Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday's Film Adaption: Skipping Christmas by John Grisham


Summary:
Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded shops, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That's just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they'll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on the street without a rooftop Frosty the snowman; they won't be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren't even going to have a tree. They won't need one, because come December 25 they're setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences - and isn't half as easy as they'd imagined.

A classic tale for modern times, Skipping Christmas offers a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that has become part of our holiday tradition.



One
The gate was packed with weary travelers, most of them standing and huddled along the walls because the meager allotment of plastic chairs had long since been taken. Every plane that came and went held at least eighty passengers, yet the gate had seats for only a few dozen.

There seemed to be a thousand waiting for the 7 p.m. flight to Miami. They were bundled up and heavily laden, and after fighting the traffic and the check-in and the mobs along the concourse they were subdued, as a whole. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, one of the busiest days of the year for air travel, and as they jostled and got pushed farther into the gate many asked themselves, not for the first time, why, exactly, they had chosen this day to fly.

The reasons were varied and irrelevant at the moment. Some tried to smile. Some tried to read, but the crush and the noise made it difficult. Others just stared at the floor and waited. Nearby a skinny black Santa Claus clanged an irksome bell and droned out holiday greetings.

A small family approached, and when they saw the gate number and the mob they stopped along the edge of the concourse and began their wait. The daughter was young and pretty. Her name was Blair, and she was obviously leaving. Her parents were not. The three gazed at the crowd, and they, too, at that moment, silently asked themselves why they had picked this day to travel.

The tears were over, at least most of them. Blair was twenty-three, fresh from graduate school with a handsome resume but not ready for a career. A friend from college was in Africa with the Peace Corps, and this had inspired Blair to dedicate the next two years to helping others. Her assignment was eastern Peru, where she would teach primitive little children how to read. She would live in a lean-to with no plumbing, no electricity, no phone, and she was anxious to begin her journey.

The flight would take her to Miami, then to Lima, then by bus for three days into the mountains, into another century. For the first time in her young and sheltered life, Blair would spend Christmas away from home. Her mother clutched her hand and tried to be strong.

The good-byes had all been said. “Are you sure this is what you want?” had been asked for the hundredth time.

Luther, her father, studied the mob with a scowl on his face. What madness, he said to himself. He had dropped them at the curb, then driven miles to park in a satellite lot. A packed shuttle bus had delivered him back to Departures, and from there he had elbowed his way with his wife and daughter down to this gate. He was sad that Blair was leaving, and he detested the swarming horde of people. He was in a foul mood. Things would get worse for Luther.

The harried gate agents came to life and the passengers inched forward. The first announcement was made, the one asking those who needed extra time and those in first class to come forward. The pushing and shoving rose to the next level.

“I guess we’d better go,” Luther said to his daughter, his only child.

They hugged again and fought back the tears. Blair smiled and said, “The year will fly by. I’ll be home next Christmas.”

Nora, her mother, bit her lip and nodded and kissed her once more. “Please be careful,” she said because she couldn’t stop saying it.

“I’ll be fine.”

They released her and watched helplessly as she joined a long line and inched away, away from them, away from home and security and everything she’d ever known. As she handed over her boarding pass, Blair turned and smiled at them one last time.

“Oh well,” Luther said. “Enough of this. She’s going to be fine.”

Nora could think of nothing to say as she watched her daughter disappear. They turned and fell in with the foot traffic, one long crowded march down the concourse, past the Santa Claus with the irksome bell, past the tiny shops packed with people.

It was raining when they left the terminal and found the line for the shuttle back to the satellite, and it was pouring when the shuttle sloshed its way through the lot and dropped them off, two hundred yards from their car. It cost Luther $7.00 to free himself and his car from the greed of the airport authority.

When they were moving toward the city, Nora finally spoke. “Will she be okay?” she asked. He had heard that question so often that his response was an automatic grunt.

“Sure.”

“Do you really think so?”

