Archive | April, 2013

Now Available- FLIGHT RISK

30 Apr

Digital ThumbnailI am pleased to announce that Flight Risk is NOW AVAILABLE for purchase!

Get yours TODAY!

Only $2.99 on KINDLE.

Print Copies start at $10.99 from Amazon -or- Createspace

 

And when you’ve finished reading (any and every book), REMEMBER to write a review online to help other readers take a chance on relatively unknown authors!

Flight Risk- Chapter Two

26 Apr

Digital Thumbnail

“Tell me about yourself.”

“You don’t want to hear it.”

“Yes, I do.  Tell me your past, present, and future.”

“All of it?” I challenged.  “That could take a while.”

* * *

Chapter 2

“I’m sorry.  What did you just say?”

“Nashville!” he repeated with more zest.

“N… N… Nashville?”  The word tasted bitter on my tongue.

For years I avoided mentioning the place by name and repressing the memories I had made there.  When I left I told myself that I would never go back.  Yet here I was, discussing crossing beyond the city limits and visiting for two whole weeks.

“Yeah, that’s what I said!” Will responded, offering me a proud grin.

“Nashville, Tennessee?”  I prayed Will would pay no heed to my horrified expression.  Recognition would only lead to questions I had adeptly dodged for nine years.

“Well, yeah.  What other Nashville is there?”

“There’s one in Georgia, Arkansas, Ohio—”

“Alright, alright,” he interrupted.  “Are there really that many Nashvilles?”

“I think there are nine or ten.”  And I had no desire to visit any of them, least of all the one to which he was referring.

“I’m not going to ask why you know that.  Yes, we’re going to Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday!”

“That’s just one state down.”

The chosen destination made more sense as a weekend venture than a vacation—not that I’d be enthusiastic about either.

“Very good, honey.  If you ever get tired of English you could always teach geography.”

“We’re practically neighbors.”

He chuckled.  “Can’t pull one over on you, can I?”

“But there’s no beach there.”  Tennessee was as landlocked as a state could get.

“Come on, Evelyn.  Going to the beach is overrated.  It’s been done too many times before.”

“Not by us,” I contradicted.  The last time there was gritty sand between my toes and saltwater lapping gently against my ankles was back in high school—the first time around.

“I was trying to think outside of the box.”

Didn’t he know how much I liked the box?  It had worked for us thus far.

“But of all the destinations in the world, why Nashville?”  And why did God hate me?  What had I done to be punished so severely?  Was Karma finally making her rounds?

“Because there was a great deal online and…”

“And?” Because God hated me!

“Because you love country music!”

It was a sick coincidence that his reasoning mirrored my own excuse from the last time I had made the trek to Nashville.  The nonsensical logic had seemed a good enough reason to relocate back then; now I could see the fatal flaws.  Why hadn’t I listened to my sister all those years ago and turned around?

“Yeah, I love the color green too.  Why don’t we go to Ireland?”

The Emerald Isle was on my list of places to visit before I died.  The foreign country seemed infinitely more appealing just now because it was thousands of miles away from Tennessee.

“Oh, Evelyn.  This is why I love you.  You come up with the craziest ideas.  Ireland?  Seriously?”

“Ha.  Yeah, I guess.”

My stomach began to roll, protesting our proposed destination.  I had left Nashville nine years ago and never rarely looked back.  If I hadn’t felt compelled to return before now why would I want to after all of this time?  There had to be a way to put an end to this trip that didn’t include telling my boyfriend the truth.

“Do you realize how hot it’s going to be down there?”

“It’s summertime, honey.  It’s hot everywhere.”

“Not in Alaska.”

Alaska?” he repeated. “I don’t want to go there, Evelyn.”

“But we’re going to end up sweating so much in Tennessee that we won’t enjoy ourselves.  I don’t want to be miserable for our first vacation in four years.”

“Don’t worry about the weather.  I booked us a nice hotel on the main drag in the city that has a pool.  And it’s within walking distance of all the top-rated bars and restaurants.”

“Great.”  Little did he know, just about every downtown hotel was within walking distance of multiple bars and fantastic restaurants.

“There’s only one minor hitch.”

Only one?  I could think of a million that ultimately revolved around Nashville itself.

“What’s that?”

“We’re driving.”

“Oh, okay.”  The trip would take us a little over four hours—half the amount of time the drive had taken me ten years earlier.

He mistook my estranged expression for an aversion to highway travel.

“But don’t worry about that either.  Road trips are really fun and adventurous.  We’ll drive down the road and just see where it leads.”

“I bet it’s going to lead to Nashville,” I murmured bitterly.

The end of this was already predetermined—that is unless I sabotaged our GPS and Will allowed me to assume the role of navigator.  Circumventing the city would be considered an art form by the time I finished with our route.

“Well, yeah, Evelyn.  Eventually we’re going to make it to Nashville.  But we can stop wherever you want along the way there and back.  Our timeline is pretty lenient.  I’ve allowed plenty of leeway for excursions.”

“Great.”  Just perfect.

“I’ve found that when you fly somewhere you tend to miss a lot of the excitement and spontaneity that you encounter on a road trip.”

“Have you ever been on a road trip, Will?”  He didn’t strike me as the type to waste precious vacation time in a confined space; he was too efficient for that.

“Of course.”

“How many?” I pressed.

He grimaced before answering.  “One.”

“And where did you go?”

“I went to Savannah.”

“You drove all the way to Savannah in a car?” I scoffed.

“No, we took a space shuttle.  Of course we went in a car, Evelyn.  It was for a conference my senior year of college.  Our accommodations were covered by a grant but we didn’t have the money to fly,” he explained.

“But we have the money now,” I reminded him, more than willing to fork over the extra cash to fly somewhere else.  I’d finance the entire trip if that meant I could choose our destination.

“Come on, Evelyn.  Where is your sense of adventure?”

I couldn’t admit that my adventure had been left  in the same place he wanted to visit.

“I don’t know, Will.”

“Maybe we’ll find it on the way,” he said, forever the optimist.  “So I was thinking that when we’re down there we could…”

It took me a few seconds to realize that he had stopped talking.  “Keep going.  I’m listening.”

“No, you’re not.  What’s wrong, honey?  You look like you’re a hundred years away.”

Actually, I was only ten years away, mentally reliving a past I had attempted to forget.

“I’m sorry, Will.  I’m focused now.  What were you going to say?”

“Oh, no.”

“What?”  The revelation on his face immediately alarmed me.  Things were about to get a lot worse.

“Why didn’t I see this coming?”

