90 FREE and 99¢ books including The Ghost of You and Me!

Hey guys! Hope you’re all having a wonderful summer. My kids have gone back to school and this is the first year that all four of my children are in school all day so I’m suddenly left with a lot of free time. I’m still struggling with my illness a little so I haven’t been writing but with all the quiet time, I’ve been starting to plot and come up with ideas. The brainstorming sessions have been good for me, and hopefully I’ll be able to get something going in the near future.

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In the mean time, while you all wait for me to write something new, I’ve joined a multi-author summer promo that features about 90 free and 99¢ books. I’ve priced my newest release The Ghost of You and Me in this promo for just 99¢. It’s normally $4.99, so this is a steal. If you haven’t read The Ghost of You and Meyet, now’s your chance. Ghost has a 5-STAR rating on Amazon so almost everyone who’s read it has loved it. I hope you’ll love it too.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE GHOST OF YOU AND ME FOR JUST 99¢!

 

 

While you’re grabbing The Ghost Of You and Me, there are also a ton of other books to choose from so head on over to the promo site and fill up your kindles with some Awesome August Reads!


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Click here to grab 91 #Free and 99c  #YA and #CleanRomance books!

99¢ sale and new Serial Hottie bonus pages!

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Happy July 4th!

And Happy Birthday Ellie!!

Let’s celebrate with a 99¢ sale and 40 pages of brand new bonus content!!!
For those of you who have read my book Serial Hottie, you may remember that today is the main character, Eleanor Westley’s birthday. And this year is special because not only is it Ellie’s birthday, but it’s the book’s 5th anniversary too. I thought we could celebrate with a sale and a bunch of bonus material. YAY!
Serial Hottie is an off-beat romantic comedy with a hint of suspense and mystery in it. If you haven’t read it yet, check out this short essay Ellie wrote about sharing a birthday with our lovely nation. It’ll give you just a taste of Ellie’s character, which is the book’s best feature if you ask me. Click here to read Ellie’s birthday essay. Or, you can check out her character profile.
If you’d like a taste of the slightly off-colored humor of the book, you can check out
I also have cast picks and a book playlist for those curious few of you who can’t get enough Seth and Ellie.

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Ellie’s Sweet 16 is a summer of firsts.
First car.
First kiss.
First boyfriend.
First serial-killing stalker…?
Okay, okay, I’ll stop trying to sell the book teasing you with bonus material I’ve posted before. For all my Serial Hottie fans out there, I have a bunch of new pages for you to read! As most of you know I’ve been very ill and not writing anything for the last six months. The following alternate POV was sort of my experiment to try and get back in the creative saddle. I still have a ways to go with my health, and I’m still on a writing break from any new projects. (Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted when I get something going again.) But for now, enjoy this re-visit to Serial Hottie and the extended glimpse into the complicated psyche of Seth Bishop.

*****SPOILER ALERT*****

The following bonus content is intended for those who have already read Serial Hottie. It is an alternate point of view told of material within the book and will spoil the whole thing if you read it before reading the book. Please, for my sanity if not your own, read the book first! (Good thing it’s only a dollar today, right?)

CLICK HERE for the Seth POV bonus pages!

Serial Girlfriend — Seth POV bonus pages from Serial Hottie

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For the 5th anniversary of Serial Hottie, I decided to write a portion of the book from Seth’s point of View. Enjoy!

 

 

 

*****SPOILER ALERT*****

The following bonus content is intended for those who have already read Serial Hottie. It is an alternate point of view told of material within the book and will spoil the whole thing if you read it before reading the book. Please, for my sanity if not your own, read the book first!

 

 

 

Chapter 1

The girl of my dreams hated me. Worse, she was scared of me. It was my own fault. I totally messed up. I lost my temper with her sister and ruined any chance I had.

I moved into the piece of junk house I live in now literally just because I saw Ellie Westley at the house across the street. From the first moment I saw her, I knew I needed her to be my girlfriend. I’ve spent weeks trying to get her to give me a chance. It hasn’t been easy.

I’m pretty sure I was Ellie’s first real crush, and her feelings for me terrified her. She’d never had a boyfriend before. She’d never even dated or been kissed. I’m the first guy who’d ever even seen her as a girl. She’s a total tomboy, but she’s a beautiful one, and deep down, she has a girly side, she just hides it really well. But I see it. I bring it out in her because I see it. That’s what scares her about me.

Things looked pretty good on her birthday. Her sister threw her a huge surprise party and despite the numerous guys there who wanted to talk to her, she spent quite a bit of time with me. We had a few moments that felt real. For once, she was really talking to me and she wasn’t trying to run away. She was enjoying herself—enjoying my company. We were making progress.

I almost kissed her that night. I should have just done it. I wanted to, but I knew Ellie was really nervous, and we were in public. It wasn’t the right time or place to give her her first kiss. I showed miraculous restraint for probably the first time in my life, and it turned around and bit me in the ass. Just minutes after I passed up my opportunity to give her the kiss I’ve been dreaming about, her older sister, Angela, messed everything up by bringing Dave Holcomb into the picture.

Angela is a hopeless matchmaker and the second she realized Ellie had an interest in boys, she’d been trying to hook her up. That had played in my favor until the night of Ellie’s birthday because until then I’d been the guy she’d wanted to set Ellie up with. But for some reason she’d moved on from me to Dave and she’d been pushing Dave on Ellie all night. The problem with that was that Dave is an idiot and would do basically whatever Angela Westley told him to. She said kiss my sister and so the tool did exactly that. He kissed Ellie out of nowhere, shocking her and stealing the moment that should have been not just mine, but hers too. She deserved so much better than that.

I saw the look on Ellie’s face after Dave kissed her. She was upset. She was hiding it to save her dignity, but I saw it. She didn’t like it, either. And neither did he. He wasn’t into Ellie that way—never had been—and kissing her didn’t change that. The jerk actually told her right to her face that he wasn’t feeling it after the deed was done. I wanted to punch him. No, I wanted to kill him. I would have beaten him into a bloody mess, but two things saved him that night. One, Ellie would have really been scared of me if I’d done it, and two, Ellie didn’t like him that way. He stole her first kiss, but his lack of interest didn’t break her heart. If he’d hurt her, nothing would have saved him from my wrath.

I was still livid, though, and I still lost my temper that night. I spared Dave, but I ended up going off on Angela instead. Since then, Angela had gone from not trying to hook me up with her sister anymore to full on keeping her away from me. She was poisoning Ellie against me.

Over the last week I’d hardly seen Ellie, even from a distance. Angela had commandeered all of her time and kept her away from me on purpose. I know she was doing it on purpose too because she gave me nasty looks every time she saw me, and when I finally came to apologize to her, she lied to me that Ellie and Dave hand hooked up and were now boyfriend and girlfriend.

I hadn’t believed the lie for a second, until I came home later that same day and found Ellie and Dave playing hockey alone together in the street out front of our houses. Ellie played hockey in the street all the time, but she’d never once played alone with Dave. Could they really be an item? They sure were laughing together and having a grand old time when I drove up.

My heart shattered. How could she do it? How was it even possible? Dave was all wrong for her. And that kiss of theirs was disastrous. I knew it was. So how did they end up boyfriend and girlfriend? How did that idiot steal my girl?

I was too upset to stop and talk so when I parked, I briefly met Ellie’s eyes and then quickly turned to go into my house. Would I spy on them out my bedroom window? Absolutely. But was I going to stand here and make nice with them when Ellie knew how much I wanted her? Hell no.

At least that had been my plan, but I stumbled to a stop when Ellie called out to me. “Hey, Seth!”

I whipped my head her direction so fast I almost tripped over my own feet. Ellie never got my attention on purpose. When I met her gaze she surprised me with a bright smile and a happy wave. I blinked, certain I was imagining things. Just what was going on? Ellie didn’t smile at me. She didn’t wave at me and she definitely didn’t go out of her way to talk to me. Which is why it made no sense that when I stopped, she skated over to me, dragging Dave with her.

“Hi!” she said again when I was too stunned to speak. Was she pulling an Angela move? Was she showing off her new boyfriend and rubbing the relationship in my face? I wouldn’t think she was the type of person to do that, but she had spent all week with Angela. Who knew what horrible habits she’d learned?

I could feel the bitter smirk on my face as I looked between her and Dave, but Ellie seemed determined to play nice. “I haven’t seen you all week,” she said.

I willed my face to stay neutral. She seemed like she didn’t even know it was Angela who’d kept us apart. Hopefully she didn’t. Hopefully she was just being her oblivious self and couldn’t escape her sister’s devious clutches. But then…what was she doing with Dave? “Yes. I noticed you’ve been very busy this week.” Busy turning into an Angela clone and dating Dave Holcomb.

Maybe she wasn’t as oblivious as I thought. She picked up on the tension and her smile became strained, but she still kept it plastered on her face. “I know you guys saw each other at the party Saturday,” she said, gesturing to Dave, “but I didn’t think you’d been technically introduced.”

When the douche bag held out his hand all friendly like, I had no choice but to take it and play along. I wasn’t going to be the sore loser. At least, not to their faces. I shook his hand and gave him my best Hollywood smile—so beautiful you can’t tell it’s fake.

Sure enough, Ellie made introductions like there was nothing at all wrong with this situation. “Dave, this is Seth. He just moved here from California. Seth, this is my friend, Dave.”

So much for keeping my composure. My eyebrows shot up at her emphasis on the word friend. Just what was she getting at? Was she saying they weren’t together? And why was she going out of her way to let me know that was the case? She’d never spared my feelings before.

Dave gave her a similar look of surprise, and when he smirked at her, she glared at him. “Well, somebody has to stop all those rumors you started last weekend!”

He started? Maybe I was still feeling a bit bitter because I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “From where I stood, it looked like you guys were starting that rumor together.”

Dave laughed, but my snarky comment pissed Ellie off enough that she decided to quit playing nice with me. I wanted to take it back but I didn’t know how. Surprisingly, Dave helped me out when he said, “Lighten up, Westley.”

Once he spoke, I gently snagged Ellie’s wrist to keep her from leaving. She stiffened at my touch, but stopped moving. She didn’t try to pull away from me either. What was up with that? Usually she flinched away from me like my touch burned her. “Whatever,” she said, blowing some of the loose strands of hair away from her face.

I think that was her attempt to play things cool. But why was she trying? She never played things cool with me. Was it something to do with Dave? Why hadn’t she pulled away from me? Why hadn’t she made me let go of her yet? Needing to tuck her hair back was the perfect excuse to do it. It took more effort to blow it out of her face and it didn’t even work. What was going on here?

“Did you still want to learn how to play hockey?” Ellie asked me suddenly. “Dave and I were just playing a little one-on-one. We can teach you if you want.”

I didn’t care about learning hockey. I just wanted some time with Ellie. But I didn’t need time with Ellie and Dave. Ugh. I was about to turn down the offer when Dave gave Ellie a sly smile and said, “Actually, I gotta get going.”

I couldn’t believe it, but Dave had picked up on my interest in Ellie and was totally doing me a solid by bowing out. Damn. I was going to have to stop thinking of him as a douche bag now. He was just going to have to be a regular idiot. He gave me a friendly smile, which I easily returned this time, and said, “You don’t need me to teach you, anyway. Ellie really is the best in the neighborhood. If you figure it out, come with her to the park in the morning. Game starts at 7:30.” He turned to Ellie and gave her a stern frown. “Don’t punk out this time.”

I smiled at that. So he was here because she’d stopped playing hockey in the park this week after their awkward kiss. He’d come to make amends and save her from her sister. It was sweet.

Whatever. He was still a tool.

Just as Dave was about to leave, finally giving me some much-needed alone time with Ellie, Angela wandered out of her house like she’d been spying on us out the window. I grit my teeth, sick of Ellie’s sister and her meddling, but I was encouraged and surprised by the sigh that escaped Ellie. Was she getting tired of Angela, too? Could she actually want to hang out with me as much as I wanted to spend time with her?

“Having a party out here and no one thought to invite me?” Angela asked in her fake sugary sweet voice. She wasn’t fooling Ellie or me, but Dave laughed. Definitely still a tool.

Ellie rolled her eyes at me and muttered, “Five bucks says Dave doesn’t have to get going anymore.”