“Sure.” Whether he did or he didn’t, what did it matter at this point? She was gone; they couldn’t stop her.

He gripped the wheel with both hands and silently cursed the traffic slowing in front of him. He couldn’t tell if his wife was crying or not. Luther wanted only to get home and dry off, sit by the fire, and read a magazine.

He was within two miles of home when she announced, “I need a few things from the grocery.”

“It’s raining,” he said.

“I still need them.”

“Can’t it wait?”

“You can stay in the car. Just take a minute. Go to Chip’s. It’s open today.”

So he headed for Chip’s, a place he despised not only for its outrageous prices and snooty staff but also for its impossible location. It was still raining of course–she couldn’t pick a Kroger where you could park and make a dash. No, she wanted Chip’s, where you parked and hiked.

Only sometimes you couldn’t park at all. The lot was full. The fire lanes were packed. He searched in vain for ten minutes before Nora said, “Just drop me at the curb.” She was frustrated at his inability to find a suitable spot.

He wheeled into a space near a burger joint and demanded, “Give me a list.”

“I’ll go,” she said, but only in feigned protest. Luther would hike through the rain and they both knew it.

“Gimme a list.”

“Just white chocolate and a pound of pistachios,” she said, relieved.

“That’s all?”

“Yes, and make sure it’s Logan’s chocolate, one-pound bar, and Lance Brothers pistachios.”

“And this couldn’t wait?”

“No, Luther, it cannot wait. I’m doing dessert for lunch tomorrow. If you don’t want to go, then hush up and I’ll go.”

He slammed the door. His third step was into a shallow pothole. Cold water soaked his right ankle and oozed down quickly into his shoe. He froze for a second and caught his breath, then stepped away on his toes, trying desperately to spot other puddles while dodging traffic.

Chip’s believed in high prices and modest rent. It was on a side alley, not visible from anywhere really. Next to it was a wine shop run by a European of some strain who claimed to be French but was rumored to be Hungarian. His English was awful but he’d learned the language of price gouging. Probably learned it from Chip’s next door. In fact all the shops in the District, as it was known, strove to be discriminating.

And every shop was full. Another Santa clanged away with the same bell outside the cheese shop. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” rattled from a hidden speaker above the sidewalk in front of Mother Earth, where the crunchy people were no doubt still wearing their sandals. Luther hated the store–refused to set foot inside. Nora bought organic herbs there, for what reason he’d never been certain. The old Mexican who owned the cigar store was happily stringing lights in his window, pipe stuck in the corner of his mouth, smoke drifting behind him, fake snow already sprayed on a fake tree.

There was a chance of real snow later in the night. The shoppers wasted no time as they hustled in and out of the stores. The sock on Luther’s right foot was now frozen to his ankle.

There were no shopping baskets near the checkout at Chip’s, and of course this was a bad sign. Luther didn’t need one, but it meant the place was packed. The aisles were narrow and the inventory was laid out in such a way that nothing made sense. Regardless of what was on your list, you had to crisscross the place half a dozen times to finish up.

A stock boy was working hard on a display of Christmas chocolates. A sign by the butcher demanded that all good customers order their Christmas turkeys immediately. New Christmas wines were in! And Christmas hams!

What a waste, Luther thought to himself. Why do we eat so much and drink so much in the celebration of the birth of Christ? He found the pistachios near the bread. Odd how that made sense at Chip’s. The white chocolate was nowhere near the baking section, so Luther cursed under his breath and trudged along the aisles, looking at everything. He got bumped by a shopping cart. No apology, no one noticed. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was coming from above, as if Luther was supposed to be comforted. Might as well be “Frosty the Snowman.”

Two aisles over, next to a selection of rice from around the world, there was a shelf of baking chocolates. As he stepped closer, he recognized a one-pound bar of Logan’s. Another step closer and it suddenly disappeared, snatched from his grasp by a harsh-looking woman who never saw him. The little space reserved for Logan’s was empty, and in the next desperate moment Luther saw not another speck of white chocolate. Lots of dark and medium chips and such, but nothing white.