“See what coming?” I pushed, growing more worried with each passing second.

“You hate it.”   Will pressed back into the cushions and searched his mind for reasons why I would hate his idea—reasons he would never find.

I pulled myself out of my own misery long enough to realize that his ever-present smile had faltered.

“No, I don’t,” I said quickly, a knee-jerk reaction.  This situation was my cross to bear, not his.

He was too perceptive to take my lie at face value.  “Yes, you do.”

“Hate is such a strong word.”  Accurate, but strong.

“I knew this was a bad idea.  This is the first time I tried to do something special for you and I completely screwed it up.”

“No, you didn’t.”  Our trip was still salvageable as long as there was a change in destination.

“We can fly down if you want but I don’t really see the point,” he said.  “By the time we’d get to an airport and wait around we’d nearly be there by car.”

“I don’t have a problem driving.  Like you said, it’ll be adventurous.”

“Even better,” he ground sarcastically, his frustration compounding.

“What?”

“If you don’t have a problem with our mode of transportation that means you do have a problem with something else.  You really don’t want to go to Nashville, do you?”

Dodging this question was vital to my survival.  “How did you pick Nashville, exactly?  It seems like a fairly random destination coming from you.”

Luckily, he took the bait and didn’t think twice about the change in subject.  “I browsed our options online after I had confirmed the dates with my supervisor and this opportunity presented itself.  So I snatched it up before it expired or someone else stole it out from under me.  You always have to plan everything, and I wanted to take that burden off your hands.”

This probably wasn’t the best time to explain that I enjoyed every aspect of the planning process, and that he had burdened himself unnecessarily.  It was important to remember the thought had come from a good place.

“I appreciate it,” I said.

“I guess we don’t have to go to Nashville.”

“We don’t?”  If he was willing to go somewhere else then there was still hope for this ill-fated vacation of ours.

“I’m sure I can cancel the hotel and incur only a minor fee.  I spent the extra twenty dollars on travel insurance,” he explained.

“You’d be willing to do that?” I asked, too brightly to appear indifferent.

His frown grew more pronounced.  “I guess so.”

“What I meant was, there’s no way I want you to do that.”

“Okay.”

“Unless…” I began cryptically.

Will took the bait.  “Unless what?”

“Unless you wanted to.”

“Why would I want to?  I’m the one who picked Nashville in the first place.”

“Oh, right.”

“Do you want me to?”

Yes.

“No.  I want you to do what you want.”  As long as that included cancelling the hotel, visiting some other state/country, and never mentioning Nashville again.

“Well, what I want is to make you happy.”

“I’ll be happy as long as I’m with you.”  And as long as we weren’t anywhere near Nashville.

“Same here.”

“I have a great idea!”  One that would make me happy and my boyfriend content with my appreciation for his efforts.

“What’s that?”

“Why don’t we get online to see if there are any other places we’d rather visit?  If not then we’ll just head for Nashville, determined to have a good time.”

I had enough confidence in my power of persuasion to know that I could make any destination seem more appealing than Music City.  Will would be purchasing two round-trip tickets to Afghanistan before he even thought twice about getting into the car and driving south.

“I guess we could do that if you really don’t like the idea I came up with.”

He just had to play the pity-card, didn’t he?

“It’s not that I don’t love your idea,” I confessed, hoping dishonesty didn’t seep through my words.  “It’s just that I’m a little worried about what’s going to happen when we get there.”

My admission brought the frown back to his lips.  “Worried?  Why?  I took care of this so you wouldn’t have to worry about a thing.”

Because there was a past in Nashville that I never wanted to revisit or share with anyone, especially my boyfriend. 

“Well, for one, you hate country music.”  Will had never voiced his opinion in so many words but there had been numerous signs that led me to that concrete conclusion.

“I wouldn’t say I hate it,” he hedged.

“Every time I play the country music station in the car you change the channel.”

“That’s because I can’t stand radio commercials,” he said.

There was more to his action than an aversion to advertisements.

“You tolerate my CD’s but turn the volume down too low to hear.  And you can’t blame the commercials for that one.”

“Come on, Evelyn.  You listen to those things so loud that it makes the windows shake.  I’m surprised we haven’t been issued a noise violation,” he countered.

“How about when I watch the music videos on CMT?  You constantly find some reason to shut off the TV.”

“This trip isn’t about me, Evelyn,” he protested, effectively changing the subject and ignoring my logical arguments.  “It’s all about you and what you want.”

“Like I said before, I just want to get away and enjoy myself.”  The latter would be impossible in Nashville.

“That’s my goal too.  I know I’ve been the sole reason we’ve been stuck here for the entirety of the past three—”

“Four.”

“Right.  Four years.  Anyway, I wanted to do this as a way of thanking you for putting up with everything.”

“You’re my boyfriend.  I’m supposed to put up with you.”  Sometimes I didn’t want to, but I did anyway.  That’s the way it was when you loved someone.

“You know what I mean.”

I shrugged.  “It was for work and ultimately out of our control.”

“Alright!  Enough of this depressing talk.  I want to see some of that enthusiasm from earlier.  You are going to Nashville, Evelyn!”

“You’re coming too, right?”

“Of course I’m coming too,” he scoffed.  “Do you think I’m going to let my sexy girlfriend strut around Nashville with all of those famous country musicians in the city?  One may try to snap you up!”

My laugh was a brittle, gasping wheeze.  “If you’re going then I want you to have a good time too.  Downtown Nashville is country music—it’s in every bar and restaurant, playing on every street corner and on every radio station.  You won’t be able to switch it off or turn it down.  And two weeks in Nashville?  We’re going to run out of things to do after a couple of days.”

He grimaced slightly, but the look was replaced by a dangerous realization.  “How do you know all of that?”

“Everyone knows that.”  Didn’t they?  Nashville was called Music City for obvious reasons.  Just about every tune on country radio paid homage to Tennessee’s capital.

“No, there’s more.  You’re not telling me something.”

Actually, there were a number of facts I had omitted throughout the years.

“Um…”

“Hold up.  Have you been there before?”

So much for avoiding more questions; I had recklessly walked straight into that one.

Now did I lie and delay the inevitable or face the consequences head on?

“Yeah.  Maybe once.”

Maybe once or definitely once?”

“Definitely once.”

My boyfriend looked ready to throw a tantrum worthy of any spoiled two-year-old; he crossed his arms and ground his teeth together.

“You’re going to give yourself a headache from doing that,” I teased with a false air of lightness.

“You never told me,” he accused.

A purple vein pulsed beneath the skin on his forehead.  His disappointment made me feel like a child being scolded by her father.

