forgive her for what she had done? 

Could he? 

He had to. 

They were going to have a baby.  He may hate her right now, but he would have to listen.  Lightly, she wrapped her knuckles on the screen door.  She heard movement inside, and her heart leapt at the thought that he was only a few feet away. 

But the person that opened the door was not Jackson.  It was Myrna Hart.  A scowl marred her features as she realized who her visitor was.  She stared at her, not saying anything for the longest time. 

Mallory pulled her lower lip beneath her teeth, tension tightening her muscles. 

“Hello, Mrs. Hart.  Is Jackson here?” she asked, her voice quivering just a little bit.

The older woman’s eyes narrowed, her lips pursing together.  “No,” she said, not caring to elaborate. 

She began to close the door.

“Wait!  Do you know where I can find him?”

Myrna crossed her arms over her chest.  “No, and even if I did I wouldn’t tell you.”

Her mouth fell open.  “Mrs. Hart, I…” she stammered.

“Why don’t you just leave him alone?  Haven’t you done enough?”

“Mrs. Hart, I just…”

She held up a hand to silence her.  “No!  I don’t want to hear anymore of your lies.  Jackson is gone.  Do you hear me?  He’s gone,” she replied, slamming the door in Mallory’s face.

Her eyes widened in shock at the announcement.  He was gone?  He couldn’t be.  He just couldn’t be.  Dear God, what had she done?  On the drive home, she didn’t really see anything.  She didn’t want to believe it, but the sick feeling in her stomach confirmed that the other woman was telling the truth.  Her emotions were drained.  Just as she was about to climb the stairs, Curtis stopped her.

“Dad’s looking for you,” he announced, his hand on her upper arm.

“What?”

He shook his head, as he pursed his lips in disgust.  “It must be really nice walking around all day without a clue,” he chided.  “I said that Dad is looking for you, and he looks pretty mad.”

She barely heard him as he pointed her in the direction of her father’s study.  The door was left slightly open and her father was staring out the large picture window at the back of the room. 

“You wanted to see me?” she inquired, her voice completely devoid of feeling.

He spun on his heel, his face red with anger.  “Do you have something to tell me?” he bit out furiously.

Her pulse jumped.  “No,” she lied.

“No?” he yelled, grabbing a bag from his desk.  He reached into the bag to reveal the box from the Home Pregnancy Test. 

Biting her lower lip, her hands wrung together nervously.  

How did he find out? 

She wanted to ask, but knew it would only dig a deeper hole than the one she was already in. 

“Sally was cleaning, and found this in your bathroom.  Needless to say, she was a little surprised and thought I should know.  At least someone thought that I should know!” he bellowed, his eyebrows furrowing together.

“Daddy, I was going to tell you…” she stammered.

He held up a hand to silence her.  “It doesn’t matter.  Once again, you have proven to be nothing but a liability to this family.  Would you like to tell me who the father is?”

“Jackson Hart,” she confessed.

He let out a harsh curse.  For a minute, he was silent and she wasn’t sure what was worse, his verbal tirades or the anticipation that they were soon to come. 

Then, he spoke. 

“Considering the situation,” he said, motioning to her stomach.  “We only have a few options to clean up the mess you created for yourself.”

Bile rose in her throat.  She stared at him waiting for him to drop the fatal blow.  Crossing the room to stand in front of her, he placed his hands on her shoulders causing her to flinch. 

“We will just have to move the wedding up,” he explained, with a stiff smile.

“What wedding?” she demanded, her eyes narrowing.

He gave her a look that let her know that she was trying his patience.  “Your wedding to Derrick, of course.  I’ll admit that it will be sooner than I would like, but considering the situation we don’t have any other choice.”

Eyes widening, her mouth fell open.  “You can’t be serious?  Did you even hear me?  I’m pregnant with Jackson Hart’s child,” she cried out.

His eyebrows rose.  “Do you have a better idea?”

“Yes, I can have this baby on my own.”