The express line was, of course, slower than the other two. Chip’s’ outrageous prices forced its customers to buy in small quantities, but this had no effect whatsoever on the speed with which they came and went. Each item was lifted, inspected, and manually entered into the register by an unpleasant cashier. Sacking was hit or miss, though around Christmas the sackers came to life with smiles and enthusiasm and astounding recall of customers’ names. It was the tipping season, yet another unseemly aspect of Christmas that Luther loathed.

Six bucks and change for a pound of pistachios. He shoved the eager young sacker away, and for a second thought he might have to strike him to keep his precious pistachios out of another bag. He stuffed them into the pocket of his overcoat and quickly left the store.

A crowd had stopped to watch the old Mexican decorate his cigar store window. He was plugging in little robots who trudged through the fake snow, and this delighted the crowd no end. Luther was forced to move off the curb, and in doing so he stepped just left instead of just right. His left foot sank into five inches of cold slush. He froze for a split second, sucking in lungfuls of cold air, cursing the old Mexican and his robots and his fans and the damned pistachios. He yanked his foot upward and slung dirty water on his pants leg, and standing at the curb with two frozen feet and the bell clanging away and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” blaring from the loudspeaker and the sidewalk blocked by revelers, Luther began to hate Christmas.

The water had seeped into his toes by the time he reached his car. “No white chocolate,” he hissed at Nora as he crawled behind the wheel.

She was wiping her eyes.

“What is it now?” he demanded.

“I just talked to Blair.”

“What? How? Is she all right?”

“She called from the airplane. She’s fine.” Nora was biting her lip, trying to recover.

Exactly how much does it cost to phone home from thirty thousand feet? Luther wondered. He’d seen phones on planes. Any credit card’ll do. Blair had one he’d given her, the type where the bills are sent to Mom and Dad. From a cell phone up there to a cell phone down here, probably at least ten bucks.

And for what? I’m fine, Mom. Haven’t seen you in almost an hour. We all love each other. We’ll all miss each other. Gotta go, Mom.

The engine was running though Luther didn’t remember starting it.

“You forgot the white chocolate?” Nora asked, fully recovered.

“No. I didn’t forget it. They didn’t have any.”

“Did you ask Rex?”

“Who’s Rex?”

“The butcher.”

“No, Nora, for some reason I didn’t think to ask the butcher if he had any white chocolate hidden among his chops and livers.”

She yanked the door handle with all the frustration she could muster. “I have to have it. Thanks for nothing.” And she was gone.

I hope you step in frozen water, Luther grumbled to himself. He fumed and muttered other unpleasantries. He switched the heater vents to the floorboard to thaw his feet, then watched the large people come and go at the burger place. Traffic was stalled on the streets beyond.

How nice it would be to avoid Christmas, he began to think. A snap of the fingers and it’s January 2. No tree, no shopping, no meaningless gifts, no tipping, no clutter and wrappings, no traffic and crowds, no fruitcakes, no liquor and hams that no one needed, no “Rudolph” and “Frosty, ” no office party, no wasted money. His list grew long. He huddled over the wheel, smiling now, waiting for heat down below, dreaming pleasantly of escape.

She was back, with a small brown sack which she tossed beside him just carefully enough not to crack the chocolate while letting him know that she’d found it and he hadn’t. “Everybody knows you have to ask,” she said sharply as she yanked at her shoulder harness.

“Odd way of marketing,” Luther mused, in reverse now. “Hide it by the butcher, make it scarce, folks’ll clamor for it. I’m sure they charge more if it’s hidden.”

“Oh hush, Luther.”

“Are your feet wet?”

“No. Yours?”

“No.”

“Then why’d you ask?”

“Just worried.”

“Do you think she’ll be all right?”

“She’s on an airplane. You just talked to her.”