“That’s because it was forever ago.”

“I don’t care if it was forever ago or last week.  You should have said something when I first told you that we were going there for our vacation.”

“I know,” I whispered, ashamed by my dishonesty.

“No wonder you don’t want to go.  I can’t believe that of all the places I could have picked, you have already been there.”

“It’s really not that big of a deal, Will.  I’m sure the place has changed a lot since I was there the last time.”

Although in my experience, cities didn’t have a lot of room—or inclination—to change.

“Did you like it when you were there?” he inquired, placated for the time being.

“Yeah, I did.”  A decade ago I had spent the time of my life in Nashville.

Now, however…  Well, now was another story entirely.

I was a different person than I had been all those years before.

“Do you think I’ll like it?”

It was simpler to answer honestly.  “No.”

“Why not?”

“I just told you the music is—”

“Okay,” he interrupted.  “If I loved country music as much as you do, would I like it?”

“I’m still not really sure.”

“I think you’re wrong, Evelyn,” he said, moving closer to me and taking my clammy hands in his.  I resisted the urge to pull free of his grasp and wipe my palms on the pants I wore.  “I know I will like it if you like it.”

“I’m still not really sure.”

“I guess we’ll have to wait and see.  I might surprise you.”

“You already have.”  More than he would ever know.

“Good.  That was my goal, remember?”

“I believe you’ve surpassed that goal and brought surprise to an entirely new level.”

An uncomfortable, menacing level that did not bode well for my happiness.

“I guess the only question that remains is whether or not you would like to go back again?”

The urge to put an end to our trip before it began was overwhelming.  But I didn’t have the heart to dash his hopes with the truth.

“Sure.”

“Come on, Evelyn!  I know you can do better than that.  I saw the look on your face when I told you that I had taken two weeks off.  Let’s try this again.  Would you like to go back to Nashville?”

The broken smile hurt my face, but it made Will grin in response so it must not have appeared too fake.

I answered him with as much feigned excitement as I could muster even as I felt an odd foreboding for what was to come.  One thing was for certain: this journey was not going to end well.

“I’d love to go back to Nashville.”

* * *

Come back next Friday for the next installment of Flight Risk!  Don’t want to wait that long?  Come back on WEDNESDAY, May 1 for links to purchase a copy!

One Week Left

24 Apr

Digital ThumbnailATTENTION Country music lovers, Romance Readers, and all you literary folks:

Only one week stands between you and your very own copy of Flight Risk!  Digital copies will be available  on AMAZON for your Kindle for only $2.99 (other digital mediums will be available on August 1st) and print copies will be available on Createspace.com and Amazon.com for only $10.99!

Be sure to mark MAY 1, 2013 on your calendars so you can start reading ASAP!

Not sure if the story is for you?  Check out the synopsis:

* * *

Evelyn Ryan, scared of the aisle where her young spontaneity almost carried her, ran away from the only man she has ever loved to firmly set a more conventional course for her life. However, believing she could erase the past by ignoring it, she has trapped herself in lies–lies to her new boyfriend, lies to her friends, and lies to herself.

During her first trip back to Nashville in nearly a decade, Evelyn discovers that her escape route has become the cage she had been avoiding. In the muted light of the honkytonks on Broadway, she is transformed into someone who is no longer content with her conservative, safe life.

When she is unexpectedly reunited with her old flame, country music artist Jaxon Lee, he helps her come to terms with the woman she once was—a woman full of passion for life and love.

In the end, Evelyn realizes that the only real freedom is still waiting for her in Music City, with piercing blue eyes and a hit song to tell her, It’s Never Too Late.

* * *

Happy reading, writing, & anticipating!

-Jenny

Flight Risk- Chapter One

19 Apr

Here’s the much-anticipated first chapter of Flight Risk.  If you missed last week, make sure you take the time to read the back story.

Let me know what you think of the story so far!

Digital Thumbnail

“Why Nashville?” he asked.

“Because I love country music.”

* * *

Chapter One
(Ten Years Later)

The throbbing pressure in my head felt like it was going to squeeze my eyeballs from my skull.  Even though I had only worked for seven hours, my body was convinced it had been closer to seventeen.  Unfortunately, I had finished the bottle of Ibuprofen in my purse earlier this week and had forgotten to replace it.

When I finally pulled into my parking space I double-checked the time on the dashboard, believing my eyes were playing tricks on me.

My boyfriend’s car was in the driveway and it wasn’t even four o’clock.

“Hey, I’m home,” I announced from the doorway, abandoning my load of books and my briefcase onto the tiled floor just inside the foyer.  It didn’t bother me when my laptop case cracked against the rigid surface; I would deal with the resulting consequences tomorrow.

The trunk of my car was filled to capacity with end-of-the-year supplies; unloading could wait until tomorrow too—or the next day.  At this moment I was in no rush to do anything besides vegetate.

My boyfriend clamored down the steps like a kid on Christmas morning.  “Hey, honey!”

“What are you doing home now?”  My question emerged as an accusation.

The fact that he was here three hours ahead of schedule should have excited me.  It seemed like we rarely had the opportunity to spend quality time together.  One of us was always running somewhere or hauling work along with us.

By the time we were both in the same room we had time to say goodnight and pass out until our respective alarms woke us from the best part of our day.

Despite our mismatched schedules, I wasn’t nearly as thrilled to see him as he was to have me home.  All I wanted was to be left alone.  If I had to hold any more civil conversations or coddle anyone else for the next twenty-four hours I was likely to go postal.

“I took half a day off from work.”

“Why did you do that?”

“So I could be home to welcome you when you got here,” he explained, as if that fact should have been obvious.

“Did I forget some plans we made or something?”

No scheduled events came to mind.  He knew that Friday nights were forfeit for all activities that required me leaving the house in anything tighter than sweats.

“No.”

“Oh, okay,” I hedged, pretending to understand his absent reasoning and earnest expression.

“How was your last day of school?”

“Don’t ask.”  That way I wouldn’t have to relive the hell that was high school.  I hadn’t liked it when I had been enrolled the first time, how was it that I now found myself going there willingly?

“Was it really that bad?” he pressed unwisely.

A glare was the kindest response I could muster.

“Okay, fine.  I won’t bother playing the loving boyfriend, caring about your day and all that nonsense.  Wait!  Where are you going?”

Considering I was already on the landing, the answer to his question should have been obvious.  “Upstairs?”

My bed was calling me from just beyond the hallway.  It would be unforgivably rude for me to make her wait any longer.

“Are you coming back down?”