He laughed, the sound coming out harsh as it reverberated through the room.  His gaze routed her to the floor, as he gritted his teeth.  “Not in this family you can’t.  Now, you listen to me, daughter.  You have disgraced this family quite enough with your antics.  You will marry Derrick Lange as soon as possible, and that is the end of it.”

She pulled away from him, needing to put some distance between them.  “What if Derrick doesn’t want to marry me?” she challenged angrily.

His cruel smile confirmed her worst fears.  “He will.  After all, you’re still a Westfall.  You two are the perfect match,” he confirmed in a cold tone.

Running out of the room, she raced up the stairs.  Once in the solitude of her bedroom, she threw herself across the bed, letting the tears spill down her cheeks.  All she ever wanted was to be happy, but that was a fantasy.  All of her dreams of a future with Jackson were gone.  Her father had decided things for her, and she was powerless to stop him.  After all, she was a Westfall, as her father so eloquently put it. 

She was a Westfall.

And Westfalls were never happy.

Stay tuned for more of Choices…

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Will she really say goodbye?

February 7, 2010 at 2:39 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

So, this year I am going to focus more on my goals.  I took a wonderful workshop with Roxanne St. Claire and she helped me understand that you can’t set down goals that are out of your control.  For instance, when you write out your goals, you can’t say “I’m going to get published.”  THat is something that is beyond your control.  You can write down things like “I will submit to two contests” or “I’m going to finish writing a book” or  “I’m going to submit to three publishers.”  Those are all things that lead to the ultimate goal of getting published.  Basically, when you write down your goal list it should be a road map that leads you to your ultimate destination.  Another example would be don’t say “I want to lose thirty pounds” say “I will work out three times a week and stay on a low calorie diet.” 

So, in thinking about this, I was wondering what are some of your goals????

Excerpt 15B

Mallory was sitting Indian-style as she listened to her headphones when her father burst through the door.  She pulled them from her ears, her eyes meeting his.  

“Come with me,” he said firmly, holding the door open.

            She slowly got to her feet, her eyebrows crowding together.  “Where are we going?” she asked.

            His look of frustration as he crossed his arms over his chest silenced her momentarily.  “It seems that that boy got into a fight with Derrick last night,” he informed.

            “Jackson?”

            Nodding his head, a grim line formed on his lips.  “He’s in a holding cell right now.”

            Her eyes widened.  “He’s in jail?”

            Glancing at her, his eyes narrowed.  “Have you forgotten that Derrick is only seventeen?  Hart, on the other hand, is of legal age.  He could have some pretty serious charges leveled against him for that.”
            Her heart leapt into her throat. 

Jackson

In jail? 

“That’s where you come in,” her father explained.

            “Where I come in?” she repeated, clearly confused.

            He motioned with his head for her to follow him.  Once she was seated next to him in the car, he continued.  “Once and for all, you are going to make that boy understand that it is over between the two of you.”

            “How?”

            He pinned her with a steely glare.  “That’s for you to figure out, daughter,” he commanded.  “You got yourself into this mess.  It’s time you got yourself back out.  I’m not going to have that boy making more of a spectacle than he already has.”

            Her heart seemed to be beating at double time.  “And if I can’t convince him, then what?” she dared.

            His hands gripped the steering wheel so hard, his knuckles white from the pressure.  “If you don’t, then that boy can rot in jail for all I care,” he replied ominously.

            Unable to look at him, she turned in her seat to stare out the window.  He had turned them all into pawns in a sadistic game.  A single tear drifted down her cheek, but she quickly wiped it away.  She didn’t want Jackson to go to jail.  The thought of him sitting in a jail cell made her heart ache.  There had to be a way to get him out of this mess.

All too quickly, her father was parking the car and leading her inside.  He walked over to a balding man in a uniform, taking his hand and giving it a firm shake. 

“Thanks for keeping him here, Bill,” her father said quickly.

            The other man nodded his head, an understanding smile forming on his lips.  “No problem at all, Mr. Westfall.”

            “Where is he?” her father asked.

            The other man motioned to the back with his head.  “He’s back there in the holding cell.”