“I mean down there, in the jungle.”

“Stop worrying, okay? The Peace Corps wouldn’t send her into a dangerous place.”

“It won’t be the same.”

“What?”

“Christmas.”

It certainly will not, Luther almost said. Oddly, he was smiling as he worked his way through traffic.

Film:
Release Date: November 24, 2004
Release Time: 98 minutes

Cast:
Tim Allen as Luther Krank
Jamie Lee Curtis as Nora Krank
Dan Aykroyd as Vic Frohmeyer
Julie Gonzalo as Blair Krank
M. Emmet Walsh as Walt Scheel
Elizabeth Franz as Bev Scheel
Erik Per Sullivan as Spike Frohmeyer
Cheech Marin as Officer Salino
Jake Busey as Officer Treen
Austin Pendleton as Marty
Tom Poston as Father Zabriskie
Kim Rhodes as Julie
Arden Myrin as Daisy
Renรฉ Lavan as Enrique Decardenal
Caroline Rhea as Candi
Felicity Huffman as Merry
Alethea McGrath as old woman (uncredited)
Kevin Chamberlin as Duke Scanlon



Author Bio:
Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, John Grisham was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby—writing his first novel.

Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn’t have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990.

One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl’s father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.

That might have put an end to Grisham’s hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career—and spark one of publishing’s greatest success stories. The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on another novel, the story of a hotshot young attorney lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.

The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham’s reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham’s success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill, which was republished in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller.


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Release Day Blitz: There We’ll Be by Alla Kar

Title: There We'll Be
Author: Alla Kar
Series: Together #3
Genre: New Adult Romance
Release Date: November 27, 2015
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Summary:
Respect your elders.

Stay off Sawyer property.

And don’t even think about that Sawyer girl…

Boone Cross was raised with three simple rules, and falling for Josie Sawyer broke every one of them. That is, until a year ago, when he ​did the unthinkable and she moved away.

Josie Sawyer never thought she’d be on a plane, flying back to Arkansas for the summer, only a year after her heart was crushed into a thousand pieces by the boy her parents forbade her to love. But ​her father is dying, and being stubborn isn’t an option.

In a town this small, it’s only a matter of time before she runs into Boone Cross.
A lot’s changed since she last laid eyes on him, but some things have remained exactly the same. Boone’s got designs on her and he won’t give up until he gets what he wants.

​But as they give in to the need to be together once more, ​secrets ​come to light ​revealing​ a ​history of a hatred between their families that runs ​so ​deep that even the strongest love may not be able to survive.