“Eventually.”

“Eventually?” he repeated, fishing for specifics.

“Tomorrow.  Or the next day,” I provided, unwilling to commit.

“You’re going to bed now?” he scoffed.

“I was planning on it,” I said carefully.

“But it’s still light out!”

“That’s why I invested in those black-out blinds a few months ago.”  They remained one of the best purchases I had made this year.

“Before you do that, can you come into the living room with me for a sec?”

The effort to infuse some life into my voice was wasted.  “Do I have to?”

Right now all I wanted was a bubble bath, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and my pillow—the first two being optional.

“Please?” he begged.  The sincerity in his brown eyes broke me.

I dutifully followed Will, attempting to catch some of the enthusiasm pulsing around his thin frame.

I should have been excited; tomorrow was the first day of summer.  A few consecutive months away from school should have been enough to energize me.

I would plan to be excited tomorrow—or the next day.

My boyfriend led me to the couch and indicated that I should sit down beside him.  I collapsed onto the cushion and resisted the urge to yawn.

Whatever he had to say, it seemed important to him.  We didn’t need to get into another argument over my inability to share his priorities.  If this mattered to him the least I could do was pretend that it also mattered to me.

“So, you know how I’ve been working a lot of long hours lately?” he started.

“You always work long hours.”  Those hours were the sole reason I had decided to work toward a master’s degree in education.

What kind of person honestly wanted to be enslaved in a stuffy, windowless office with only a handful of paid holidays to look forward to for the next thirty years?

Then again, what kind of person wanted to take responsibility for a couple hundred hellions?  I had an answer for the second question: idiots like me.

“Yes, I know I do.  But lately they’ve been a lot longer.  I’ve been working overtime for the bulk of the past three weeks.”

“Okay,” I said with an unconcerned shrug.

It had been too difficult to resurface after dealing with my own issues: state testing and new legislation that would ultimately affect my chosen profession.  It was tough enough to show up on a daily basis without a pay cut and the possibility of having to go year-round.

Thankfully, Will and I weren’t one of those obnoxious couples who were joined at the hip for every menial task that came their way.

He had his life, and I had mine; that was why we had been compatible for so long.  I couldn’t imagine our relationship surviving any other way.

“I worked until after nine almost every night last week, Evelyn.”

“I’m sorry.  I’ve been preoccupied with my own issues.”

Now that I thought about it, the house had been eerily silent of late, and I had been eating dinners by myself for a indeterminable amount of time.  Had that been going on for three whole weeks?

“I understand.  That’s not what I want to talk to you about anyway.”

“What did you want to talk to me about?” I prompted, praying he would get back on track so we could resolve the issue, and I could go to bed.  If he took too much longer I’d end up attached to the couch for the night and wake up with a crick in my neck.

“Do you remember how we were supposed to go to Mexico last year?”

“You mean two years ago?”

“Do I?”

“Yes.”

He frowned.  “Oh. What was last year?”

“Jamaica.”

“Right.”  My boyfriend took a moment to re-group.  “Yes, well…  As I’m sure you’re already aware, all of these vacations have been postponed because of my job.”

“Canceled,” I corrected.

“Postponed,” he insisted.

“Indefinitely.”  On this issue I was intent on having the last word.

“Not indefinitely,” he contradicted with a sly smirk.

“What do you mean?”  Surely he wasn’t saying what I thought he was saying.

“I’ve taken some time off.”

If he had taken some time off, and I had some time off, and those times coincided, then that meant…

“You have not.”

“Yes, I have.”

I mentally reprimanded myself for getting so wound up, but I couldn’t help it.  A vacation was exactly what I needed to endure the next school year.  To get away and have a break from my tedious reality would be a blessing.

“Alright,” I allowed, still too skeptical to hope.  “When is your time off?”

With his schedule we could very well be planning our vacation two years in advance.

“Monday.”

He needed to give me something more specific; Monday happened every week.

“You don’t mean this Monday, do you?”

“Yes,” he said, reiterating the word with an exaggerated nod.

“You’re kidding!”

“Would I kid you about something as serious as this?” he asked solemnly.

That question was easy to answer.  “No, you wouldn’t.”

Will didn’t tease about much; I wasn’t even sure he knew how.  He was too straightforward, a no-nonsense kind of guy.

“Exactly.”

“So this is really going to happen?”

Only one weekend stood between me and a spontaneous vacation.  There was no way the firm would be allowed to interrupt our plans.  By the time his office opened at the beginning of the week we would be halfway to wherever we were going.  I would have to ask him to turn off his cell phone and limit his access to e-mail for the next few days, just in case.

“Yes, it is.”

“When did you decide all of this?”

His reluctance to answer my question bothered me.  “Last month,” he admitted.

“You’ve known for a month and didn’t think to tell me?  I could have been looking forward to this for four weeks?”

“Calm down, Evelyn.  I have a perfectly good explanation for keeping it a secret.”

“Okay.  Let’s hear it.”

Will drew a deep breath and steeled himself against my irritation.  “Every other time we’ve made plans I’ve ended up postponing the vacation.  So this time I thought I’d keep it quiet just in case something catastrophic happened.  I couldn’t bear to change another vacation on you.”

He had a valid, unarguable point.

“Alright.  I suppose I’ll have to forgive you.”

“That’s good news.  I’d hate to fight about the trip before it starts,” he said, his good humor returned.

“I can’t believe you actually kept a secret from me for an entire month.”

Secrets weren’t Will’s forte.  I always knew what I was getting for Christmas, my birthday, and our anniversary almost as soon as he figured it out himself.

“I know.  I’m just as shocked as you are!”

“So how long did you take off?”

That factor would seriously limit our destination options.  Even if it were only a few days we would still be able to go farther than we had in the last three years.  Or was it four years?  It had been so long that I couldn’t remember the last time I had been on a vacation with my boyfriend.

“Two weeks.”

The number stopped me in my tracks. “What did you just say?”

He grinned sheepishly.  “I took off for two weeks.”

Two?” I repeated, still not sure that I had heard him correctly.

Two whole weeks meant our possibilities were endless.  In that amount of time Will and I could go to the other side of the world!

“Yes.  One for every vacation I’ve had to cancel on us.”

“Actually, I think there were three.”

“What?”  He arched a skeptical eyebrow at the number I presented.

“I’m pretty sure you’ve had to cancel three vacations.”

“Really?  You’re certain?”

“Almost positive.”  He had moved into my apartment four years ago, in July.  I was sure I hadn’t packed for a vacation since then.  “There was Florida, Mexico, and then Jamaica.”