I chuckled. That’s my girl. There was nothing I loved more about Ellie than her feisty, snarky personality. No one brought that out in her more than Angela. Well, her stupid hockey camp friends, the J’s, also did but I wasn’t willing to think about them yet. Until they got home, they weren’t an obstacle.

Enchanted by Ellie and willing to take a risk since she was being amiable, I slid my grip down from her wrist to her hand and laced our fingers together. It was a bold move that not even she could mistake. I was holding her hand. It was a romantic gesture.

Ellie sucked in a sharp breath, but like before, she didn’t pull away from me. I glanced at her with a question in my eyes, and her cheeks turned a pretty pink. This was new. And highly encouraging. She was nervous, but she was becoming more comfortable with me. Hopefully soon she’d let me do a lot more than hold her hand. Like take her on a date. “We could make it a party,” I said to the whole group. The last thing I wanted to do was spend more time with Dave or Angela, but Ellie was probably more likely to go out with me if we weren’t alone. “We could double tonight. Go to dinner. Maybe catch a movie or something after?”

Ellie seemed to stop breathing, so I squeezed her hand. She came back to life then and when she looked at me all wide-eyed and shocked, I gave her my best smile. “What do you say?” I asked.

She gulped and holy crap, she looked at my mouth. Girls only do that when they’re thinking about kissing you. Was Ellie really thinking about that right now? Was she ready for me to kiss her now that she’d gotten her first kiss out of the way?

“Um…what?” she asked, blinking back from her thoughts. She blushed again. Definitely thinking about kissing me.

“Sounds good to me,” Dave said with a hopeful glance at Angela. I almost snorted. The poor moron. He didn’t have a chance with Angela Westley.

I could see Angela scrambling for a way out of the date without hurting Dave’s feelings. I was waiting, amused, to see how this would play out when Ellie shrugged and said, “I’m down.”

I was sure I hadn’t heard her right because there’s no way she would just agree to a date with me. But she was holding my hand, and she had just looked at my mouth…

It was so on. I was taking her out and I was kissing her goodnight at the end of the date. And then there would be no more of her running away from me after this. After tonight, Ellie was finally going to be my girlfriend. She’d be mine and I’d be able to kiss her whenever I wanted. Okay, whenever she let me, which probably wouldn’t be whenever I wanted. But still, it would be more often than now—which was never.

Angela glared at Ellie, angry that she’d agreed to go out with me. Ellie tried to play it off like she’d had no other choice, but she totally wanted to go. My chest felt five million times lighter now than it had all week. Ellie liked me!

But stupid Angela had to go and ruin everything again. I didn’t know what her problem was. I totally apologized for losing my temper with her, and she’d said it was okay. But it obviously wasn’t because she flat-out lied straight to Dave’s and my faces not bothering to hide it, and dragging Ellie into the lie with her. “Oh, that sounds like a lot of fun.” She had the nerve to pull Ellie away from me. I didn’t want to let her go, but what could I do? Get into a tug-of-war with Angela over her? “But Ellie and I can’t go. We already have plans.”

Yeah, right.

At least Ellie wasn’t willing to go along with Angela’s scheme. “What are you talking about? I don’t have any plans.”

Angela’s glare at Ellie turned murderous. She was really unhappy that Ellie wasn’t playing her game. I almost laughed. Go Ellie!

“Don’t you remember, Ellie?” Angela said through gritted teeth. “The sleepover at Brooke’s house?”

Could she be more obvious? Dave frowned, disappointed at being so obviously blown off. I wasn’t disappointed. I was pissed. Ellie wanted to come and Angela, the controlling witch, wasn’t letting her.

“Ooooooooh,” Ellie said, rolling her eyes. “Right. The sleepover. How could I forget?” she deadpanned.

I’d feel better about her sarcasm if she wasn’t giving into her sister. Angela was going to get her way. I was about to give her a piece of my mind when the most awful pop song rang out and Angela freaked. “Is that my phone?”

Ellie laughed as she nodded. “The freaking thing has been ringing off the hook for a week.”

Angela looked aghast. “Well did you think to answer it?”

Ellie snorted. “Why would I? None of my friends have this number. I don’t even know this number.”

Angela looked like she was going to tackle Ellie to the ground if she didn’t answer the phone. Ellie must have picked up on this too because she shook her head and handed the phone over saying, “Knock yourself out.”

Angela snatched the phone with a squeal and dashed across the yard for some privacy. I was going to use the opportunity to talk Ellie into coming out with me tonight anyway, but Ellie spoke before I could. “I apologize for my sister. I’m pretty sure she was dropped on her head as an infant. A lot.”

Dave and I both laughed. I opened my mouth to ask her out again and again I was cut off. This time it was Angela. “Ellie!”

Ellie actually growled in annoyance. “What?”

Angela returned and handed her the phone. “It’s for you.”

Ellie looked at the phone like it was an alien from outer space. “It can’t be. I told you I don’t—”

“He’s asking for you.”

Uh-oh. “He?” I asked. Who the hell was trying to steal her from me this time?

Dave was thinking along the same lines as me. “How many boyfriends do you have, Westley?”

Ellie glared at Dave, but I smiled to myself. He was counting me as one of Ellie’s boyfriends. Soon—tonight if I could help it—I’d be her only boyfriend.

“Hello?” Ellie asked into the phone sounding as curious as I was. She waited a second, frowned, and then said, “Who is this?

No one could ever accuse her of being polite.

“Travis?”

I sucked in a breath. It was that jerk who crashed her birthday party? Why the hell was he calling her, and how did he get her number. No way Ellie gave it to him. As if we shared a brain, Ellie said, “I know who you are. How’d you get this number?” She shook her head. “No I didn’t.”

She huffed, completely annoyed with the jerk on the phone and said, “No can do, dude. Sorry. Can’t go out on Saturday nights right now. Serial killer on the loose and all.”

I was glad she was turning this loser down, and that she was being harsh about it, but my stomach churned at the reminder that tomorrow night was Saturday night. I wouldn’t be getting any sleep again. Every week it got worse for me. One of these weekends, Ellie was going to find me sleeping on her bedroom floor.

“Yeah.” Ellie snorted. “I’m sure. Sorry, I’m actually babysitting, so even if I wanted to, I can’t.”

Ugh, that guy just didn’t take a hint. If he was here, I’d punch him. I’d probably have to wait in line behind Ellie, though. She raised her eyes to the sky and groaned silently. “Uh, Travis?” she snarked. “Learn to take a hint. You’re a tool, and we’re not going out. Ever. Go drink a protein shake or something.”

Dave burst into laughter so hard he got tears in his eyes. I wanted to laugh too—it was moments like this that made me fall more and more in love with Ellie—but I couldn’t reach my humor. There was something off about this conversation.

“Go drink a protein shake?” Dave cried. “Dude that was harsh.”

Ellie shrugged, unrepentant. “I tried to let him down easy.”

She shouldn’t have had to let him down at all. “Did you really not give him your phone number?” I asked, finally figuring out what was bothering me most about the whole conversation.

She shook her head. “I told you. I don’t even know the number to this phone. He had to have asked around or something.”

Asked who? The guy didn’t live around here. He didn’t go to Ellie’s school. How in the world did he keep showing up at all these events anyway? “He wanted to take you out tomorrow night?”

Tomorrow night was Saturday night. That was the night the Slasher snatched up redheaded girls that looked a lot like Ellie. How could anyone what to take her out on Saturday nights? All I wanted to do was lock her up in her room each weekend and sit with her until morning. At least her father had some brains. Ellie really was not allowed to go out on Saturday nights right now. She mentioned babysitting though. I didn’t like that any more than I liked Travis’s interest in her.

“Yes to tomorrow,” Ellie said, wrinkling her nose, “but no to the going out. He wanted me to come over to his house because his parents weren’t going to be home.”

My hands clenched into fists. I was going to need a serious workout after this conversation. Thank heavens Ellie was a smart girl and saw right through that offer.

“Ew,” Angela said. “He actually said that? He could have at least pretended he wasn’t trying to get into your pants.”

“Agreed,” Dave added. “The guy’s a tool.”

Dave thought Travis was a tool? Hello pot meet kettle…

“Why do you hang out with him?” Dave asked Ellie.

See? Tool. Ellie didn’t hang out with him. She was being stalked.

Ellie huffed. “I don’t. I just met him for the first time at Rachel’s house. Now he won’t leave me alone.”

Yup. She was definitely being stalked. “I don’t like it,” I said. There was something seriously off about this guy and I was going to figure it out. Then I was going to make sure he left Ellie alone for good.

For some reason, Angela glared at me as if I’d said something horrible. “Well of course you don’t,” she snapped.

I almost went off on her again. Seriously, what was her problem? Did she honestly think I was jealous of Travis? Couldn’t she see he was bad news? Or did she just hate me that much that she was going to get mad at everything I said from now on?

UGH! I hated Angela so much. And I needed to get out of here before I said so to her face and ruined my progress with Ellie. I was so mad I couldn’t even say anything as I left. Nothing good would come out of my mouth. I stormed into my house, slamming the door behind me. I’d have to get Ellie alone another time. Sometime when I wouldn’t kill her sister.

 

Chapter 2

I didn’t go out with Ellie that night. Once again, Angela had a group of friends over and Ellie was sucked into hanging out with them. And, once again, I was not invited. Not that I cared about missing the chance to hang with Angela and her clique, but I knew I wasn’t invited because Angela didn’t want me around Ellie.

Ellie, for some reason, just went along with her sister’s plan and hung out all night with a bunch of kids she didn’t seem to know or like that well. I didn’t understand why she was doing that. She didn’t let anyone else push her around, and she didn’t used to let Angela influence her. Angela had to have been messing with her head somehow. After obsessing about it all day Saturday while Ellie was at her new job, I decided I was going to get some time alone with Ellie next week even if it killed me.

I couldn’t see her tonight because she was babysitting for the Hankins family. I’d just watched her walk the eight houses down the street. I felt uneasy knowing she wasn’t safe at home, and I was completely restless within twenty minutes. The fact that it was dark and storming like something out of a bad horror movie didn’t help any. Aunt Janice had been gone and brought home a late dinner from this amazing Thai place we’d found, but even as hungry as I was, I was too keyed up to eat.

“Seth, what is the matter with you?”

I stilled my bouncing leg and tried to focus on the food in front of me. “Nothing. Sorry.”

Aunt Janice abandoned her plate and stared at me from across the small dining table. “You want to try that again without lying to me?”

I sighed. “Sorry. It’s not nothing, it’s just stupid.”

“Nothing is stupid if it’s got you this upset. I’ve never seen you pick at Thai food before. Usually you wolf it down. What’s going on?”

I winced. She wasn’t going to let me get out of this, and I knew she was going to have a field day with the truth.

“Seth.”

“All right. It’s just…Saturday. I can’t help worrying about Ellie.”

Her face softened into her best concerned mom face. Well, her concerned aunt face. There is a difference. Aunt Janice has never replaced my mother. Not exactly. She’s not the most responsible parent and heaven help her if she ever had to deal with an infant or a toddler. But she’s always been my best friend. She’s always been there for me when I needed her, and she’s always loved me. I couldn’t ask for a better guardian. “Sweetheart, you know what Director Bowman said.”

My aunt and I were friends with the current head of the FBI, Director Gambini. We’d shadowed him on the job once as research for a book my aunt wrote. I took to the job so well that Director Gambini has been encouraging me to join the bureau after college ever since. He’s also asked me to come be his intern next summer after I graduate and turn eighteen.

When girls who look just like Ellie started dying in a regular pattern, I called him and asked him what he knew about the case. He’d only just learned of it and didn’t know much. I told him why I was interested and sent him a picture of Ellie. He understood my worry and actually hooked me up with the local bureau. I met with the director of the local office, Director Bowman, and not only did he try to ease my fear for Ellie, but Director Gambini had pulled some strings and had Bowman give me a copy of the case files to study on my own. I’d been going over them obsessively all week.

Director Bowman told me when he met with me that the chances of Ellie being targeted were slim to none no matter how much she fit the profile. See, all the victims were junkies or runaways. The Slasher has been pulling them off the streets or in clubs downtown for the most part. Ellie was not only not a runaway and didn’t do drugs, she didn’t leave her house on Saturday nights. Bowman promised me that the Slasher probably didn’t know Ellie existed and likely never would. It had gone a long way to ease my fears, but tonight was different.

“I know,” I said. “It’s just that she’s not going to be home tonight. She’s babysitting. She’s going to be alone all night, and she’s kind of being stalked by this creep. I don’t like it.”