Chapter One 

Josie
     A humid gust of wind slapped my tear-streaked face, stinging my eyes. I squinted against the beaming sun and stalked forward through the wooded area behind my house.
     I kept going, even after the screams of my parents had faded, trying to get away from the madness I called home. Too soon, I reached the end of our property and the beginning of the Crosses’. I knew I wasn’t supposed to cross the property line. My dad had banged it into my head like there was some sort of Big Foot or deadly disease waiting for me the second I stepped onto Cross land.
     But I knew nothing would happen because I had crossed over a few times. Only woods, birds, and silence.
     When I couldn’t walk anymore, I lay down on the ground, not caring that sticks and dirt clung to my body. I needed an escape and the blue sky staring back at me was it. I’m not sure how long I lay on the forest floor wishing the sky would take me prisoner, but I finally drifted to sleep.
     A deep ache in my lower back woke me, and I instantly climbed to my feet. The sun was lower than before, but through the haziness of sleep, I felt something else out there. It wasn’t menacing or bad, just something.
     Pressing the palms of my hands to my eyes, I rubbed until the world cleared. That’s when I saw something in the tree several yards away.
     I trudged closer, trying to get the sticks out of my hair. Someone’s leg was swinging from what looked like a makeshift treehouse. It was small and looked like a kid built it. Standing awkwardly and looking up for a few moments, I cleared my throat.
     A boy popped his head up and leaned forward to gaze down at me. It wasn’t just any guy, it was Boone Cross. Shit. Shit. Shit. He’d left the summer before, after he was suspended for fighting, to move in with his mom. Every female specimen in our school cried for weeks—or was that just me?—when he moved away. His family owned this land. I wondered if he would get mad I was here. I wondered if he’d tell Dad.
     He blinked a few times, a sexy-as-hell bedroom look on his face, but when he focused on me, he straightened. A look of fear crossed his face. What was he scared of? Me?
     “It’s rude to interrupt someone while they’re sleepin’,” he said, his Southern drawl heavy on his tongue. His blond hair was cut short, giving everyone the extreme pleasure of seeing those too-blue eyes of his. “Hello? You there?”
     I narrowed my eyes and clenched my jaw. “Well, maybe you shouldn’t be sleepin’ in the middle of the damn woods.”
     His jaw tightened. “This is my treehouse and you’re on Cross property, Sweetheart.” He gestured toward the sign on the tree behind my head. Private Property.
     Shit. “Oh. I—I’m sorry. I—”
     “You shouldn’t be here,” he said, a confused look on his face as he eyed me up and down. “You really shouldn’t be here.”
     I wanted to scream. I’d never said more than two words to Boone. Not that I hadn’t tried. Every time I neared him at school, he ran the other direction. I was beginning to think I repulsed him.
     “Why?” I blurted out. “You can’t stand to be around me?” I threw my hands in the air. I shouldn’t have been so mad, but I couldn’t help it. He hadn’t given two cents about me during school; I don’t know why I thought it’d be different this time.
     Boone shook his head and closed his eyes. “You’ve never been more wrong, Josie.”
     The way he said my name was perfect. I’d never heard my name sound so freaking sexy. “Th—then what is it?”
     “You’re just not supposed to be here,” he whispered, his eyes still cast downward. I wanted to ask him why he kept saying it. Only when he shook his head and smiled down at the ground, I knew he wasn’t going to say it again. There was something in his face that told me he didn’t care that I wasn’t supposed to be there anymore.
     “Y—you want me to leave?” I finally asked into the silence.
     Boone looked up at me, and his eyes smiled for him. “You’re adorable,” he whispered, taking me in with his eyes.
     My face felt like fire. Did he just call my stuttering adorable? “I’m not adorable. Adorable is what you call your baby sister,” I spit out.
     Boone lifted a heavy brow and swung both legs down before plummeting to the ground. For someone so tall, he was oddly graceful. Oh, shit. He was walking toward me. He’d grown a few inches. What was he? Six-two? I was panting like a dog. Why was he looking at me like that?
     His gray T-shirt was wrinkled but fit tight around his biceps, showing me he hadn’t lost any of that muscle we all swooned over at school football games. “Someone doesn’t want to be my baby sister, huh? Do you have ill intentions toward me, Josie Sawyer?”
     “No!” I barked. “I just don’t want to be called adorable. I’m not adorable.”
     His blue eyes twinkled when he smiled. “Why don’t you come up to my treehouse with me?” Where had this come from? Hadn’t he just told me I shouldn’t be here? I guess I was right. He didn’t care anymore.