Our plans had grown more elaborate as the years had progressed (and as our bank accounts had expanded).  But, no matter the destination, conservative or exotic, the trips had never come to fruition.

A range of emotions played over his face as he mentally calculated my accuracy, ever the statistician.  “Alright.  Well, I will just have to make up for Jamaica the next time.  This is all of the time off I can get right now.  Another week would put us into July and—”

“Shut up, Will!”

“What?”

“I don’t care if it’s one week or five weeks!  We. Are. Going. On. A. Vacation.  We won’t be here on Monday.  That’s only two days away!”

There was so much to be done between now and then.  I needed to ask one of our friends to come over and check on the house and to water the flowers.  But first I had to let my family know our game plan so they didn’t worry when they couldn’t reach me on the landline.  My parents were going to be as shocked as I was.

Before we left I had to go shopping for some new outfits and get my haircut.  Perhaps Jessi could squeeze me in tomorrow.

“Yeah, I know.  It’ll be nice to get a change of scenery.  I’m so relieved that you are happy about this!” he gushed, pulling me from my mental To-Do List.

“Happy?” I repeated.  “I can’t even put into words how I’m feeling.  This is exactly what I needed to hear today.”

All of the stress from the semester began to dissipate as our plans became more concrete.

“Excellent.”

“How did you think I’d react?”

“I didn’t know.  You’re funny about these things.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked evenly.

“Nothing,” he diverted.  “I’m just thrilled that you’re happy.”

“Of course I’m happy, Will.  This is the best news I’ve heard in years!”

“That’s great, honey,” he said, relieved that he hadn’t inadvertently buried himself in a shallow grave.

“How in the world did you manage to get so much time off all at once?”  His boss had always been against taking more than a few days in a row, let alone two weeks.

“Do you remember how I covered for Arnold last month?”

“And the month before that?”

It seemed like Will’s co-worker was gone more often than he was in the office.  Of course, if I worked at Will’s company I too would attempt escape as often as possible.

“Yeah.  That’s how.”

“You mean he is finally returning all of the favors?”

It was about time Will was rewarded for his dedication and eternal flexibility.  My boyfriend had surpassed being taken advantage of three years ago.

“Yes.”

“Your boss didn’t mind that you were taking all of your hours at once, did he?”

“No, not at all,” Will mused, equally as astonished.  “He seemed… relieved.”

Relieved?  Why?”

“Rick told me he was beginning to think I was a robot instead of a human being.”

“You do have an uncanny work ethic.  I’d never be able to show up with your consistency, day after day, with nothing to look forward to.”

The promise of winter break, spring break, and summertime were typically the only things keeping me sane, the proverbial carrots at the end of the stick.

“Nothing to look forward to?  I get days off for holidays and stuff.”

“You get what?  Seven paid holidays?”

One week’s worth of time off in three hundred and sixty-five days; the concept was unfathomable to me.  And on top of that were the hours he worked.  Twelve-hour days were not uncommon, especially during tax season.

“Something like that,” he agreed readily.

“And you only get one day for Christmas.  One.”

That meant we couldn’t visit my family unless the holiday fell on a weekend.

“Christmas?  Can we please get back on track here, honey?  Don’t wish away the warm weather already.”

“I’m not.  All I’m saying is that—”

“I know what you’re saying.  But it’s what I have to do to keep my position.  There really is no other choice, I’m afraid.”

I hugged my boyfriend and pressed a hard kiss onto his smooth cheek.  “Thank you so much for working hard so you could get some time off!  I really appreciate everything you do, even though sometimes I forget to show it.”

“It’s no problem,” he said, a smile in his voice.

“We can probably get some really good last-minute deals online.  Orbitz is always running specials, but I’ve avoided clicking on the links because they only depress me.  Maybe Mexico or Jamaica like we had planned before.  Or the Dominican Republic! I had a friend from work who went there and she fell in love with it.  I’m going to go online right now and see what I can dig up!”

Hopefully my laptop was still working after its beating from earlier.  “I’m really open to anything as long as we’re not stuck in Kentucky.”

“Evelyn?”

“I think I still have our travel agent’s card somewhere in my desk.  Although she may not want to talk to us since we’ve had to cancel on her so many times before.  I’ll just have to assure Ashley that it’s really going to happen this time.”

“Evelyn?”

“Do you have any preferences?” I asked off-handedly, scrolling through my mind for places I had always wanted to see.

Will was easy going; if I found a location I truly wanted to visit then he would be content to follow along.

“Yes, I do.”

His admission brought me up short.

“Really?  What?”

“First, I want you to sit back down.”

“Bu—”

“There’s no need to look up anything online, or call travel agents, or do anything else,” he pressed, effectively halting my protest.

“What do you mean?”

How were we supposed to get away if we didn’t have a destination in mind?  My boyfriend wasn’t the type of guy to play things by ear.  He needed an itinerary almost as much as I did.

“I’ve already taken care of it.”

I didn’t like the sound of that.

“Of what, exactly?” I asked, preparing myself for his response and the inevitable argument brewing inside of me.

“Of everything for our vacation,” he explained proudly.

It was a struggle to keep the retort on my tongue from flying across the couch and slapping him in the face.  There was a reason I had always been the one responsible for making our plans.  Will was the accountant; he liked numbers.  I was the well-traveled one; I liked planning the trips that never seemed to happen.

“And by everything you mean…?”

“Of our destination, accommodations, and, well, just everything!”

“That’s… great,” I said tightly, trying unsuccessfully to regain my enthusiasm.

Will had unknowingly relieved me of the one thing I needed in life: control.

“Don’t you want to know where we are going?” he asked, oblivious to the way my smile had turned brittle and now threatened to break free from my face.

Not really. 

After all, he had already planned everything.  It was a little late for any input from me.  What more did I need to do other than pack and say, “Yes, sir?”

“Sure,” I lied.

“Are you ready for this?”

“Sure,” I repeated, allowing the dread to sink in.

“We’re going to Nashville!”

* * *

Come back next Friday to find out what happens next!

Winners Announced

17 Apr

IMG_0668Although we may not agree on who is the “hottest” country music artist, I think we can all agree there are some pretty darn good lookin’ men and women in the industry.

Here are the winners of the FREE proof copies of Flight Risk.

1.  Bonnie R. (SEE FACEBOOK)
2.  Ginger L. (SEE FACEBOOK)

I’d like to thank everyone else who participated in the contest.  I’m so happy all of you decided to play along.

 

Remember, if you didn’t win a copy, you can purchase either a print or kindle version from May 12013!