“Stalked?” Aunt Janice flinched.

“Well not exactly, I guess. But there’s this guy who keeps pursuing her even though she keeps telling him no. He’s really persistent in a bad way. Like he got her number somehow without her giving it to him, and he crashed her birthday party without being invited. And he’s the kind of guy who might try to force himself on her, or get her really drunk and take advantage—a real jerk, you know?”

Aunt Janice blinked at me a couple of times and then pulled her brows low over her eyes. “Do you think we need to call the police?”

As much as I’d love to get Travis arrested, there wasn’t enough to go on. I shook my head. “No. The police wouldn’t take him in because he called her yesterday without her giving him permission.”

“True.”

“But I don’t like that she’s alone tonight. She even told Travis that she was babysitting. I don’t think he could possibly know where—I’m not even sure if he knows where Ellie lives—I just can’t help worrying about her. It’s bad enough there’s a serial killer out there who would go after her in a heartbeat if he knew she existed. I can’t handle all the danger.”

“Well maybe you should go babysit with her tonight,” Aunt Janice said.

“What?”

Aunt Janice picked up her fork again and started swirling noodles around it. She waved a hand toward the front door. “Ask her if you can sit with her tonight while she babysits. If you’re really worried about her safety, I’m sure the family she’s babysitting for won’t mind. I can even call and talk to them if you need me to.”

That was a brilliant idea. Not only would Ellie be safe with me there, but I’d finally get some time alone with her. “You’re a genius, Aunt Janice.”

She laughed. “So I’m often told. Now finish your dinner before you go over there.”

I started shoveling noodles in my mouth as quickly as I could. I already felt a million times better and I just wanted to get over there as soon as possible. My mind was already going over my argument for Ellie letting me stay with her, assuming I could get her to open the door at all. That might be a problem. Actually, it might be a big problem.

Face falling, I let my fork fall to my plate again. This time, when Aunt asked what was wrong there was more compassion in her voice. “Seth? What is it?”

I didn’t realize how crappy I felt about this until I was forced to meet her eyes. “Aunt Janice, do you think I’m a freak?”

She blinked. “Good heavens! What makes you ask that?”

Her surprise made me feel a little better. “It’s just Ellie.”

Aunt Janice dropped her fork with a thud and gaped at me. “Ellie called you a freak?”

I pushed my plate away, no longer hungry. “I’m not normal, Aunt Janice. I don’t act like the other kids my age, and I don’t get along with them. I’ve never gotten along with other kids. Ellie’s afraid of me.”

My aunt’s face softened. She rose from the table and took our plates to the sink. I closed up the takeout boxes. As I was putting the leftovers in the fridge, Aunt Janice wrapped her arms around me from behind and kissed the top of my head. She had to lift herself up on her tiptoes to reach. “You are a brilliant, talented, amazing young man,” she said. “You’ve had a unique life, and it’s made you special, not a freak. It may just take a special girl to appreciate you.”

I rolled my eyes even though my aunt couldn’t see it. Not that I didn’t appreciate her attempts to make me feel better, but she was my aunt and my guardian. Of course she was biased. She was being kind, but in reality, unique and special equated to freak.

I gently pushed her away and shut the fridge. “Ellie is special. I know she’d like me if she just gave me a chance. But I scare her. She says I’m too intense. She says I’m too forward and I don’t give people enough personal space. I am intense, though, and I don’t know how to lighten up. I don’t want to give her more personal space. I want her to be my girlfriend.” I buried my face in my hands and shook my head. “If I go over there tonight, I’ll just freak her out even more and she’ll never talk to me again.”

Aunt Janice peeled my hands away from my face and cupped my cheeks with her palms, forcing me to look her in the eyes. Guess I get my personal space issues from her. “Yes, you are intense, Seth.”

Gee, thanks. Great pep talk.

As if she’d plucked the sarcasm straight from my head, she frowned at me. “There’s nothing wrong with being intense. And from what I’ve seen of Eleanor Westley, she’s easily just as intense as you just in a slightly different way. Maybe that’s why you like her so much.”

I finally cracked a smile.

“Seth, honey, if that girl doesn’t like you, if she’s scared of you like you say, then it’s only because she doesn’t understand you. She doesn’t know why you act the way you do. She doesn’t know the kind of life you’ve had.”

My eyes widened and my mouth dropped open as I stood there in the kitchen gaping at my aunt. “Are you saying I should tell her about my parents?”

I’d never told anyone about my parents. Ever. Not since I moved in with Aunt Janice and started my life over. The kids in my school class when I was nine heard about my mom and me from the news and they treated me like I had the plague. I was the freak boy who got stabbed and watched him mom get murdered. I lost all my friends and everyone stared at me and talked behind my back.

Aunt Janice shrugged and started wiping off the table with a rag. “I know you don’t like to talk about it, but perhaps if Ellie knew, she’d cut you a little slack.”

“Or she’d really think I’m a freak and never talk to me again.”

I got Aunt Janice’s stern face for that comment. “She’s not ten years old, Seth. She won’t be like the kids in your old class. And if she can’t handle who you are, then she doesn’t deserve you. If you’re considering a real relationship with this girl, you can’t hide yourself from her forever.”

I scoffed as I plunked back down at the table.

“You are different from other kids,” Aunt Janice said, no more patronization in her tone. “If you want Ellie to not be afraid of you, she needs to understand you. She has a right to know why you can be so intense. And why you do things like that…”

She pointed to the knife in my hands that I hadn’t realized I’d pulled out of my pocket and was flipping in my fingers. Crap. I couldn’t even manage a conversation with my aunt. I’d never pull off normal with someone who makes me as nervous and as crazy as Ellie.

“Different isn’t bad, sweetheart,” Aunt Janice said, voice softer now. “It’s just different. You have plenty to offer any girl and if Ellie knew the real you, I’m sure she’d love the man you’re becoming just as much as I do.”

I couldn’t see any other solution than the one my aunt was presenting. Even though it was the last thing I wanted to do, I’d do it if it would really help me with Ellie. My stomach settled deep in my gut and my shoulders drooped. “So I should tell her.”

Aunt Janice gave me a small smile. “I think it’d be good for you both. And hey, if you do it tonight, that sister of hers you mentioned drives you crazy won’t be there. It’ll be just the two of you—the perfect time to talk.” Something in her gaze changed and she pointed a finger at me. “And I do mean just talking, young man. I’m sending you over there so you can keep an eye on her and work out your differences, not so you can spend the evening making out.”

“Ugh. Aunt Janice!”

“I’m dead serious. Keep your hands and lips to yourself.”

I threw my hands over my ears. Aunt Janice never hesitated to give a good birds and bees talk. “Gross. I’m not talking about that with you. I know, okay? I don’t need a lecture. I’ll behave. I promise.”

“You’d better.”

“I will. And even if I wanted to do that,”—which I totally did—“Ellie would never go for it.”

Aunt Janice smirked. “Good girl.”

I wanted to hold my frown, but I couldn’t with Aunt Janice teasing me like she was. I narrowed my eyes at her and put my hands on my hips when I stood up. “Whose side are you on, anyway?”

She only answered me with a grin and a wink. When I headed for the door she called out “Good luck!” behind me.

 

Chapter 3

I sprinted as fast as I could to the Haskins’s house and was still soaked when I reached their porch. This was crazy. It rained in California, but not like this—with the thunder and the lightning and the wind. I had to ring myself off before knocking on the door. At least, that’s what I told myself. I wasn’t stalling because I was afraid she wouldn’t let me in. Not at all…

I rang the doorbell, and was surprised at how quickly Ellie opened the door. I wanted to be excited, but at the same time I was annoyed that she wasn’t taking her safety seriously. “You shouldn’t be opening the door for strangers on Saturday night,” I blurted like a jerk instead of saying hello.

I couldn’t help it. She’d opened the door and now I was really nervous that I’d say something wrong and she’d slam it in my face. She usually clammed up the most when I tried to get romantic, so a lecture came out instead.

“I didn’t open it for a stranger,” she huffed. “I opened it for you.”

My stomach unclenched a little, but I couldn’t get my hopes up too much, she could have just said that because she was annoyed by my criticism. “You knew it was me and you still opened the door?”

“I was feeling generous.”

She did her thing where she got busted and tried to play it cool with a shrug. Too bad for her, her blushing cheeks always gave her away. That was enough for me to gain a little confidence. Could it be that she was still feeling brave or curious or whatever it had been that made her not run from me yesterday? Could it be possible that a night with Angela hadn’t turned her against me again? I pressed my luck and tried to go for charming when I said, “Do I dare press my luck and ask if I can come in? I promise I’ll behave,” I added when she hesitated.

Those must have been the magic words, because she pushed the door all the way open and stepped out of the way so I could come inside. I closed and locked the door behind me even though I was sure no serial killer would be showing up here. Locking doors is a habit I have. It comes from getting car jacked. The day my mom and I were attacked, we’d been pulling out of a parking lot. The guy pretended like he was just crossing the street in front of us but at the last minute turned and came at the car. He pulled my mom’s door open and stabbed her before we even realized what was happening. If she’d kept the door locked she could have stepped on the gas and driven us to safety. My motto ever since is that you just never know, so better safe than sorry. Cliché, but effective.

“So, what are you doing here?” Ellie asked.

Her voice shook and she was entirely too tense as she led me to the back of the house where the family room was so I tried to lighten the mood with a joke. “I hear stalking redheads is the thing to do on Saturday night.”

That was the absolute wrong thing to say. I guess she was more worried about the Slasher than I realized. First strike of the night for me. Ellie whirled on me, so startled that I had to back away from her and throw my hands up in a gesture of surrender. “I’m sorry! You’re right. Not funny. I’m sorry.”

She still hadn’t relaxed by the time we reached the family room because when I moved to sit beside her on the couch, she jumped up and sat in Mr. Haskins’s armchair where I couldn’t get close to her. So much for all that progress I thought I’d made with her yesterday. She looked at me as if expecting a real explanation. I didn’t want to tell her I was worried about her being alone—she’d probably get mad at me for being overprotective or something—so I settled into the couch and shrugged. “I just wanted to see you without Angela around. She’s really starting to get on my nerves.”

I figured Ellie would take my side since she was always annoyed with her sister, but I was wrong again. She jumped to Angela’s defense, and she jumped to it quick. “What did you expect Seth? You scared the freaking crap out of her last week. She thinks you’re some crazy freak who’s obsessed with her baby sister.”

I was so sick of being called a freak. I glared at Ellie before I could stop myself then sighed when I realized I was losing my temper again. “Is that what you think?” I asked, needing to know the truth. Did Ellie hate me as much as Angela? Had she only let me in because she was too nice to leave me standing in the rain?

“Honestly?” Ellie asked.

Yes, I wanted an honest answer. I met her eyes and braced myself for the truth.

“I don’t have any idea what to think about you,” she said. “You can be very sweet. You are incredibly sweet.”

What? I couldn’t hide my shock. That was the last thing I ever expected her to say. It was…nice.

“But…” she continued, “most of the time you’re also…”

Her voice trailed off. She didn’t want to say what she was thinking. I knew it couldn’t be as simple as she thought I was sweet, so I urged her to finish. “I’m what?”

She hesitated still.

“Just tell me.”

She gave me a flat look that screamed, You asked for it. “Well you’re creepy,” she said. I thought that was it but she didn’t stop there. Oh, no, not Ellie. “In a likes-to-drown-kittens-for-fun kind of way.”

Holy crap! Was she serious? That’s what she thought of me?

“I don’t think you mean to be, but I don’t think you realize it, either.”

I didn’t even know what to say to that. Of course I didn’t realize I came across as a raging psychotic. If I knew that, I’d do something to change it.

She thought I’d like to drown kittens? That’s not just creepy, that’s deranged. Did she really think I was so messed up? I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t be normal, and Ellie would never give a guy like me a real chance no matter what my sob story was.

I must not have been able to hide how upset I was because Ellie apologized. And she look like she felt really bad. “I’m sorry. I was too harsh.”

She was pretty harsh. But I’d asked for honesty and I can’t deny she she’s been real. Brutally so, but she’d been straight up with me. “S’okay,” I lied. “I’d rather know how you feel even if it sucks. At least then I understand.” That she thinks I’m completely psycho.