     Sighing, I crossed my arms over my chest, hoping he wouldn’t notice the way my arms shook. I’d never actually talked to him for this long, and I suddenly felt very underdressed. The tank top didn’t leave much to the imagination and the cheer shorts weren’t helping.
     “Because I don’t want to come up to your treehouse.”
     “Liar,” he said.
     “Didn’t you just tell me to leave? That I wasn’t welcome on Cross property?”
     Those too-blue eyes locked with mine. “I said you shouldn’t be here, not that I didn’t want you to be.”
     My breath caught. Everything I was about to say drifted off and evaporated into the air around me. “I—I’m leavin’.”
     Boone reached forward, wrapped his arm around my legs, and threw me over his shoulder. I squealed like a little girl and swatted at his back. “Let me go! Right now!”
     Boone stopped like he was pondering the idea but then shook his head. “Nah, I don’t think I will.”      He clung to my thighs, his large fingers digging into my skin as he hurled both of us up the small makeshift ladder and onto the platform.
     I jerked away from him and glanced around. The treehouse was only a large platform with a short wooden guardrail surrounding it. “What the hell?” I yelled. “You don’t just force someone!”
     He rolled his eyes, slid out of his shoes, and leaned back to look at me. “You can’t force the willing. You wanted me to. I could see it in your eyes.”
     “Really? I think you need to go to the eye doctor.”
     “Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
     We sat in silence for several minutes while I tried to avoid his gaze. I felt it on me—everywhere. But I was too chickenshit to look at him. “So,” I said shakily, “you movin’ back?”
     There was a long pause. “Yes.”
     My eyes snapped upward to see a smug smile on his face. “You missed me?” he asked.
     Heat burned my cheeks. He was all the way on the other side of the treehouse but felt so much closer. “Just asking. What were you doin’ out here?”
     “I’m guessing the same thing as you,” he said.
     I snorted. “Doubt it. You tryin’ to get away from World War III?”
     Boone didn’t answer, but he watched me closely. Why had I even said that? He didn’t care about my personal life. And I didn’t want everyone knowing. Way to go, Josie.
     “Do you remember the first time we met?” he asked out of nowhere.
     I glanced over at him, bringing my knees up to my chest. His lips lifted in a small smile. We actually had never officially met. I mean, I’d known him since elementary, but we’d never really hung around the same people.
     I shook my head. “I don’t think so.”
     “It was here.” He pointed toward the treehouse. “I was ten, so you would have been eight. You were playing hide-and-seek by yourself.” He busted out laughing and I felt it between my legs. It was low, raw, and poured over my skin like silk.
     “I was not!”
     “You were too,” he said, sitting up. “I asked you if you wanted to play in my treehouse with me. And you said that you didn’t need a boy to play with.”
     I fought back a smile. “I don’t remember that.”
     Boone dragged himself closer to me, resting his hand about three inches away from my own. “That’s not the best part.”
     My body hummed. His scent attacked my every rational thought. It was woodsy and male. Something hard to duplicate. So warm. “Oh yeah? What’s the best part?” I asked.
     “I tried to kiss you, and you hit me in the nose.”
     What? Something tickled the back of my mind and I vaguely remembered something. “Remember?” he whispered, his voice closer this time.
     “Sort of.” I laughed. “That’s what you get, perv.”
     Boone was sitting up beside me now, and his shoulder shook as he laughed. It was oddly normal in the most awkward way possible. “Do you think you would hit me now?” he asked, voice dropping an octave. Did he really just ask that? Oh, God. Something heavy lit a fire low in my stomach. There had been months where I dreamed about his lips. About him kissing me like there was no tomorrow.
     I turned my gaze to his. “Yes,” I lied.
     By the smile on his face, I knew he knew it was a lie. I wanted him to kiss me more than I wanted my parents to stop fighting. More than I had wanted anything in my life. “Liar,” he whispered.
     My breath was ragged. He wasn’t making any sudden moves, and my fingers yearned to touch that face—those lips. “I’m n-ot.”
     Boone was listening, but by his smile I could tell that he knew I was lying. I liked that about him. He knew what I wanted no matter how hard I tried to hide it. It was like he knew more about me than I’d ever realized. He’d made his way in front of me. There was hesitation and fear in his eyes, but I had no idea why. It was the look a child gets when he’s about to do something he isn’t supposed to. I just didn’t understand why he wasn’t supposed to. “What if this time I let you make the move? Nothing happens if you don’t go for it.”
     Now that was a stupid idea. My shyness mixed with the fear of fucking things up was not going to get him a kiss. “I don’t think—”