            Her father glanced her way, lowering his voice.  “Would it be okay if my daughter spoke to him for a minute?”

The other man stared at her for a moment, before turning to look at her father.  “I don’t see why not,” he replied. 

            As the other man led the way, her father grabbed her arm.  “I better like what I hear.  You’re holding that boy’s future in your hands.  I sure as hell hope you make the right decision.”

            The other man motioned to the door.  Taking a deep breath, she spared one final glance at her father before curling her fingers on the handle to push the door open.  When she spotted him, her heart seemed to break into a million pieces.  He held his head in his hands, his elbows propped on his knees. 

He looked alone.

Deserted. 

Defeated.

And it was all her fault. 

If she had never started this, he wouldn’t be here right now.  But she hadn’t thought about the consequences.  All she had thought of was how much she wanted to be with him.   

And now he was paying for her mistakes.     

His head came up.  She winced at the bruises already forming on his face.  One of his eyes was already turning black.  His look of surprise was almost her undoing.    

            “Hello, Jackson,” she said, her voice barely audible.  She cleared her throat in an effort to disguise the pain she felt.

            “What the hell are you doing here?  I didn’t call anyone,” he murmured, his brows furrowing together.

            Taking a deep breath, she tried to find a strength that she wasn’t sure she possessed.  “I heard about what happened.”

            “Did Derrick tell you?” he scoffed.

            “It doesn’t matter how I found out.  What matters is that this has to stop.”

            “Afraid loverboy might get hurt?”

            “I’m afraid for both of you,” she admitted.

            “That’s sweet,” he said condescendingly, his lips forming a grim line.        

            After a minute, he continued.  “He told me that you agreed to marry him.”

            Her head snapped up, her eyes meeting his for a moment before looking away.   Damn Derrick.  Damn him and his lying.  She never agreed to marry him.  Still, his lie had done the damage intended. 

            “Did you?” he demanded.   

            Her eyes met his, and she realized that giving him this lie was the only way to save him. 

“Yes,” she lied.

            He squared his shoulders, his pupils almost black with rage.  “And what about what you promised me?”

            The vein on his forehead began to beat double-time and his hands gripped the bars so tightly that she feared he might actually bend them. 

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, her voice breaking.

            “You’re sorry?”  He shook his head, letting it fall between his shoulders.  “Well, I guess that makes it all better, doesn’t it?”

           

At her silence, he lifted his head to pin her with a steely glare.  “Did you mean any of it?” 

His stare was so intense that she felt sure he would see through her facade.  Closing her eyes on a wave of pain, she half turned away, unable to bear the look in his eyes. 

“I thought I did,” she answered, trying to keep her voice even.

            “And, now you don’t?” he scoffed.

            Her fingers curled into her palm so tightly she was sure that if she looked down she would find blood.  “I’m sorry,” she offered, as she started to walk away.

            “It’s all about the money, isn’t it?” he bit out.

            “What?”

            A quick glance over her shoulder revealed a cruel smile twisting on his lips.

            He nodded.  “I didn’t want to believe it, but it’s true.  All you care about is the money.  That’s why you said yes to Derrick, isn’t it?  He has a better bank account in his future than I do, right?”

            The carefully disguised pain in his eyes drove a nail into her already-bruised heart.  Still, with her father on the other side of the door, she had no choice but to drive the lie home.  Tears formed in the corners of her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. 

She couldn’t. 

Not in front of him. 

“You’re right.  I’m sorry, Jackson.  I thought I could go through with it, but I can’t.  It would never work.  I’m used to having more than you could give me.”

           The stricken look on his face let her know that her goal had been accomplished.  Her heart felt like it had been ripped in two.  Half still beat in her chest, while the other was collapsing behind the bars.  She turned to make her way across the room, her hand on the door handle.

           “One day I’ll have enough money to buy and sell you and your precious Derrick,” he warned ominously.

           Mallory didn’t look back for fear she would collapse. 

            She hoped to God that he was right. 

            In fact, she was counting on it.

Stay tuned for more of Choices…

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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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