 

Free Giveaway Tomorrow

16 Apr

Digital ThumbnailHere’s a reminder that the drawing for the FREE Proof Copy of Flight Risk is TOMORROW!  If you haven’t already entered, GET TO IT!

Simply answer the following question: IN YOUR OPINION, WHO IS THE BEST LOOKING COUNTRY MUSIC ARTIST?

You can either:

1. Answer as a comment on this post.
2. Answer via my author Facebook Page
3. Answer via TWITTER with the following hashtag: #Flight Risk

Then stay tuned for the winners to be announced.

 

Happy Reading, Writing, and Giving.

-Jenny

Flight Risk- Prologue

12 Apr

I am SO incredibly thrilled to post the Prologue from Flight Risk for you to enjoy!  Unlike my other novels, I will only be posting the first few chapters online.  However, the book is set to be released on Wednesday, May 1, 2103, both IN PRINT and on KINDLE (other eBook formats to follow), so if you’re dying to know what happens next, you won’t have to wait long!

[Drumroll, please…]

So, without further ado, I give you Flight Risk

Digital Thumbnail

-PROLOGUE-

“Hey, Madison!  You’ll never guess where I am right now.”  Even I didn’t believe the direction I was heading.  

What had been a mere speck on the map a few hours earlier became more concrete with every reflective mile marker. Cars whirred past me, filled with weary commuters returning home after another day of relentless monotony.  The repetitious light posts along the highway were like a thousand lighthouses, beacons leading me to my divinely inspired destination.

My sister’s exasperated voice blared through the receiver.  If her tone were any indication, she must have had another tough day at the office. 

“Well, it’s almost seven o’clock, so you’re probably at the bar down the street,” she said, disapproval evident in her tone.

I smiled, having anticipated her unimaginative response.  “Nope.  Guess again.”

“Okay.  Then you’re at the bar up the road.”

A valid, obvious second choice.  If I hadn’t had such a brilliant idea this morning then she would have been correct. 

One of my favorite bands, Traffic Jam, was playing at The Woodpile right at this moment. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to make it to their gig tonight even if I developed a case of cold feet, turned around, and headed back north.

“Nope. You’re never going to guess it. Try again.”

“Well, if I’m never going to get it right then what’s the point of trying for a third time?” she whined.

Madison was going to be so mad when she found out what I was doing.  That fact had briefly crossed my mind when I had first dialed her number; however, my desire to tell someone had won over my fear of the repercussions.  

My best friend, Megan, hadn’t answered her phone all day so my older, less spontaneous sister would be the first to hear the thrilling turn of events.

“Hey, hold on one second.” Her voice muffled as she spoke to someone in the background.  “Mom wants to know if you’ll be home for dinner.”

I snorted; there were bigger things in store for my future than a meal at Mom’s house.  “No, I won’t make it for dinner tonight.”  Or tomorrow night, or the next.

“Mom!  Evie says she’s not coming for food,” Madison yelled, too close to the telephone.  “Evie, where are you?” she finally asked outright, remembering the direction of the conversation before our mother had interrupted.

“Nashville!”  Just as I said the name, a sign appeared, welcoming me to Davidson County.  The muscles in my stomach tightened with sweet anticipation of the unknown.  

I had made it.

Nashville?” she repeated, disbelief plain in her blank tone.  “As in Tennessee?”

“Yup.”  The one and only, the Hollywood of country music, Nash Vegas, Music City…

“What in the world are you doing in Nashville, Evie?” she snapped in a harsh whisper.  

“I’m moving here.”  

I had to hold the phone away from my ear to avoid a ruptured eardrum.  How would I enjoy all of the live music if I were deaf? 

“Since when?” 

“Since I got into my car eight hours ago and decided to move to Nashville.” 

I was confident that this was going to be the best decision I had made in my life thus far—it already was. 

“What in the world possessed you to go to Nashville?  You have no musical talent whatsoever!”

I couldn’t fault her for her accuracy.  If anything, she was being uncharacteristically generous in her vague description. My singing voice sounded like a strangled cat’s cry for help and made anyone within earshot grimace in pain. 

“I didn’t come for a record deal, obviously.”

“Why else does a person go there?”

“For simple reasons.”

“Give me one,” she challenged.

“Like I’ve never been and I wanted to go.”  Nashville had been on my list of top-ten places to visit in the continental U.S., but the opportunity hadn’t crossed my path before this. 

“And I’ve never been to Australia, but you don’t see me abandoning my family, hopping on a plane, and flying across the world because I want to.”

“Maybe you should,” I said defiantly.  If she did something spontaneous then I wouldn’t look like the only bad egg in our family.

“And maybe I will—on a vacation, like a normal, responsible adult.  There are some places you live and some places you visit.  Nashville is the second one,” she chided.

“Not true.  It’s a city; lots of people live here.”

“Do you have Mongo with you?” she asked, gauging the sincerity behind my decision.  Madison knew that I would never dream of leaving Mongo behind for more than a day or two.

“Yes, of course.”  To my right, my dog smiled back at me, his eyes bright with eagerness… or was it hunger? 

It had been hours since we had stopped for dinner.  In my haste to get here I had made the decision to opt out of healthy meals for more mobile grub.  The problem with fast food—besides the negative effect on my waistline—was that the empty calories didn’t slate a person’s hunger for very long.

When my sister remained silent I checked the screen on my cell phone to make sure she was still on the line. 

“Madison?  Are you there?”

“Yes,” she clipped.

“What’s wrong?”  Everything felt just right.

“You’re really serious about all of this idiocy, aren’t you?”  Her tone was disapproving.  

“Yes, I’m really in Nashville.  I wish you could see this place, sis.” 

The city looked just like it had on the internet during the hour of condensed research conducted in preparation for my journey.  The AT&T office building rose from the horizon in comic-book-worthy  splendor.  

I turned off the highway onto Second Avenue and headed toward Broadway.  The wide streets were lined with three-story buildings and peppered with an occasional towering office complex or hotel.  Glowing, gaudy neon signs reflected off the sleek mirrored surfaces, allowing the lights to shine into infinity. 

“This is not funny, Evie.”

“Yeah, it kind of is.”

“It’s crazy, that’s what it is,” she corrected.

“I know.”

“And how long do you plan on living in Nashville?” she asked.

Because planning had never been a strength of mine, my sister wouldn’t be surprised to hear that I hadn’t thought that far ahead.  

“However long it works out.”  Or until the wind blew me in a different direction.  I was open to anything and everything—besides going home. 