     Sliding backward until his back hit the tree, he grabbed my hands and guided me on top of him. My fingers clenched at the hardness of his tanned chest. His shirt was on, but I could see the smoothness from the low V-neck. “Use me, Raven.”
     Raven? The force of my heart jackhammering in my chest was drowning out everything else. I was straddling Boone Cross, in a treehouse, in the middle of the woods, and he was waiting for me to make a move.
     “Take your time,” he whispered.
     Everything I’d felt for other guys before that moment was history. There wasn’t anyone but him. The taut feeling of his hardness below me. The way his hands kept still on my waist, never dipping too low or lifting too high. Just a heavy presence that warmed and calmed me. So different from what I was used to, yet everything I’d always hoped for.
     “I hardly know you,” I whispered.
     Boone shut his eyes, but a lazy grin spread across his face. “You feel it, though, right? The connection?”
     I did, but I didn’t answer. Instead, I ran my hand up his chest to his cheek where the scruff brushed my fingers. His eyes lifted, the bright blue orbs daring me to look away. I couldn’t because I’d never seen anything so damn beautiful.
     Boone turned his cheek to kiss my palm but kept his eyes on mine. Warmth enveloped me and a pathetic moan escaped my lips. His chest vibrated beneath my palms. “You better bend down here and kiss me before I break all of my rules and do it myself.”
     All of his rules? Did he have rules about all girls, or just me?
     I didn’t get a chance to ask.
     His fingers snaked behind my neck and dragged me down to meet his waiting lips. The rush of adrenaline was suffocating me so deeply. There wasn’t anything better than this.
     “You taste so good,” he mumbled against me, swiping his tongue along my lower lip for entrance. I opened my mouth wider, welcoming the experienced pace of his tongue.
     Everything was warm, hard, addicting. The way his fingers pressed against my neck and sides. The way he pushed upward against my rocking hips in the most foreign but unforgettable rhythm ever created. My soft moans were masked by his deep groans, and I was liquid in his hands. I’d never been kissed like that, and by someone I’d fawned over for years.
     When I finally pulled away, he rested his forehead against mine and laced his fingers around the nape of my neck. “You’re my own little slice of Heaven, Raven.”
     I was too exhausted from want to ask why he called me Raven and too shaky to move. I lay there in his arms all night long.
*****
     “Hey, girl.”
     Something tickled my nose and I sat straight up. My eyes were blurry from dreaming, but I could make out a guy leaning over the table, his face inches from mine. I jerked back and narrowed my eyes.
     “You were starting to snore,” he said, fixing his glasses and sitting back down.
     Oh, great. I looked around, but no one else seemed to have noticed. “Thanks,” I mumbled.
     I turned my attention back to my laptop.
     I’d hardly gotten any sleep the night before. My shift at the diner ran really late, and I ended up having to cover someone because they didn’t show. Which explained the embarrassing snoring session in the library.
     But dreaming of Boone Cross was like an addictive toxin—so bad for you, but too irresistible to let go. That had been two years ago, but my brain didn’t seem to care; it reminded me of him at least three times a week. The bastard who left me with no explanation, just vanished, was the last thing I wanted to dream of. Why couldn’t I have a dream about Channing Tatum or Theo James? Why did it have to be the biggest, sexiest, redneck asshole I’d ever met?
     My eyes burned, but I opened my inbox and started going through my messages. I hadn’t taken a look in a few weeks because of work and studying for my anthropology test. I was lucky most of my professors weren’t into saving trees.
     The e-mail was buried beneath all my social media notifications and junk mail. I knew it was my mother not by the e-mail address, but because it had my whole name in the subject line. Josephine Renee Sawyer.
     The library was super quiet, but the e-mail set off an imaginary drumbeat in my ears. I couldn’t imagine why my mother would e-mail me considering I hadn’t talked to her since I left for college the year before. I’d never been close to my mother, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. She’d always been distant. So the no phone call, no e-mail thing didn’t surprise me.
     I’d left Arkansas in such a rush to get away from the drowning pain. There were too many memories there.
     Everyone around me seemed too clueless to the fact my anxiety was suffocating me, but for that I was grateful. News of someone breaking out into a wheezing fit in a library would spread like wildfire. No one wants to be the crazy girl.
     My mouse hovered over the e-mail for ten minutes before I gathered the guts to click.

