Wow, it’s been a busy few weeks! How can summer almost be done? *Wails!* Ah, well . . . at least the sun has returned. I will just have to do my very best to suck as much fun and delight out of every warm day we have left. (The sacrifice, the sacrifice, heh, heh! :D) *Rushes off to pack for the lake*–and on that note, if you’re looking for a reading treat for the beach blanket, campsite, cozy corner of your yard or lamp-lit recliner on the couch, consider HOOKED. It’s getting great reviews (for which I’m incredibly grateful) and is a perfect end of summer read.
Here are the first two chapters. I hope you get Hooked. ;)
~ Chapter 1 ~
Sam was fresh from the shower, barefoot and dressed only in a robe. She wrapped her arms around herself and turned in a slow circle. Five stars or not, a hotel room was always just a hotel room, wasn’t it? It was beautiful with its teak four-poster bed, matching highboy and desk, and snow-white linens, but generic nonetheless.
She settled into the leather wingback chair, the room’s best feature in her opinion, and put her feet up. A niggle of surprise tickled her as she uncapped a pen and reached for her spiral bound notebook. Who’d have thought? Samantha Kendall using a diary. But she couldn’t help it. The movement of her hand across page, the scent of the paper, the process of filling the sheet with the mess in her head—slowly at first, then so fast her hand cramped—soothed her and helped her see more clearly than she had in a long time. Her life, once so beautiful and busy, felt empty. Come to think of it maybe that was the appeal of the journaling. She filled something. Created a tangible mark that she was here. That she lived.
The coffee pot on the desk across the room sighed and sputtered.
“Ah, my faithful friend,” she whispered, then got up, doctored herself a mug of the dark espresso blend, and settled down again.
She sipped her hot drink and drummed her fingers on her notebook. What to say, what to say?
She paused, drank more coffee, and ran her fingers through her damp hair. Finally she began to write.
Sheesh, three pages minimum is going to take hours today.
But it didn’t. By the time she had two cups of caffeine in her, she’d churned out her minimum, plus another three pages—yet she wasn’t calmed. She was edgier than ever. She scanned the last page, bit her lip and barely resisted the urge to tear the sheets loose and throw them away.
There’s nothing I hate more than my sister being right about anything, but I have to hand it to Jo. She is right about this, and the pros and cons I wrote yesterday confirm it.
I always figured Aisha would reenter my life at some point, if only, like seems to be the case, for medical information and “closure.” (How I hate that damn word!) I just thought I’d be at a spot in time, personally and professionally, that I could be proud of—or at least not a bloody embarrassment. But at the same time, I guess it’s not about me, is it? (Ha ha, quick, someone tell Jo I actually said that!) I would’ve done anything to have someone to talk to, when I was stuck in the same boat Aisha’s in, so how can I refuse her request to meet?
My two biggest fears: that she’ll ask about the asshole who fathered her. (What can I say about him that won’t just be a huge ugly shadow over her?), or that she’ll hate me—which is pretty hilarious because I definitely don’t want her in my life permanently.
That was the line that stopped her. She shook her head, crossed the last line out, drew an arrow, and scribbled furiously.
That she’ll hate me, which I’ll totally understand, or worse, want something I don’t have to give her. All of my love for her went out the door with her the day I gave her a chance for a better life. (Not that it seems to have panned out—but don’t even get me started!) And what if she does want a relationship? I have no frigging clue what I’ll do.
Samantha closed the book, and stashed it in her suitcase.
She paid special attention to her outfit and did her makeup and hair just so, but it wasn’t until she sprayed a light mist of perfume in front of her and walked through it that she admitted she’d made up her mind.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. She’d return to Greenridge. She’d see if she could be of any help to Aisha and answer any awkward questions her biological daughter had.
And then, so long as Jo and Callum were willing to let her monopolize one of their B & B cabins—and why wouldn’t they? Her cash was as good as anyone’s—she’d spend some concentrated time figuring out what exactly she wanted next and why her life, which she’d always enjoyed, wasn’t enough for her these days.
She cocked her head, smiled at her reflection in the mirror, and nodded approval at both the image she projected and her new thoughts. She was an excellent planner and there was no reason she couldn’t get herself back on track. And once she had a new direction, she’d leave Greenridge in the dust and never return. The place was a black hole. In lieu of a welcome sign at the beginning of town, there should be a plaque that read, “Abandon all hopes of having a life, ye who enter here.”
And if Jo wanted to visit now and again? Well, she’d have to sojourn out of her hobbit village and head for the city. Sam was done with the ghost town of bad memories. She was sick of the family-focused “great place to raise kids” motto that everyone in town seemed to spout. Not everyone had kids or even wanted them. And she was beyond weary of how the place reminded her that except for her one solitary sibling, Jo, she had no family. Everyone was dead. There’d be no TV movie worthy reunion or redemption scene. Greenridge was like one big beer commercial for all the things she didn’t have. And didn’t want, she reminded herself.