I was still sulking when Ellie suddenly got up and held out a hand to me. “Come on.” I had no idea what she was up to and the offered help up somehow felt like a trap, but I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to hold her hand.

She dragged me to the kitchen counter and pointed at a row of barstools. “Sit,” she ordered.

I sat. I was licking my wounded pride, but I was intrigued. She said I was creepy, but she’d also called me sweet and was being nice to me. I swear the girl was bi-polar with her feelings for me.

She was also apparently hungry because she pulled a pint of ice cream from the freezer. But then she grabbed two spoons from a drawer and sat down next to me. I was so confused. Ellie wasn’t the type of girl to share her ice cream with people—especially not in such a romantic way as eating it straight from the carton together. This felt like such a momentous occasion. What in the world was she getting at?

“You’ll feel better, I promise,” she said, handing me a spoon.

So it was guilt ice cream. She felt bad for hurting my feelings. I supposed that was better than not feeling bad.

She didn’t wait for me before she started digging into the pint. I hesitated, but then decided to enjoy the moment she was allowing me. Who knew how long it would last or when the next time she’d let me get close to her again?

The atmosphere as we ate ice cream together was more comfortable than anything we’d had since I showed up, but it was nothing like the easy conversation we’d had at her birthday party. It was always two steps forward ten steps back with her. I wanted to talk to her, strike up a conversation that would make her relax, but I had no idea what to say.

Ellie suddenly startled me with a high-pitched scream. I followed her horrified gaze to the knife in my hand and cursed internally as I dropped it. “What the freak, Seth?”

She scrambled from her chair and ran into the kitchen where she put the counter between us as a safety barrier. “Ellie, wait! It’s not what you think. I’m sorry!”

“So am I!” she hollered. “Sorry I let you in the door!”

Great. Ten steps back again. How could I be so stupid as to pull out my knife when she’d just told me how creepy she thought I was? I was such an idiot. But I could make this better. I could. Aunt Janice seemed to think I just needed to explain. I didn’t know if I was ready to talk everything about my parents, but I could explain a little about the knife habit.

I tried to follow her into the kitchen but she screamed again and yelled, “Stay back!”

“Ellie—”

“I mean it, Seth, stay back!”

I backed up to give her some space, but I refused to retreat all the way. We’d been making progress and I wasn’t going to let such a pointless, stupid, unconscious habit scare her away from me. “Ellie, please. Just give me the change to explain.”

“I’m calling the police if you’re not out of here in five seconds.”

She was too worked up to think clearly. I needed to get her to at least not feel threatened. “Look, I’m putting it down,” I said softly as I closed my knife and slid it out of arms reach onto the counter. I thought putting it closer to her and further from me would work as a gesture of good faith.

Her eyes followed the knife like she wanted to snatch it up and fend me off with it. I wouldn’t put it past her to try. “I can explain,” I said again. “If you’ll let me.”

I stepped closer to her. Now I could reach out to her if I wanted. And I wanted to. I wanted nothing more than to pull her into my arms and hold her until she trusted me. But she looked like a cornered deer about to bolt. Touching her wasn’t an option just yet.

She waited, so I spoke again. “I don’t want to hurt you. The thing with the knife—it’s a nervous habit. That’s it. I didn’t mean to scare you. I would never hurt you.”

My words were drowned out by a crack of thunder that rattled the house. THe lightning that struck with it was so close it knocked the power out and we were plunged into darkness. I knew the loss of light would be too much for Ellie right now—she was still too afraid of me. She would really freak out now that she couldn’t see me, so I gave up my personal space arguments and opted for holding her until she calmed down.

I moved quickly, before she had time to run, or perhaps go for my knife and accidentally stab one of us. I grabbed her and gently, but firmly pulled her to my chest, locking her in my arms. My whole body melted the second she was there. All of my anxiety just disappeared as if Ellie was a magical cure for everything that was ever wrong with me.

“Seth,” she warned. “Let me go.”

I couldn’t do as she asked. I needed her. I needed what she did to me, how she made me feel. I needed this. With her. Always. I didn’t want to tell her about my parents, but if the only way to keep her was to explain, then I had no choice. Ellie needed to understand me, and then she needed to become mine. “I watched my mother get stabbed to death when I was nine years old.”

I kicked myself internally. I hadn’t meant to just blurt it out like that. But then Ellie did the oddest thing. Where most girls would have freaked out and gone all weird, Ellie relaxed in my arms. She forgot she was afraid and that morbid curiosity of hers took over. “What?”

I wanted to appreciate the difference between her and other girls, but I’d just brought up one of my most painful memories and now it was all I could think about. I didn’t like talking about it because when I did, it brought back the memories and I could see them play out in my mind. I couldn’t stop here though. I had to get this story out. Aunt Janice was right, I needed to share this with Ellie. I needed to tell her for me. I was tired of trying to be normal when I wasn’t. I just wanted to be myself with her, even if that was a little screwed up.

I let her go and slunk to the floor, leaning my back against the kitchen cabinets. She could have run from me but I didn’t have the energy to worry about her and tell this story, so I prayed her curiosity held out. “It was a carjacking in San Diego,” I explained. “The guy stabbed me, too, he just accidentally missed my heart. They found our car in Riverside, but they never found the guy who took it. That Christmas, Dad took his own life and I was sent to live with Aunt Janice.”

Ellie’s soft gasp of my name brought me out of my nightmare. I shook off the chills and told a tiny white lie. “It was a long time ago.”

I was still trying to pull myself together when Ellie, instead of running from me, chose to sit down beside me. I froze when she took my hand. Ellie had never initiated physical contact with me before. She couldn’t know how much that meant to me. Sharing my past wasn’t easy and she was the first person I’d ever told. To have her show me that she understood how big a deal this was by going out of her comfort zone to lend me a little support was enough to send my heart into overdrive.

I’d wanted Ellie so badly since the first second I saw her and there’d been so many times I thought I’d never ever have her. But here she was holding my hand when I needed to not be alone. I waited for her to take her hand back after she’d squeezed mine, but she left it there. When she went as far as to lace our fingers together, as if to reassure me that she wasn’t going to go anywhere, all of the air left my lungs. I’d waited so long for this, to know what it was like to really be Ellie’s friend. It was amazing, but I wanted more. Needed more.

I pulled her hand to my face, pressing it against my cheek, and greedily soaked up her affection. I didn’t have many people in my life that I truly cared about. I’d dated plenty of girls, but every relationship I’d ever had was just superficial. I dated girls because they were hot and it was nice to not be alone, but I’d never liked a girl as much as I liked Ellie. I’d never cared if a girl liked me back or was just using me the way I was using her. Sharing this moment with Ellie, letting her in and showing her a secret side of me was so different than anything I’d ever experienced before. It was intense.

“So, um…” Ellie’s voice was a little shaky. I couldn’t tell if she was nervous or just feeling the weight of the moment like I was. “How come the obsession with knives? You’d think after something like that you’d be scared of them now.”

I brought our hands back to my lap and held tight as I warred with myself to answer her question. I hated admitting weakness. Hated it. And I wasn’t completely convinced Ellie wouldn’t use my weaknesses against me sometime. But Aunt Janice said I needed to explain myself to Ellie. So far that plan was working. Ellie was sitting here in the dark with me, holding my hand, and she’d been the one to reach for me.

“When I came to Beverly Hills,” I said, “child services recommended counseling, but my Aunt Janice has never done things the conventional way. She said it was better for me to face my fears in the literal sense and gave me my first knife.”

“That one?” Ellie asked. She had to mean the one I’d left on the counter.

“Yeah. Aunt Janice found someone to teach me how to use it and then enrolled me in self-defense classes.”

“Did it help?”

I sighed. Yeah, it helped, but it began the oddities of my life that have made me so different from everyone else. I shouldn’t complain. I’ve always loved my life with Aunt Janice. It’s been an adventure. It’s just made it hard for me to relate with other kids my age. “The nightmares stopped,” I admitted. “I wasn’t afraid to leave the house anymore. Obviously it didn’t work entirely though, since I grew up to be so intense.” I let go of Ellie’s hand as I thought of all the names she’s called me in the past weeks that I’ve lived by her. “Or crazy. Or psycho. Or everything else you’ve called me in the last month.” Tonight’s gem being the worst. “Creepy in a likes-to-drown-kittens-for-fun kind of way?”

I cringed at the bitterness in my voice. It wouldn’t be there if it weren’t Ellie that had said that. She’s honestly meant it and I hated that she felt that way about me. She pulled me out of my pout, though, when she said, “You forgot pretty enough to be gay.”

I cracked a smile. Ellie might have been nervous around me or scared or even creeped out a little, but she was still attracted to me. At least I had that much going for me.

We fell into another silence, which Ellie broke with a soft, “I’m sorry.”

“No,” I said, sharper than I meant to. It’s just that I never wanted her to say those words to me. “Don’t be sorry. You’re the first person I’ve ever told this to, and I didn’t do it so that you would feel sorry. I just want you to understand. I don’t’ want you to be afraid of me.

“Okay.”

The answer was simple and sincere. I asked her not to feel sorry for me so she wouldn’t. No drama. That was one of the greatest things about Ellie.

Things still felt tense as we sat there and when the power came back on, Ellie gave me an awkward smile and then got up. I had to hold back a sigh. Our moment was over and reality was back. Ellie wiped down the counter where the ice cream we’d abandoned had melted all over the place, and threw away the carton. She reached for my knife next and stiffly handed it back to me. I guess it was a good thing she was comfortable enough to give it back to me, but she looked like she wanted to crawl out of her skin from awkwardness. It was hard not to be disappointed. We’d just had this huge moment and a single flicker of the lights ruined the comfort we’d built between us. What could I possibly do to get her to relax?

“I don’t want you to be scared of me. You have no idea how sorry I am,” I said as she handed me the knife. I grabbed her hand before she could pull away and threw all the sincerity I had in me into my next words. “Ellie, I would never hurt you.” I needed her to believe that.

I waited for her to say something but had to settle for just a nod that didn’t look like she was fully convinced. It hurt when she pulled away from me, but I buried the pain and tried to act normal by going to sit on a bar stool again. Maybe if I gave her a little space she’d feel more comfortable.

The silence was unbearable, and telling her about my past seemed to help when the lights were out, so I continued my story without her having to ask. “After my parents died, I started having some trouble with the kids at school. My psychologist said that I’d developed a personality disorder. Aunt Janice thought that was ridiculous and pulled me out of school.” I cringed. “And therapy. I’ve had nothing but private tutors ever since.”

I love my aunt but I probably should have been kept in both school and therapy. Maybe I’d have turned out a little more normal that way. It couldn’t have been healthy to be raised alone and at the whims of my eccentric aunt. “I was reading about personality disorders not that long ago,” I admitted. “After you said I wasn’t normal.”

Obviously I have something wrong with me. You don’t’ just get called creepy in a likes-to-drown-kittens-for-fun kind of way if you didn’t do something to deserve it. And the worst part is that Ellie was right. I had no idea what I was doing to make people feel that way about me. I was completely unaware. “Maybe that guy was right.”

“I don’t know about that,” Ellie said, snapping me from my thoughts.

“It would explain the way you feel about me. And how I never get things right with you.” I hadn’t realized I was playing with my knife again. I closed it before meeting Ellie’s gaze. As she came out of the kitchen I said, “I’m trying, Ellie. I’m trying really hard. But it’s difficult, because all the intense feelings I have for you drive me crazy.”

My confession stopped Ellie in her tracks and made her move back to the safety of the kitchen. I couldn’t hold back my grimace. I wanted to jump up and shout See? I never get things right! What had I even said this time that was so horrible? Was it so wrong that I liked her?

“All I want is for you to like me.” I could have kicked myself for the desperation in that statement. “But every time I begin to get anywhere with you I screw up so bad, I lose more ground than I had to start with.”

This whole situation sucked. What else could I say aside from literally begging her to give me a chance?

While I sat there flipping my knife again and, admittedly, feeling sorry for myself, Ellie slowly came out of the kitchen. “You haven’t lost all your footing,” Ellie said, settling onto the stool next to mine. “I really don’t hate you, you know. I wouldn’t even say I don’t like you anymore. You just take some getting used to.”

I kept my eyes on the knife in my hands. I closed it, refusing to get my hopes up about that. She was just being nice to me again. She was like that, but it didn’t mean anything. “Saying you don’t dislike me anymore isn’t the same thing as actually liking me.”