Josephine,
Your father is in the hospital and he doesn’t have too much longer.
It would be wise to come see him while you can.
Wendy Sawyer

     A sob lodged itself in my throat and I couldn’t breathe. Daddy was in the hospital? How long had he been sick? What was wrong with him? God. I slid my palms against my face and inhaled deeply, trying not to lose it in the middle of the library, but the cry in my throat was overwhelming.
     I shut down my computer, grabbed my bag, and ran out of the building. It was May in California and the sun beamed down hotly on me as I dashed across the parking lot. My silver Honda shimmered in the sunlight and scorched my hand when I swung open the door and collapsed against the warm leather.
     The sob I’d been holding in broke from my lips and I covered my face. I shouldn’t have let the chance of seeing Boone keep me from going home. My dad was dying? How had this happened?
     With shaking fingers, I started my car and drove the short six-minute ride to my apartment. Samantha was at work; silence enveloped me when I walked through the door. The smell of burnt popcorn from the night before pushed everything that was already in position up my throat. Barely making it to the toilet, I threw myself over the rim and vomited.
     I stayed curled around the porcelain throne like a snake for almost an hour. It would have been longer, but a throbbing headache eventually forced me up. I got some medicine and made my way to my room.
     My phone sat like an elephant beside me on the bed while the TV cast a dim glow over my bedroom. There was no doubt that I needed to call my mother, but I didn’t want to. I’d ignored her for a year. I didn’t want to hear her ask me to come home. I was afraid of what I might find when I did.
     Sighing, I dialed her number before I lost the urge. She answered on the third ring.
     “Hello.”
     “Mom,” I said softly. I hated that my voice sounded so soft because she hated it. Speak louder, Josephine, she always said.
     But not this time. “Josephine. I’m glad you finally called. I e-mailed you two weeks ago,” she snapped. Her southern accent is deeper when she’s angry. Hell, I would know.
     I pulled at a piece of unruly blond hair and grimaced. And I thought things were starting off so well. She never ceased to prove me wrong. “I’ve been busy and it was buried in a ton of e-mails. If you would have called—”
     She snorted. “Like you would have answered.”
     Silence. We both knew I wouldn’t have. Hearing her voice tell me that dad was dying would have made it worse. She didn’t care that he was dying. She’d shown us that my senior year when she was caught underneath some guy. Loving Dad was a thing of the past for her. This was just something she had to do because no one else would.
     “What’s wrong with him?” I finally asked.
     Mom’s breath hitched and I swear I heard a sob, but she swallowed it back down. I must have misheard. “He has Ischemic Heart Disease. The doctor gave him a month and a half. But now it’s down to a month.”
     A month? The breath I was about to take lodged in my throat, sending me into a whirlwind of coughs. I had one month to make up for an entire year of silence. To make up for a lifetime we wouldn’t have together. A month to tell him how sorry I was for blaming everything that happened on anyone other than myself. I did this to me. I should never have trusted him.
     “Josephine,” Mom said. “You need to come home. I know you don’t want to, but—”
     “I’m coming home,” I sputtered out. “I’ll be on a flight tomorrow.”
     Mom hesitated like she wasn’t sure if I was serious. “Be safe,” she said before hanging up.
     My phone slipped from my fingers and landed softly beside me. More tears pulled at my eyes and I felt myself slip backward onto the bed as my body became numb.
     There was nothing left in me to break.

Author Bio:
My name is Alla Kar. I live in the deep south with my fiancรฉ and Chihuahua. I love to write about alpha males, southern gentlemen and swoon-worthy men! :)


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