~ Chapter 2 ~
Charles tripped over the stuffed-to-bursting rucksack he’d stowed by his office door and stared at the ringing phone like it might bite. The call display showed T.C.O. Literary Management all too clearly, and unfortunately his agent Theresa, the “T” in T.C.O., knew he was home. After all, he’d just sent an e-mail seconds ago admitting it. He sighed heavily and picked up.
“Theresa, hi. Good to hear from you.”
“Don’t bullshit a bullshitter, and get real. You knew that e-mail wasn’t going to fly.”
“And no buts.” Her voice softened. “I feel for you. You know I do. And I’m on your side even if it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s time, Charlie. Past time. And if you can’t see that, maybe it’s time to rethink your career.”
Charles sank into his office chair and rolled back and forth across the room. He didn’t want to “rethink” his work. He loved what he did, what he wrote. Or he used to. And anyway, it wasn’t like he hadn’t considered doing something else. Just absolutely nothing came to him that didn’t sink him even more deeply into the mire of apathy and disillusionment he seemed unable to pull himself from. And now, with Aisha living only God knew where and insisting she was staying there to have her baby, he didn’t even have the occasional bright spot of her presence.
“You’ve used up all your reserve books, even your earliest ones that were previously unpublished for pretty good reasons. It’s just a good thing some readers don’t care what you write as long as the story says Jax Bailey on the cover.”
“Thanks a lot.”
“Oh, you know what I mean. Don’t get pissy. I love your books. You’ve earned reader loyalty, but even diehard fans are starting to grumble on the Interwebs. You can only play the dead wife card for so long before people start to think you need to get over it.”
Charles managed to not throw the phone across the room, but only just.
Theresa seemed to sense she’d crossed a line. “Sorry, that was crass. Obviously, healing isn’t an easy one, two, three process. I know you’re doing the best you can, just barely hanging on, and I know it will take time—but I’d hate to see you lose everything you worked so hard to build.”
Too late. Everything he’d worked for died when Maureen did. Still, Theresa wasn’t the enemy and she was on his side. He knew this. He also knew he’d probably exhausted every possible extension. He made a decent living, and Maureen’s life insurance had paid off the mortgage and left a little besides, but not enough to see him through life—and definitely not enough to provide ongoing stability to Aisha and her little one, should she decide to keep it. And he was a young(ish) man still. Forty-four was nowhere near the time to retire even if it felt closer to eighty these days.
“They need a new book, or, and it’s pretty nice of them, almost human in fact, they’ll forgive the contract without penalty, but if you ever want to write for them again, it’ll be like starting new.”
Perish the thought—and no, that wasn’t melodrama. “How long?” he asked.
“I got you six months, but that’s it, final offer, last extension.”
“Okay,” he said.
“Okay?” Even though their connection was a little static-filled, the surprise in Theresa’s voice was loud and clear. “Just like that you say okay?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“No, but I still thought you’d be a harder sell.”
They wrapped the conversation up quickly from there, and Charles was careful to sound more positive than he felt. Six months, if he was his old self, was more than enough time to get a solid book to his publisher. But he wasn’t his old self, and didn’t think he ever would be again. Maureen had been gone three years, yet in some ways it was like she’d passed away yesterday, the grief would hit so fresh and raw. In other ways, however, it was like she’d left a lifetime ago, which, hard as it was, was sort of the truth. Neither his nor Aisha’s lives were the same. They had new existences altogether, as if their time on earth had been divided into separate realities: Life with Mo. Life without her.
He stood up, scooted his chair under his desk and turned off his computer, then grabbed his laptop. He was sick of himself and the endless woe-to-me pool he wallowed in. Even his self-pitying thought about everything he’d worked for dying when Maureen did wasn’t fully honest. Only half of what he worked for and lived for had passed on when she did. He still had their daughter, and who knows, maybe a grandbaby too.
He hit the lights and hefted his bag. Soon, with any luck, he’d be in a better writing space and headspace. For a moment he wondered if he should’ve told Theresa his plan, then shook his head. Where he spent his time wasn’t her business and she’d just worry. Besides, though she’d be skeptical, he could write—or not write—just as easily in the boonies as he could at home.
And if Aisha was intent on setting up a temporary home in Greenridge, wherever that was, with this aunt whoever she was, in the hopes of connecting with her birth mom—who back in the day had seemed level-headed, but now he worried was a callous flake . . . well, he wasn’t going to just abandon her to the wolves and wilds. He’d take up residence in one of the cabins that were “so far beyond cool that he couldn’t possibly imagine how cool they were,” to quote Aisha, and support her in whatever ways he could. She was the only family he had left, and if anything came between them, damaged their relationship, or hurt her, it would be over his dead body.
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Get Hooked today!
Paperbacks available at Misty River Books in Terrace, Eddie’s News in Prince Rupert, online pretty much everywhere :), and libraries across northern BC.
Have a fantastic weekend! I hope it’s filled with outdoor fun, lots of laughter with good friends or family, and great reads. (All things I’m shooting for today too! :D)