Yes, I was pouting. Sue me.

“No,” she agreed. “You’re right. It isn’t.”

Geez. Harsh.

She smiled then in a way she’d never smiled at me before. It was a small smile, but it was playful. It was the smirk she gave all her friends all the time when she was about to say something witty. I loved that smile. What in the world was she giving me that smile for?

I waited, unable to even breathe, for what she was about to say to me. Then I nearly fell off my stool when she nudged me in the side and said, “But I don’t share my ice cream with just anyone.”

She was teasing me! I couldn’t believe it. Ellie didn’t tease me; she ran from me. She only teased her friends. Did that mean she considered me a friend? I was frozen in shock and so confused my head hurt, but I wasn’t going to look the gift horse in the mouth. If Ellie wanted to smile at me and tease me, I’d take it. I mean, she’d basically just admitted that she liked me. Obviously she didn’t mean she liked me the same way that I meant it when I said I liked her, but that she liked me at all felt like a miracle.

She looked away from me, blushing, and said, “I’m sorry, by the way.”

I shook my head quickly. “I told you, don’t feel—”

“Not about that—about last week,” she said. “That whole thing with Dave at my birthday party.” She ducked her face, trying to hide her red cheeks. “Angela said you were upset.”

Understatement of the century. I wanted to roll my eyes. “Angela also said that you and Dave spent the last week in Happy Couple Land.”

Ellie glanced up startled. “S-so you weren’t upset about Dave kissing me?”

I had to work hard to keep a poker face. I dare say Ellie seemed disappointed. What, exactly, did that mean? Did she want me to be disappointed that she was kissing other guys? From the look on her face right now I could almost believe it. And last week, at her birthday party when I’d almost kissed her, she’d been scared and not quite ready, but she hadn’t tried to stop me, either.

Did her disappointment mean she was sad I hadn’t kissed her? And did it mean she wanted me to finish what we’d started last week? Because I could definitely do that. If she really wanted me to, there’d be no stopping me. “Upset, “I said, gaining some of my confidence back, “is not nearly a strong enough word for what I felt watching Dave steal that kiss from you. If you hadn’t started kissing him back when you did, it wouldn’t have been the wall I pounded my fist into.”

Even thinking about it now was enough to make me want to hunt the tool down and knock some sense into him. The idiot probably had no idea what he’d done. “He doesn’t even know, does he?” I asked. Ellie gave me a blank look—as oblivious as that tool friend of hers. “He doesn’t have any clue that that was your first kiss.”

Ellie said nothing.

My anger vanished. I couldn’t stay mad when she looked so helpless and naïve. I decided to forget about Dave and focus on the person who really mattered—Ellie. “It shouldn’t have been like that.” Her eyes widened at the way my voice softened. That was highly encouraging. She once told me that she thought my voice was sexy. That was probably the wrong thing to say to me if she didn’t want me using it on her. “If front of all those people,” continued. “And with someone you didn’t even want to kiss.”

“If I remember correctly, you thought I wanted to kiss him,” she said.

“But you didn’t, did you?”

She’d taken on that cornered deer look again. Was it wrong that I loved that look about her? She could run if she wanted to. She could fight me off if she felt the need. But she never did. I think she liked the way I made her feel, even if it scared her.

“I saw the look on your face afterwards, Ellie. Why do you think I was so mad at Angela?”

Ellie broke the tension with a frown. “If you knew that kiss didn’t seal the deal with Dave and me, how come you left?”

Was she kidding? “I didn’t think killing one of your friends would help me win you over. I wanted to kill him, Ellie. I came close.” Or at least, I came close to beating him unconscious. “Too close. So I left before something bad happened.”

Apparently saying I wanted to kill him was wrong, or Ellie took me literally and Ellie was now imagining me stabbing the guy to death, because she was backing away from me with a horrified expression on her face. Didn’t she know wanting to kill someone was just as expression? Sighing internally, I grimaced and asked, “Creepy?”

She held up her finger and her thumb with a tiny amount of space between them and nodded. “Little bit.”

Great. Even just talking normally and I creeped her out. I was doomed. “I don’t know how to fix it,” I grumbled, my frustration seeping into every word. “I hate seeing you with other people. Whether it’s talking on the phone with your best friends, or playing hockey at the park, or even just bickering with your sister. You’re so natural with everyone—so relaxed. You’ve never been that way with me. Not once.”

Ugh. I sounded desperate. I was desperate. I hated that. I’d never had to chase a girl before. I loved and hated that I had to chase Ellie, but I was tired of it. I wanted to catch her. I just wasn’t sure anymore if that was possible. “If I knew how to be normal for you, Ellie, I wouldn’t. Even if it meant being more like that idiot, Dave Holcomb.”

Ellie laughed. “Seth, if you were normal, you would have moved in and immediately fallen in love with Angela like everyone else.”

I shuddered at the thought.

“If you were normal, I would treat you the exact same way I treat every other guy I know.”

Exactly. Why couldn’t she do that?

As if reading my thoughts, she smirked again and said, “Think about that. You do not want that.”

Yes, I did.

She shook her head. “Trust me, if you’re looking for anything other than friendship from me, being more like Dave would not be the best idea.”

Okay, maybe she had a point there. I’d hat to kiss her and get the look from her that Dave got when he did it.

“He’s not an idiot, though,” she added.

I rolled my eyes. “Is too.”

She rolled hers back. “Whatever. My point is, don’t worry so much about being normal.”

All thought in my brain crashed to a halt as I looked at Ellie. Just what exactly was she saying? She couldn’t mean what it sounded like she meant. I wanted to ask if she was really saying what I thought she was but I knew if I did, she’d never admit to it.

There was definitely something on her mind, though. I could see it in her eyes. I kept my mouth shut and my eyes locked on hers, waiting for her to say something. It took her a million years to spit out what she was thinking. As I waited, her cheeks turned a pretty pink. “So long as you’re not scaring me senseless…” she said, turning her face away from me. She shrugged her shoulders. “I kind of like that you’re different.”

It was what I hadn’t let myself dare hope all night. And she’d admitted it out loud. It was also the nicest thing anyone had ever said to me. Ellie was amazing. She saw my differences—my flaws—and she was not just willing to overlook them, she liked that I wasn’t like every other guy in the world.

I slipped off my stool and stood over her. Her eyes widened when I moved into her personal space, and I knew she was scared, but I couldn’t help myself. I needed to kiss her now. I needed this beautiful and different girl who liked me even though I wasn’t normal to let me claim her. “Ellie…” My mouth was dry at the thought of finally, finally making the physical connection I’d been craving. “I’m going to kiss you now. You may not like it, but I’m afraid it has to be done.”

I leaned in until our bodies were nearly flush together and Ellie’s gaze fell to my mouth. “Uh, pretty sure I’m going to like it,” she muttered.

I grinned. There was no way she meant to say that to me. “You’re thinking out loud again,” I told her.

She gasped, horrified, and I took advantage of her parted lips. I crushed my mouth to hers with so much passion that she gasped a second time. She was stiff at first, but as her shock wore off, she melted against me, relaxing into the kiss and allowing me to explore her mouth as much as I wanted.

A thrill went through me when she started to kiss me back. The pressure of her lips pushing back against mine, and her tongue shyly darting out to sneak small tastes sent my restraint over the edge. I pulled her tightly against me, dug my fingers in her long silky hair and deepened the kiss to one she’d never forget for the rest of her life.

Her knees began to shake, so I wrapped her in my arms, holding her body to mine. She was soft and hard all at the same time and everything I’d dreamed she’d be. I could stay here like this kissing her forever but I’d made a promise to my aunt to behave myself and I knew Ellie wasn’t ready for anything more than a kiss. This may not have been her first one, but it was her first real one. She’d need time to process it so I found the strength to pull away. I leaned my forehead against hers and smiled into her eyes as we caught our breath. “That should have been your first kiss,” I told her.

She blinked back at me in a daze. “Wasn’t it?”

I laughed. The stars in her eyes told me that everything would be all right. She’d kissed me like she really meant it, and it was clear she enjoyed it. It was only a matter of time before she was my girlfriend. If I was lucky, I might even be able to convince her tonight.

 

 

 

Happy Book Birthday The Ghost of You and Me!

Title: The Ghost of You and Me
Series: Stand alone
Author: Kelly Oram
Publisher: Bluefields Publishing
Buy Link: Amazon & Kindle Unlimited

GHOST_cover_smallSummary:
How do you tell someone who hates you and blames you for the death of his best friend that you miss him?

From the bestselling teen and young adult author of Cinder & Ella comes a new heart-wrenching romance sure to bring all the feels.

The tragic death of Spencer Schott unravels the lives of the two people he loved most—his girlfriend, Bailey, and his best friend, Wes. Secrets and guilt from that fateful night keep both Bailey and Wes from overcoming Spencer’s loss and moving on with their lives.

Now, nearly a year later, both Bailey and Wes are still so broken over what happened that Spencer can’t find peace in the afterlife. In order to put his soul to rest, he’s given one chance to come back and set things right…even if that means setting up his girlfriend with his best friend.

With the emotional resonance of Jellicoe Road and the magical realism of The Lovely Bones, The Ghost of You and Me is a story about overcoming grief, finding redemption for past mistakes, and the healing power of friendship and love. Fans of John Green, Sarah Dessen, and Nicholas Sparks are sure to love this haunting new tale from Kelly Oram.

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EXCERPT 

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“What is he doing here?” Liz whispers from somewhere behind me. The sound is distant, barely registering in my mind.

“What do you mean? Who is he?” Charlotte asks again.

Wes Delaney is here. I can’t believe what I’m seeing. It’s been almost a year. He dropped out of school a couple of weeks after Spencer’s accident and disappeared from Columbia High’s social radar. My heart pounds at the sight of him.

Wes pays the lunch lady for his food, and when he turns around, his eyes immediately land on me as if he already knew which direction to look. My mouth goes dry when our eyes meet. I didn’t know how much I’ve missed him until this exact moment. My entire body yearns to reconnect with him. And yet…I have no business feeling that way. I squash those feelings and let my old friend, guilt, swamp me. Guilt is all I deserve where Wes is concerned. Still, I can’t look away from him.

He seems different—older and hardened. His head is shaved nearly bald. Only a dark layer of fuzz remains that is no longer than the five o’clock shadow ghosting his face. It’s a surprisingly good look for him. While Spencer eventually outgrew his awkward tween stage (mostly), Wes never experienced one. He was always hot. Now, he’s just plain sexy.

With his hair so short, his dark eyes and long lashes stand out more than normal. And he’s so built that even from my seat across the cafeteria I can tell his body is rock hard beneath his tight plain white T-shirt and low-hung jeans. He looks tough. Jaded.

“What’s he doing here, Bailey?”

I ignore Trisha’s question. I couldn’t speak right now, even if I knew the answer—which I most definitely do not. I can’t breathe. Can’t think. I’m locked in his stare, and I can’t decipher the look on his face.

Where has he been for the last year? What is he doing here now? What is he thinking? Why can’t he take his eyes off me? Is he going to tell everyone what really happened that night?

Feeling sick, I jump up from my seat and run from the cafeteria as if my life depends on it. Right now, it feels like it does.

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PLAYLIST

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I have a playlist for almost every book I write. I need quiet when I’m doing the actual writing part, but I still wear my playlists out all other hours of the day.

It’s usually a combination of things that will draw a certain song to a book playlist–a sound, or a line of lyrics, or it reminds me of a certain scene or character.

The Ghost of You and Me playlist is my most melancholy soundtrack yet, but the book is also my most dramatic to date. It’s also totally going to date me. (I’m getting old.) Yay for 90’s alternative rock! lol

Anyway, here’s what The Ghost of You and Me sounds like to me. Enjoy! And if you’d like to listen along, I made a playlist on my YouTube channel.

The Ghost Of You and Me Playlist

Hoobastank — The Reason
Jimmy Eat World — Hear You Me
Colbie Caillat — I Never Told You
Lifehouse — You and Me
Daughtry — Waiting For Superman
Sarah McLachlan — In the Arms of the Angel
Keane — Somewhere Only We Know
Kelly Clarkson — Because of You
Rascal Flatts — What Hurts The Most
Secondhand Serenade — Your Call
Howie Day — Collide
He is We (feat. Owl City) — All About Us
Ed Sheeran — Photograph
Five For Fighting — Superman

 

Enjoy live author readings?