I may not have known where I was meant to be, but I knew the place I wanted to avoid.  My aspirations and dreams had outgrown the rural town where I had been raised.  Bigger and better things were in store for Evie Ryan.

“How do you expect to support yourself for any length of time?  Student loans come due in six months, and I’ve seen the balance in your joke-of-a-bank-account.”

“Were you going through my mail again, Madison?”

She didn’t dignify my question with a response. “The point is you won’t last a week down there on your own.”

Funding happened to be the single hitch in my random adventure.  “I just graduated from college, Madison.  I’m not supposed to have money yet.” 

That’s why they made credit cards, credit-limit extensions, over-draft forgiveness, and personal loans.

“Which means you’re not supposed to do something stupid like decide to move to Tennessee on a whim.”

“Sorry I don’t make seventy-grand a year as a lame engineer.  Maybe I should have chosen a more responsible major just like my predictable big sister.”

“Evie, you know that’s not what I meant.”

“Don’t worry about me, sis.  I have everything covered,” I lied smoothly. 

I would figure it out; I had to. Failure wasn’t an option, especially not when it was deemed imminent by those closest to me.

“Covered how?” she pushed arrogantly.

“I’m getting a job.” 

It couldn’t be that hard.  More businesses meant more help-wanted signs posted in gleaming windows.  All I really needed was something to get me on my feet, a stable start.

“A jobYou?” She giggled for the first time in our entire conversation.

“That’s generally the reason a person wastes all of those years in college to get a piece of glorified paper, isn’t it?”  Of course I couldn’t really think of what type of employment a person sought when her degree was in English. 

My chosen major had sounded good when I was eighteen.  Now, however, I could see why Madison and my parents had urged me toward a more practical field.  Little did they know, their attempt at persuasion had had the opposite effect; I didn’t deal well with coercion. 

“With what qualifications?”

“I have loads of great qualities.  Anyone would be lucky to have me working for them.”

Thankfully, she relented easily. “You’re right. It should be simple for you to get a job and survive on your own in a strange city.”

I couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being sarcastic.  Even so, that was the nicest thing she had said to me during our exchange so I decided to take the statement at face value.  

“Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking.  I imagine I’ll have rent or whatever.  And I’m going to have to eat eventually.”  My stomach growled; eventually couldn’t come soon enough.

“Evie…” Madison began, adopting the same tone my mom would undoubtedly subject me to when she heard the news of my impulsive relocation.  “Will you just come home and stop stressing me out?”

It was too late.  I loved this place already and I had yet to set foot outside of my vehicle.  The city held something my tiny hometown had been lacking: possibilities.

“You know what, Madison?  I don’t see why you’re so against me doing this.  You did something similar before, and I was totally supportive.  I would have gone with you if mom would’ve let me.”

“What the heck are you talking about?  When have I ever done anything even remotely close to what you’re doing?” she shot back.

“Have you forgotten about Florida three years ago?”

It took a few seconds for her to sift through the years of responsibility to recall a time when she had actually been fun—and bearable. 

“Are you talking about spring break?”

“Yeah.  You just dropped everything and went to Boca.”

“Evie, that was spring break.”

“Okay, I believe we’ve already established that.”  I wasn’t an idiot.

“Spring break lasts for a week.  One week.  Are you telling me that you think relocating to Tennessee is the same as me going to Florida for a week during spring break?”

And she thought I was the one who didn’t listen. 

“I didn’t say it was the same; I said it was similar.”

“In no way do the two events even remotely resemble one another, Evie!  I went for a week—”

“Okay!” 

Despite my protest, my sister wasn’t willing to stop there. “And there were three other girls with me.  And Mom knew about it.  And—”

“Okay, okay!  All I meant was that there used to be some spontaneity inside of you.”  I had always been the one with the crazy ideas, but there was a time when Madison had reluctantly played along.  “Can’t you just dredge up a little bit of empathy for what I’m going through?”

“You want me to show empathy for your selfish attempt at rebellion?”

Her accusation cut me worse than I had thought possible.  All I had wanted was for her to see things from my point of view, to be excited that I was finally doing something that I wanted to do, something daring.

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t really mean that the way it came out.  All I’m saying is, please don’t do this.”

“Leave that contraction to the pregnant women, sister!  I am doing this.”

“Evie…” she warned once more, preparing for another irritating monologue.

“Love ya, Madison.  Tell Mom I’m fine.  I’ll talk to you soon.” 

There was no turning back.  This was something I had to do before I got too old and boring to enjoy it.

“Evie, wait!”

My sister was going to freak the next time I talked to her; Madison hated it when I ended a call before she was finished telling me what to do.  

I switched off my phone just in case she felt the need to continue the conversation tonight.  There was no point in talking the subject into the dirt; I was already here.

I drove my car into a dimly lit lot behind a bar that promised patrons live music and hot food; at this point in the night I’d settle for cold and leftover. 

Mongo stretched and followed me to a narrow patch of grass that outlined the street.  After he finished his business I put him back into the car and cracked the windows so he could breathe the sweet air of freedom.

There was a menu posted outside on the brick wall, convenient for those customers too scared of commitment to go inside and take a chance on the local cuisine.  I tried not to think of what my actions said about me as I read the list of house specials.

The door vibrated with an invisible beat, drawing me inside like a siren’s song.  The condensed interior was murky; there was just enough light for me to see where I was going without plowing anyone over.  

This place was different from the hole-in-the-wall establishments from back home.  No one bothered to look up from their drinks as I meandered through the mass of bodies blocking my way to the bar. 

In tourist destinations like this one it was nothing out of the ordinary for a stranger to show up for liquid relief at the end of the day.  This was a city full of imports just like me, all of us attempting to make our way in music city. 

Everyone’s attention was wholly focused on the plywood stage in the back of the open space.  When I caught a glimpse of the man behind the microphone it was obvious why the crowd was enthralled.  

He wore a backwards baseball cap, covering what looked like short, golden curls any girl would kill for.  It was only a mild disappointment that this was my first bar in Nashville and the entertainment wasn’t sporting a cowboy hat. 

At least he hadn’t forgotten his boots and belt buckle.  

The harsh red stage lighting cast a deep shadow from his brow to his high cheekbones, concealing his eyes in darkness. The color of his irises was lost in the space between us.    

It was irritating that I couldn’t see them clearly; you could tell a lot about a person from the look in his eyes. 

I took a couple steps to my right, and the performer’s head tilted to the left.  If I were more naive I would have thought he had been watching me walk across the room.

The singer finished his rendition of a George Strait classic and moved on to one I had never heard before.