I’ll be on Facebook today reading the book via Facebook Live. (Warning: I’m no professional narrator!) 😛 But it should be fun, or at least mildly entertaining. Join me at 11am Pacific Time on my Facebook author page!

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GIVEAWAYS

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I’ve joined 2 different giveaways at the moment where you have the chance to win signed copies of Cinder & Ella (among other awesome prize packages.)

1. First, Young Adult Book Central (YABC) is doing a summer scavenger hunt and I am one of the participating authors. As part of my scavenger hunt post, I’m giving away a signed copy of Cinder & Ella via a rafflecopter giveaway. You can enter that giveaway HERE. Or Join in on the whole scavenger hunt for lots of other giveaways, including a mystery box of books HERE.

2. Second, in celebration of Jordan Ford’s new release of Paper Cranes, Jordan is doing four different giveaways: a subscription to Kindle Unlimited, an ebook bundle, a signed paperback bundle, and a kindle fire. Cinder & Ella is in both the ebook bundle and the paperback bundle. You can join this giveaway on her FB bags HERE. (And don’t forget to check out her new release, Paper Cranes. (After you read The Ghost of You and Me, of course!) 😉

The Ghost of You and Me First 2 Chapters Preview!

Hey everyone! I’m so excited for my new book to come out tomorrow!! I really think you guys are going to love this one and since I’m literally bouncing around with anticipation in my desk chair right now, I’ve decided to post the beginning of the book for you. Happy reading!

 

Prologue:

Trisha reaches over Chase Lansing and punches my arm because I’m frozen, still as an ice sculpture. It’s my turn. I want to bail. I want to run away screaming like the scared little girl that I am, but I can’t back out. Eighth graders are brutal. If they figure out how afraid I am or that I’ve never been kissed before, they’ll make this moment so much worse than it already is.

Before I reach for the bottle, I try to wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans without anyone noticing, and I glance at all my possibilities. Eight boys sit crisscross applesauce around the tight circle, smirking, winking, or nervously wetting their lips in anticipation. Six of those boys I’d rather die than let kiss me, but the other two…

Spencer Schott and Wes Delaney are my two best friends in the entire world. Spencer’s house and mine are separated only by our backyards and one giant oak tree that turns a brilliant shade of red in the fall and is home to the greatest tree house ever built. Spencer, Wes, and I practically lived in that tree house, until we hit middle school and decided secret hideouts were for kids.

We’re still best friends, though, and both Wes and Spencer dutifully came to this party with me tonight even though they didn’t want to. It’s Trisha Talbot’s fourteenth birthday, and Wes and Spencer think she’s mean. She kind of is, but it’s better to be her friend than her enemy, so when she surprised me with an invitation to her party, I didn’t dare refuse. Now I’m about to give up my first kiss to a game of Spin the Bottle.

I twist the glass container that had only minutes ago been drained of Coke and give it a powerful spin while sending up a prayer to whatever higher power exists that it will stop on Spencer or Wes. I don’t care which one. Truth be told, I have a crush on them both.

Spencer has red hair and hazel eyes framed by nice-looking wire-rimmed glasses. Some kids make fun of his freckles and glasses, but I like them. He isn’t the cutest boy in the world, but he is the nicest and the funniest.

Wes, on the other hand, is hot. He’s taller than most of the other boys and has thick brown hair and eyes so dark they’re almost black. He’s quiet because he doesn’t like big groups, but when it’s just he, Spencer, and I hanging out, he talks like he needs to make up for lost time.

As the bottle twirls around in manic circles on the linoleum of Trish’s kitchen floor, I meet both Wes’s and Spencer’s eyes. Wes is on my right and Spencer is just to the left of being directly in front of me. Neither one of them looks as nervous as I feel.

The bottle starts to slow. As it sweeps past Wes, I know it won’t make it back around to him. Wes knows it, too, and his eyes narrow on all the boys still left in the running. The glare makes me smile. I know he’ll protect me if anyone gets too enthusiastic during the kiss—which is likely to happen if the bottle stops on Jake Wainwright. Jake was bragging about French kissing a ninth grade girl earlier tonight.

Not Jake. Not Jake. Not Jake.

The bottle stops on Penny Martin. Since she’s sitting between Jake and Spencer, she gets to choose which one I have to kiss.

Not Jake. Not Jake. Not Jake. Please, not Jake.

Either Penny picks up on my mental vibes or Spencer pinches her in the side, because the bottle looks like it’s leaning more toward Jake, but she still says, “I pick Spencer.”

For a brief moment I’m overcome with relief, but then I realize I’m about to kiss Spencer!

Spencer worries his bottom lip in his teeth as he rises up onto his knees. Swallowing down a stomach full of butterflies, I meet him in the middle of the circle. Neither of us says anything. Spencer wets his lips, and his eyes fall to my mouth. He’s shaking a little as he leans in.

I stop breathing.

The rule is our lips have to touch for five seconds. All the kids in the circle count it off. I thought having an audience would embarrass me, but when Spencer’s lips touch mine, I forget about everyone and everything around me.

My eyes are pinched shut, and I pucker my lips so tightly they’re hard as rocks, but Spencer’s touch is so light and soft that I relax. A small sigh escapes my mouth, and when my lips part, Spencer captures my top one between his. I instinctively copy his movements, and suddenly we’re kissing. Actually kissing, not just pressing our lips together while our classmates count to five.

Spencer’s hand comes to my cheek, and I lean into him. My whole body relaxes even though my heart is racing wildly in my chest. Kissing Spencer is the most amazing thing I’ve ever done, and right in this moment I know that I’ll never want to kiss anyone else ever again.

The count reaches five, forcing Spencer to pull away from me. He does so slowly, as if he doesn’t want to stop any more than I do, but we’ll be teased mercilessly if we keep it up any longer than necessary.

When he pulls away, our eyes meet and my face blossoms into a wide grin. It doesn’t matter if I look like a gigantic dork; I’m happy. I glance at Wes just in time to see him wipe a frown from his face. Somewhere in the back of my mind, it registers that he’s upset, but I can’t quite seem to let it sink in. I’m in too good a mood. That was the best first kiss I could have asked for.

Later, when my mom comes to drive us home from the party, Spencer holds my hand the entire way. When I walk him to the property line between my house and his, I stop us beneath that big oak tree with the tree house we’re too old to play in and wrap my arms around him in a tight hug. “Thank you,” I whisper. “I was so scared that my first kiss was going to be awful, but that was perfect.”

Spencer clears his throat and mumbles, “It was my first kiss, too, and it was more than perfect.”

I pull back from the hug to stare at him with wide eyes. His cheeks and the tips of his ears are bright pink. “I’m glad it was you,” he says.

“I’m glad it was you, too.”

 

Chapter 1

I rest against the trunk of the brilliant red oak tree in my backyard, with nothing but my journal to keep me company. Summer’s almost over. In South Orange, New Jersey, that means it’s humid, but not so hot anymore that the moisture in the air is unbearable. I close my diary and let my eyes flutter shut as I lift my face to the sky. I take in a deep breath, enjoying the light breeze tickling my skin and the loud hum of the cicadas singing their song in the leaves above my head. Blissful peace.

As I shift, I feel the uneven surface of the tree behind me. I run my fingers through the deep grooves cut out of the trunk and smile, remembering when Spencer carved our initials here. We had just started ninth grade, and it was our first anniversary as a couple. We were only fourteen at the time, but we’d already been together for an entire year. Spencer nearly cut his finger off with the dull pocketknife he’d used and had to have stitches. But he finish the carving before telling his parents he’d hurt himself, because he said he had to have proof of our longevity when we were old and gray. He wanted to claim a Guinness World Record for the longest relationship ever.

Laughing at the memory, I jerk with a start when a single white daisy pops in front of my face. “Whatcha doin’, sitting out here all by yourself?” Spencer asks, grinning as he takes a seat next to me.

I smell the flower he’s given me before answering him. “Just remembering all the good times. What are you doing here?”

“I came to check up on my girl, of course.” Spencer gives me another smile that makes my heart melt. After all these years, I’m still not tired of that boyish grin, so full of love for me. “And bringing her one of her favorite flowers on our anniversary. Three years. That’s longer than a lot of marriages last.”

“But not a Guinness record,” I tease.

I examine the flower in my hands. I’ve always loved daisies. They’re such a happy-looking flower, with their crisp, white petals and bright yellow center. Plucking one of the petals free from the stem, I smile and say, “He loves me.”

Spencer grins. This is one of our favorite games.

I pluck another petal. “He loves me not.”

Spencer lets me repeat this process a few times before reaching up to pluck a petal of his own. “He loves you.” Pluck. “He loves you.” Pluck. “He loves you. He loves you. He loves you.” Pluck. Pluck. Pluck.

Though only half of the petals are gone, he steals the flower from my fingers and tosses it aside. “I love you,” he says, leaning over to kiss me.

I wrap my arms around his neck and lose myself in his love. He lays me back on the grass and kisses me until I’m breathless and my head is swimming. Satisfied for now, he rolls onto his back and shuts his eyes, enjoying this perfect moment as much as I am. Our hands find each other, and our fingers tangle together.

“I miss you,” I whisper.

He turns his head to the side and smiles at me. “I’m right here.”

His answer makes me smile, too. “Yes, you are.”

We enjoy the peace and quiet for a moment before Spencer speaks. “You know…” I look at him, and though his face is serious, his eyes are filled with mischief. “They say kissing a ginger is good luck.”

I burst out laughing and shake my head. My long blonde hair gets caught in the grass. I can feel leaves in it, but I don’t care. “You’re not really a ginger. Your hair has faded so much it’s a light red-brown.”

“It’s red,” he insists. “And you can’t deny the power of the freckles. I’m a ginger.”

Okay, fine, he’s a ginger. But I’ll never admit it out loud to him, because he hates his red hair. “You’re not.”

He rolls his eyes. “I’m still lucky.”

“How do you figure?”

His smile widens and he leans up onto his side, propping himself up with his elbow. “Because even though I’m a freckled redhead, I still managed to snag the hottest girl in school. I just had to snag her before she was hot.” He winks and says, “Back when she was all awkward and gangly. When her arms and legs were too long for her body, and she had a mouthful of braces…and before she got her boobs.”

When I gasp, he laughs and leans down to kiss me again, trying to cop a feel of said boobs. I smack his hand away but let him kiss me. “That wasn’t luck,” I tell him between kisses. “That was smart. You were thinking ahead.”

He considers arguing the point but gives in. “Fine.” His lips move from my mouth to my neck, making me shiver. “If I’m not really lucky, can I at least get lucky?”

He pulls back to waggle his eyebrows at me, and I laugh again. No one has ever made me laugh more than Spencer. Grinning wickedly, he lifts his gaze to the old tree house perched in the branches above our head. “We may be too old to play Indiana Jones with Wes up there, but there are certainly other movies I wouldn’t mind role playing with you.”

“Like?”

Spencer pushes himself up on to his knees and beats his chest with his fists. “Me Tarzan. You Jane,” he grunts.

I lose myself in a fit of giggles and gasp out, “You are way too skinny to be Tarzan.”

“Skinny!” He pretends to be insulted and attacks me, tickling my sides until I can’t breathe.

“Okay, okay, I give!” I squeal. “You’re a big, strong, sexy, wild gorilla man, and I’d pay good money to see you in a loincloth.”

“That could be arranged.” His laughter is replaced with a hungry stare that warms my entire body. “I love you, Bay.”

I know he does. And I feel the same about him. More than anything. “I love you, too, Spencer.”

The alarm goes off, and I’m pulled back to reality before Tarzan-Spencer can drag me up to his tree house. My chest tightens and my eyes glisten, but I don’t shed tears. As much as the dreams haunt me, I would die if they ever stopped. They’re all I have left of him.

Hands shaking, I pull myself out of bed and prepare to survive another pointless day. After a nice hot shower to loosen my tight muscles, I get dressed and blow my hair dry. It takes forever since my hair is thick and reaches nearly to my waist. I go for the curling iron next and then apply my makeup, taking extra care to cover up the dark circles under my eyes. I’m not concerned about impressing anyone, but the monotonous routine is something I need. I survive on repetition now.

My dream about Spencer still fresh in my mind, I take a moment to look myself over, thinking about what he’d said. I really was an awkward-looking preteen. I suppose I had the honey-blonde hair and bright blue eyes going for me then, but Spencer had no way of knowing I’d grow into the tall beauty I’d turned out to be.

I’d been lucky, too, though. I figured Spencer would always be an awkward, tall, gangly ginger—and yes, he had enough freckles to map the stars on his body—but he’d grown into himself well enough. It wouldn’t have mattered if he hadn’t, but he did get a little cuter and less awkward each year we were together.

Coating my lips with my favorite lip gloss, I take a deep breath and prepare for this rotten day. Dream Spencer had it right. If he were still alive, today would have been our third anniversary. I don’t think anyone will remember that except for me, but it’s going to haunt me, whether people bring it up or not.

I make my way from my third-floor bedroom down to the kitchen, where my younger sister Julia is eating a bowl of brightly-colored breakfast cereal. Instead of claiming the rest of the Froot Loops, I opt for a bowl of Cheerios—the plain kind, not the honey nut. I’ve never been able to tolerate sweet stuff in the morning.

Julia doesn’t say anything to me as I sit down. She’s busy finishing the homework she “forgot” she had yesterday. She receives a text message on her phone and then scribbles down another answer. I wonder which of her freshman boys is doing her homework for her this time.

She slips her phone in her pocket when Mom breezes into the kitchen, clasping a set of pearl earrings in place. Mom’s heels clack against the tile floor as she crosses the room to the fridge and snags a V8 fruit blend. “Bailey, honey, can you pick up your sister after cheer practice this afternoon? I’m going to be busy setting up for the fundraiser this weekend.”

My mom is technically a stay-at-home mom, but she’s almost never home. She’s on the board of directors for the South Orange Historical Society and is the president of the women’s auxiliary for our church. She’s always got something or other going on, but I don’t mind so much. She’s always there when we need her, and when she is home a lot, she tends to hover too much.

“That’s fine. I’m not doing anything later.”

Julia scoffs. “She’s never doing anything anymore.”

I ignore the dig and finish off the last of my breakfast. I feel Mom watching me, but I don’t look up. She’s worried about me. I know it, and she knows I know it. But there’s no point in having another tired conversation that will only upset her and in no way help me. After a moment, she sighs and says, “You girls better hurry, or you’ll be late for school.”

Julia shoves her homework into her book bag, and I put my bowl in the sink. Mom wraps her arms around me from behind and kisses my head. “Have a good day today, sweetheart.” It’s the best she can do. The sadness in her voice tells me she knows exactly what day today is. I’m grateful she doesn’t say it, though.

There’s no way I’ll have a good day today, but I force a smile on my face for her sake. “I will.” She knows I’m lying, but she appreciates the gesture, and I’m grateful that she cares, even if I don’t say so.

It’s the second week of September, but we’re having a bit of an Indian summer this year, so I put the top down on my VW bug convertible for the drive to school. I’m a junior this year, which means I’m one of the privileged upperclassman who were issued parking permits for the school’s student lot. I am so glad I don’t have to take the bus anymore.

“I love this beautiful machine,” Julia says wistfully, gliding her hand over the front dash. “I wonder what kind of car Mom and Dad will get me when I turn sixteen.”

Not one like this, I want to say but don’t, because I know it will hurt her feelings.

The car was a bribe. I was still fifteen when Spencer died. After the accident, I refused to take my driver’s test and get my license. I had every intention of never getting behind the wheel of a car in my life, but then Dad plunked this beauty in the driveway and set the keys on my nightstand. I held out for months, but with summer break coming to an end and the threat of the bus looming over me, well, I gave in. I’m not sorry. It was stupid to think I could get away with never learning how to drive anyway.

“Are you going to Jake Wainwright’s party this weekend?” Julia asks, pulling me from my thoughts.

I shrug. “I wouldn’t if I had a choice, but I’m sure Trisha and Liz will make me go.”

“You have to go.” When I cast my sister a glance, she raises her eyebrows and cocks her head to the side, as if daring me to say no. “You know Mom and Dad would never let me go without you, and I already told all my friends I was going. I’m the only freshman who got an invite.”

The Atkinson sisters are somewhat legend at our high school. Julia, though only fourteen and a freshman, is just as pretty as I am—good genes, I guess. The difference between us is that Julia uses her looks to her advantage, whereas I never have. I’m glad I’m not ugly, but looks simply don’t matter all that much to me. I was happy just to have Spencer, and now that I don’t, well, truthfully, nothing matters much to me anymore.

When I say nothing, Julia crosses her arms over her chest. “Come on, Bailey. At least one of us should be taking advantage of your popularity.” I give her another look, but she ignores it. “Jake’s brother is single now. If I’m the only freshman there and I’m hanging with you and Trisha, Colin will notice me for sure.”

“Fine. Whatever.” I don’t really care either way. “But if you have one drop of alcohol, I will tell Mom and Dad and get you grounded until you graduate. And I’ll never bring you to another party ever again.”

Julia is quiet for a minute and then softly says, “I won’t drink, Bailey. I promise.”

My response is just as quiet. “Thanks.”

We don’t say another word until we pull into the parking lot. As I raise the top on my car, Julia looks back at me with a sad smile before heading into the building. “Good luck today. Try not to be too sad.” I guess she knows what today is, too.

My little sister can be the biggest pest, but she’s still pretty amazing sometimes. I manage a small, grateful smile that’s somewhat genuine, and she disappears into the crowd of students filing through the front doors. I stay in my seat until the warning bell rings before slowly making my way inside.

 

Chapter 2

Columbia High School is a public school, though it looks like some kind of nineteenth century European boarding school. It’s a beautiful gray stone building with several turrets, chimneys, and a large clock tower over the front entrance. It’s amazing how even a building that looks like a castle from a fairy tale loses its magic when you have to sit through precalculus at eight in the morning. School, even in a beautiful building, is still school.

First period is uneventful, but when I slip into my seat in second hour, Trisha and Liz are already there, ready to give me the latest in school gossip. “Did you hear?” Liz doesn’t wait for me to answer. “Xavier Mitchell’s daughter just transferred to Columbia.”

“Who?”

Liz’s shoulders slump at my underwhelming reaction. “Xavier Mitchell? The quarterback for the New York Jets? Come on, Bailey; even I know that, and I think football is barbaric.”

“You don’t think those tight little pants the players wear are barbaric,” Trisha quips as she works her fingernails with an emery board.

“Very true,” Liz agrees. “And Xavier Mitchell looks mighty fine when he wears his.”

Trisha scoffs. “Gross. He’s old enough to be your dad.”

Liz brushes off Trisha’s snark and gives me a wicked grin. “Whatever. The man is hot, and his daughter, Charlotte, is an apple off the old tree. Have you seen her yet?”

“She’s pretty?” I ask. It would be nice to have someone new for the boys in our school to drool over. No one has dared ask me out since Spencer’s death, but they’ve started to hover. It’s only a matter of time before they decide my period of mourning is over, but I already know that whenever that day comes, I won’t be ready for it.

“She’s gorgeous,” Liz replies. “Her dad’s black and her mom’s white, and she’s, like, the best combination of both races. I would kill for her complexion. Or her figure!”

“She sounds totally stuck up,” Trisha mutters.

“Yeah, well, you would be the expert in all things snobby,” Liz tells her. Trisha and I both smirk at that. Liz shakes her head. “She’s actually super nice. I sat next to her last period and invited her to eat lunch with us today. That should be interesting to watch. Jake, Chase, and Colin were all making complete tools out of themselves, fawning over her like a pack of pathetic losers. Chase actually asked if he could carry her books for her. He was, like—”

I stop listening. When Liz gets going with the gossip, listening and responding aren’t required. I don’t pull out of my daydreaming again until the bell rings and Mrs. Carlson asks me to see her before I leave. I take my time gathering my things. I know what she’s going to say to me, and I’m not looking forward to the conversation.

She’s waiting with my first test when I reach her desk. There’s a bright red C- circled at the top. It’s a better grade than I expected, but I don’t think admitting that will help my cause. She hands me the graded test, with her brows pulled low over her eyes. “Bailey, this is not the start to the year I was hoping for from you. I know you can do better.”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Carlson. I’ll be ready for the next one.” My promise is empty, and we both know it.

Mrs. Carlson tries again. “I hoped you’d come back to the cheer squad this year.”

Mrs. Carlson is the head cheer coach for the Columbia High Cougars. I was on the JV squad freshman and sophomore year, but I quit after the accident. I couldn’t cheer for the team when Spencer was no longer on it.

I give her my number-one response to most questions these days—a shrug.

The sympathetic smile falls from Mrs. Carlson’s face. She rubs at her eyes and draws in a long breath. “Bailey… Are you okay?”

I never know how to answer that question, so I say nothing.

“I’m very worried about you. Have you considered talking to someone—a therapist, or maybe a grief counselor?”

“I used to see someone. I take medication—antidepressants. I guess they work. They dull the pain, anyway. The numbness helps.”

Mrs. Carlson’s eyes get shiny. “That’s no way to live life.”

I shrug again. “It’s a way to survive it.” I want out of this conversation, so I glance at the clock. “May I go now, please? I don’t want to be late for my next class.”

Mrs. Carlson swallows, nodding as if she’s unable to find her voice. I feel guilty for upsetting her, so I promise to study harder for my next test as I leave.

I manage to escape any more drama until nearly the end of lunch. Liz is right about the new girl. Charlotte is both very nice and very gorgeous. She captures the attention of everyone at our lunch table the second she shows up. Though she has no idea, I’m grateful to her for hogging the spotlight. She’s just the distraction I need today.

“Bailey!” A French fry smacks me in the face, and I look up to see everyone waiting for me to answer a question. I think the homecoming dance is the topic of conversation, but I’m not sure.

“What?”

Several of my friends snicker, and Trisha groans. “I don’t know why I even bother.”

Liz shoves her and rolls her eyes. “Do you want to go to New York for dinner before the homecoming dance? I say it would be fun for us all to take the train into the city wearing our formals.”

“And I say the train is dirty, and I’m not going to get on it wearing a two hundred and fifty dollar dress,” Trisha argues.

I shake my head. “I’m not going to homecoming this year.”

A hush falls over the table as if I’ve just confessed to murder in the first degree. Trisha leans forward, narrowing her eyes at me. “Nobody’s asked you?” She glares at all the guys sitting with us as if they’ve somehow failed her on a personal level, then flashes me her classic fake smile. “It’s okay. You can still come with us stag. We’ll all make our dates dance with you.”

Male heads all around the table bob enthusiastically, confirming her promise.

“No.” Liz reaches across the table and places her hand on top of mine. “Nobody goes stag to the dance. We’ll find you a date.”

“I’ll go stag with you,” the new girl, Charlotte, offers, with a smile that shows off a mouthful of perfectly straight, blindingly white teeth. She turns to the entire group and adds, “In fact, maybe we should all go stag together. Think of how much fun that would be. If none of us have dates, we’ll all get to dance with everybody.”

All the guys’ eyes double in size at the prospect of getting to dance with both Charlotte and me. Their gazes all bounce back and forth between the two of us, and heads begin to nod. When Jake Wainwright says, “Cool, I’m down,” Trisha whips her head in his direction. “Uh. No. You are not down. You already asked me to be your date. You can’t bail on me.”

“But, babe, if everybody’s going stag, then what does it matter? It’s not like I’m ditching you.”

Trisha’s face turns bright red, and the group takes a collective breath, waiting to see if she’ll explode. That’s been known to happen every now and then, and it’s never pretty.

Trisha doesn’t blow up, but she’s very close. Her voice tightens as she barks out two words that end the conversation, rejecting the option for everyone. “Not. Happening.”

Charlotte glances around the group, recognizing the metaphorical gavel drop for what it is and lifts a shoulder at me. “Whatever. I’ll still go stag with you.”

Trisha sends invisible lasers across the table at Charlotte with her eyes. “Suit yourself. Only losers go stag to homecoming.”

Charlotte doesn’t seem bothered by the insult, and I ignore the fact that Trisha just suggested I was a loser. She’s always been callous. I’ve learned to not take it personally.

The conversation goes back to the original topic of dinner plans, and I tune out again until Charlotte says, “Who is that? If he’s single, I might change my mind about going stag to the dance.”

I don’t look up until everyone around me gasps. Following their gazes, I turn toward the lunch line. The apple I’m holding drops from my hand. A gasp escapes my mouth that is three times louder than everyone else’s had been, and it’s exaggerated because they’ve all gone silent, anticipating my reaction. My heart stops beating and falls into my stomach, making it roll with a powerful wave of nausea.