“Excuse me,” I muttered as I collided with a burly man standing next to the bar.  

He nodded his acknowledgement of my apology and continued to his seat.  I wedged myself into his vacant spot and leaned over the age-dulled counter, attempting to get a better look at the stranger on the stage.  

Was he grinning at me?

“Do you need something?” a pretty bartender inquired, interrupting my ogling. 

She had frazzled red hair that surrounded her cherub-like face and a generous sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of her nose.  Her black tank top was close-fitting, leaving little to her customers’ imaginations.  She wore distressed jeans and a sequined belt buckle that looked heavy enough to root her petite frame to where she stood.

“I’m sorry?”

“Do you need something?” she repeated her rushed request; the words were lost in the music. “If you haven’t noticed, I’m sorta busy here. Would you like a drink or not?”

“Sure.”  I peered toward the row of taps in the center of the bar.  

A tattered, stained flyer behind the equally dilapidated register sidetracked my order.

“You are hiring?”  And my sister thought I had no qualifications!  Since I had turned twenty-one I had practically lived in the bars back home.  Was it possible that fate had included this very establishment as a vital part of my destiny?

“Yeah, we are.  You interested?” she asked, assessing me closer now.

“Hey, Mags!  Can I get a beer down here sometime tonight or should I go across the street to Rippy’s?” a balding man shouted from the opposite end of the bar.

Mags didn’t bother pulling her eyes from my face as she loudly addressed the patron. “Just a sec, Rick.”

“I am very interested,” I confessed anxiously.

“When can you start?”

“Right away.”  The sooner I got a paycheck, the better.  I could only handle living out of my car for so long.  Mongo was a saint but he could really start to stink when in close proximity for any length of time.

“Good.  Get on back here.  Domestic drafts are two dollars until midnight.  And do you see the creepy man in the ten-gallon hat a few people down on your left?”

“Yeah?”  The stranger’s eyes weren’t quite focused on the scene unfolding around him.  

“Don’t serve him any more tonight.  If he asks for a drink give him a Coke on the rocks.”

“Wait… Really?  You’re hiring me?”  What kind of interview process was this?

“Yeah.”

“Shouldn’t you get permission from the manager or supervisor or something?” 

Mags raised an eyebrow at me in silent challenge.  “You’re talking to her.”

You’re the manager?”  She looked a bit young to be in charge of the place.

“Among other things.  Sweetheart, it’s your lucky day.  You’ve gone straight to the top of the food chain.  This is my place.”

I couldn’t tell if she was messing with me or being serious.  Then I realized it didn’t matter as long as she gave me a job. 

“Don’t you want to know my qualifications or whatever?”  Or, I don’t know, my name. 

Rick whistled from his spot.  Mags whipped toward the rude noise and shot him a warning glare. 

He winked at her, unfazed.  “I hear they’ve got great mixed drinks at that new place down the road, Mags.”

“And yet I still have to see your ugly mug every night, Rick.”  The bartender/owner turned back to me and her grin broadened.  “You twenty-one?”

“Yup.”  I had reached the age of legally having fun three months ago.

“Ever tended bar before?”

“Nope.  But I’ve frequented a lot of bars.”  How hard could it be?  My cousin Kelly was a bartender back home and she hadn’t even finished high school.

“Heya, Mags?  Can I get two more up here to the stage, sugar?” the man announced over the microphone.  His smooth timbre sent shivers down my spine like his words were tickling the fine hairs at the nape of my neck.  

From this distance he looked pretty hot, but most guys armed with a guitar and sultry singing voice were sexy, even when they weren’t.  Still, there was something magnetic about this one.

Mags held up her thumb, acknowledging his order, and chuckled.  “You’ll learn fast enough.”

I couldn’t call my new boss a liar.  By the end of my first shift I had been broken in like a well-worn pair of boots.  Luckily the patrons were mostly men and they had thoroughly enjoyed assisting me along the learning curve.

“Are you always this busy?”  I hadn’t even worked a full shift and I was beat.  

Mags snorted and continued loading the trays of empty glasses into the dishwasher.  “Busy?  This was the slowest Friday I’ve seen in the past six months.”

“Don’t you have any other help?”  How had she planned on surviving the shift without me—not that I had been that much assistance?

“I hired a new girl last week.”

“Did she need off tonight?” I assumed.  It seemed irresponsible to take time off after only being employed for a week—especially on a Friday.

“Nope.”

“Oh,” I mumbled, pretending to understand what she was implying by her clipped response.

“You’re not quitting on me too, are ya?”

“No way!”  The night had been exhausting and hectic, but the hours had flown past in an alcohol-induced frenzy.  Much to my relief, I found that I had actually enjoyed the madness.

“Good.  That last girl I hired couldn’t hack it.  She left in tears midway through her first shift.  She didn’t even bother to bring her tips with her.”

“More room for me.”  It was impossible to feel sympathy for the faceless girl when her loss was my gain.

“Two waters, please, Mags,” a now-familiar voice called from my right.

“Did you just ask me for two waters?  I’m disappointed in you.”

“What can I say?  I’m a closet lightweight,” the man teased.

“I already knew that about you.  They’re comin’ right up, sugar,” my boss said, moving to fill two glasses from the tap. 

“Who’s the help?” the man asked.  He leaned heavily on the bar, looking like he owned the place.  “She doesn’t look like the one from last week.”

“That’s because she’s not.”

“You burned through another one already, Mags?” he assumed.  “How many does that make this month?”

“Like I have time to keep track,” she returned.  “This is the new girl.”

“This new girl have a name?”

It was obvious the pair of them were content to continue their conversation right over me unless I intervened.  

“Yeah, the new girl has a name,” I interrupted.  They both looked at me expectantly.  “It’s Evie.”

“If it’s all the same to you, I’m not going to bother remembering your name until you’ve stuck it out for at least a month.  It’s part of my process, you see,” Mags explained. 

Process?  You’re flying by the seat of your pants, Mags.  Same as the rest of us.”

Mags smiled and winked at me.  “As if you haven’t already figured it out, I’m Mags, and this waster is Jaxon.  If you’re smart you’ll avoid him.  He has illusions of stardom, but he’s going nowhere.”

Avoiding the gorgeous guy standing beside me was the last thing on my mind.  I moved to defiantly shake the calloused hand Jaxon offered. 

“It’s nice to meet you, Jaxon.”

Jaxon grinned, revealing a hint of dimple in his right cheek.  “The pleasure’s all mine, Evie.”

His eyes were piercing, aware, and blue.

* * *

Stay tuned next week for Chapter 1!