“What is he doing here?” Liz whispers from somewhere behind me. The sound is distant, barely registering in my mind.

“What do you mean? Who is he?” Charlotte asks again.

Wes Delaney is here. I can’t believe what I’m seeing. It’s been almost a year. He dropped out of school a couple of weeks after Spencer’s accident and disappeared from Columbia High’s social radar. My heart pounds at the sight of him.

Wes pays the lunch lady for his food, and when he turns around, his eyes immediately land on me as if he already knew which direction to look. My mouth goes dry when our eyes meet. I didn’t know how much I’ve missed him until this exact moment. My entire body yearns to reconnect with him. And yet…I have no business feeling that way. I squash those feelings and let my old friend, guilt, swamp me. Guilt is all I deserve where Wes is concerned. Still, I can’t look away from him.

He seems different—older and hardened. His head is shaved nearly bald. Only a dark layer of fuzz remains that is no longer than the five o’clock shadow ghosting his face. It’s a surprisingly good look for him. While Spencer eventually outgrew his awkward tween stage (mostly), Wes never experienced one. He was always hot. Now, he’s just plain sexy.

With his hair so short, his dark eyes and long lashes stand out more than normal. And he’s so built that even from my seat across the cafeteria I can tell his body is rock hard beneath his tight plain white T-shirt and low-hung jeans. He looks tough. Jaded.

“What’s he doing here, Bailey?”

I ignore Trisha’s question. I couldn’t speak right now, even if I knew the answer—which I most definitely do not. I can’t breathe. Can’t think. I’m locked in his stare, and I can’t decipher the look on his face.

Where has he been for the last year? What is he doing here now? What is he thinking? Why can’t he take his eyes off me? Is he going to tell everyone what really happened that night?

Feeling sick, I jump up from my seat and run from the cafeteria as if my life depends on it. Right now, it feels like it does.

When I was put on medication after Spencer’s death, numbness replaced the devastating pain and heartache I suffered. I haven’t felt anything for months. But as I burst into the first-floor girls’ bathroom, it feels as if all the emotions I should have been experiencing all this time hit me at once. It’s crippling.

I look in the mirror, hoping for a clue as to what I’m feeling right now. I only see panic. I’m going to lose it. Leaning back against one of the cold tile walls, I slide to the ground. My knees come up to my chest, and I bury my face in them, wrapping my arms tightly around my legs while I force air in and out of my lungs.

“Breathe,” I whisper to myself. “Breathe, Bailey. It’s okay.”

Miraculously, the pep talk helps. I regain my composure without bursting into tears and give myself a couple minutes to make sure I’m all right before heading out of the bathroom. He’d better be gone. I’m prepared to face the questions and gossip of my classmates, but I don’t think I can face him.

I open the door and slam into a solid chest. Strong hands grip my arms to steady me, and they don’t let go. I know the hands are Wes’s without having to look. “Are you okay?” he asks.

At first, I’m comforted by his presence. His smell is familiar, and the heat of his tall, lean body feels like it could thaw my frozen heart. For a split second, I melt against him. His arms come around me as if holding me is as natural to him as breathing. For a second, everything is right in my pathetic world. For a second, I’m alive again.

“Bailey, what’s wrong?” His usually smooth, deep voice is gruff.

My head jerks up at the sound of my name, and reality catches up with me. I scramble out of his embrace, attempting to swallow back my panic. He’s watching me, waiting for an answer. I haven’t spoken to him since the funeral, and I’m not sure I can do it now. It takes me a minute to find my voice, and when I do, I blurt out, “What are you doing here?”

He sucks in a breath through his nose as he steps back, gripping the strap of a bag slung over his shoulder. Seeing the backpack, my jaw drops. “Are you coming back to school?”

The genuine horror in my voice makes him flinch. There’d been a bit of light in his eyes, but it’s gone now. His face closes off. “No, I’m not coming back to school here.”

He adjusts that strap again, then switches the backpack to his other shoulder while glaring at the ground. I’ve offended him. Or maybe he just still hates me. I wouldn’t blame him. I got his best friend killed, after all. I hate me.

Seeing him reminds me of that night all over again. The events replay in my mind with vivid detail. Everything from finding Wes and stopping him from doing something unthinkable, to the kiss, to the fight, and finally the accident and Wes holding me back while paramedics did their best to try and save Spencer’s life.

One look at his face, and I can tell Wes is thinking about the same events. He closes his eyes and takes a breath. When he looks at me again, his expression has smoothed out. “How are you?” he asks. “You know…today.”

I swallow back a lump of emotion. I’m not surprised that Wes knows today is Spencer’s and my anniversary, but his acknowledgement of it feels like a knife in my heart. Why does he care? He hated that Spencer and I were together, and he used to get so cranky on this day every year.

“What’s today?” someone behind me murmurs. “It’s not the anniversary of Spencer’s death. That’s not for a couple weeks.”

A crowd of students have gathered to watch the drama. I don’t know who spoke, but I wish I could make them all disappear. Could people be any more tactless? Why can’t they just mind their own business?

When my eyes start to burn, I turn to leave. I can’t stand here any longer.

Wes puts a hand on my shoulder to stop me. “Bay, wait.”

I freeze. Aside from that night, Wes hasn’t used my nickname since I got together with Spencer and he started hating me for stealing his best friend.

Wes lets me go and rubs a hand over his head. “Sorry. I just—we should really talk.”

“Don’t.” With a quivering voice and stinging eyes, I whisper, “I can’t do this. Not today.” Maybe not ever.

I can’t take it anymore. I can’t stare into those knowing eyes for another second. My guilt is bad enough without seeing his sadness and anger.

Wes doesn’t say anything as I leave, doesn’t try to stop me. I head straight for my car and don’t care if I get in trouble for leaving. All that matters is getting far, far away from here. I’m not really running from Wes. I’m running from the past. Running from myself. Those are two things I will never escape, but I run anyway.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek! If you want to read the rest, here’s the link. It’s available on Amazon and free to read in Kindle Unlimited!

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR COPY!!

Charity auction: signed set of Cinder & Ella AND Happily Ever After up for grabs!

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It’s LIVE!! The LIFT 4 Autism Auction is open for bidding! 

CLICK HERE to register and BROWSE ITEMS! charityauction.bid/lift4autism

Win a $25 Winner’s Choice Gift Card in the LIFT Celebration Giveaway!

 The Lift 4 Autism Auction is a bookworm’s dream! Featuring hard-to-get, much-sought items from romance favorites like Nicola Yoon, Kristen Ashley, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Corinne Michaels, T.M. Frazier, Marie Force and more than 200 others in celebration of Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month.

Authors Ginger Scott and Kennedy Ryan founded LIFT 4 Autism a few years ago as a charitable initiative rallying the romance community around autism. All proceeds go to this year’s charitable partner Kulture City, who is doing amazing things for the autism community. Learn more at kulturecity.org.

Specifically, LIFT 2017 will benefit Kulture City’s lifeBOKS program, which provides families with free kits to curtail wandering, a common and potentially life threatening challenge. Proceeds will also benefit Kulture City’s tablet program, which provides iPads to improve communication for non and limited verbal children on the spectrum to families who cannot afford them.

Learn more about the mission of Kulture City and the dangers of wandering in today’s USA Today HEA feature here.

Watch the  lifeBOKS video:

https://www.facebook.com/AutismOnTheMighty/videos/1591316364511099/

 

HOW WILL WE RAISE FUNDS?

  1. Online Auction, featuring many of your favorite romance authors!

Browse all the amazing items up for bid here:  

charityauction.bid/lift4autism (Must register to bid)

 

Auction Frequently Asked Questions:

http://lift4autism.com/auctionfaq

 

Find the full Author list here:  http://lift4autism.com/contact.

The auction is LIVE until Friday, April 28, 8:00pm.

 

  1. Make a financial donation through the LIFT Campaign.

DONATE here:  bit.ly/LIFT4AutismGIVE

 

  1. Buy LIFT Wear (T-shirts, totes, mugs, etc…)

https://teespring.com/Lift2017

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Happy Book Birthday Happily Ever After!

New Release!

Happily Ever After: A Cinder & Ella Novel

Available NOW and FREE with Kindle Unlimited!

HEA_birthday_facebook_coverGet your copy HERE! If you pre-ordered it, it should be on your favorite ereader RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT. And if you haven’t read Cinder & Ella yet, it’s on sale this week for 99¢.

hea_coverThis is the sequel to the #1 Bestselling novel Cinder & Ella from Kelly Oram.

The end of one story is often the beginning of another. Hollywood heartthrob Brian Oliver and his Cinderella princess Ellamara Rodriguez have finally found love outside the digital world. But leaving their anonymity behind creates a whole new set of obstacles for the nation’s new favorite sweethearts. With the stress of Brian’s fame, Ella’s disapproving family, and the pressures of a new relationship weighing down on them, the It Couple quickly begins to wonder if they can hold on to their newfound joy, or if maybe happily ever after is only a fairy tale.

Get your copy HERE!

Still undecided? Here’s an excerpt:

Scott closed his laptop, which was a sign that he was really serious now. “Like it or not, Brian, she is in this. Up to her eyeballs in it, in fact. She won’t be able to avoid it forever, and when it catches up to her, she’s going to have some real choices to make. If you don’t bring her in with you, then your management team—along with everyone else in town—will bypass you and go straight to her. Do you really want her to meet with people and make decisions without you?”

My jaw clenched. Hollywood people could be nice enough, but they were all sharks in sheep’s clothing. Ella was a strong, smart woman, but she wasn’t used to playing their game. No way did I want her having to navigate this business on her own.

You’re absolutely right that your team will try to use her as much as possible. That’s why you should be there when they do. At least if you’re together, you can tell her when they’re trying to work her over.”

Damn him again. Why did he always have to be right? Letting out a breath of defeat, I scrubbed my hands over my face and then raked them through my hair. “All right, all right, fine. Let’s schedule a meeting with Ella. But not yet. After the holidays. After New Year’s.”

Scott’s posture eased up a little, and he gave me an apologetic smile. “I don’t think they want to wait that long. You guys are in the headlines now. You’re the biggest story of the year. With the movie releasing in two days, they want to take advantage of all this free publicity.”

I huffed in exasperation. “The Druid Prince is the biggest release of the holiday. The studio has put millions of dollars into advertising. How much more publicity does it need?”

Not the film, Brian; you.”

I don’t care about the publicity. I don’t want the attention.”

I shot to my feet with a groan and headed for my coffee again. It wasn’t as hot now, so I chugged it as if it held the answers to all my problems.

You do want it this time. And so does Ella.”

I was still frowning, but I leaned against the counter again and gave him my full attention. He jumped on the window of opportunity but spoke cautiously, as if he was afraid I might explode if I didn’t like what he said. “How you and Ella deal with this attention will affect your future, and you know it. The world loves you guys right now. You’re a real-life fairy tale. People are dying to see the two of you living out the happily-ever-after you promised them.”

Forget the world. I want that. But if the freaking media doesn’t leave us alone, no one will get that happily-ever-after, because Ella will dump my famous ass.”

Scott’s snort of disbelief was only mildly reassuring.

She’s not like everyone else, Scott. She doesn’t care about the money, and my fame is a problem in her eyes, not a fun perk. She’s fragile. If this gets too crazy, she’ll throw in the towel. She’ll have to. And I’ll have to let her.”

If you would just make a couple of appearances together, do an interview or two and a photo shoot, that would satiate the public, and things would die down.”

Tell that to Kim and Kanye.”

Again, Scott spoke right over my cynical mutterings. “It would help you both in other ways, too. Ella is exactly what you need for your career. This relationship will completely erase your last year or so of debauchery.”

I cocked an eyebrow at Scott, trying my hardest not to smile. It wasn’t easy. “Debauchery?”

His cheeks turned a little pink, but he stood his ground. “Do you have a better word for all the partying and womanizing?”

I held his gaze a moment longer but then cracked. “Fine. Debauchery.”

Right. And after a few appearances with Ella, as in love as you guys are, not even Kyle Hamilton will remember your previous reputation as an arrogant, immature playboy.”

My eyebrow went up again, and this time it was Scott who relented. “Okay, Kyle might. But no one else will; I guarantee it. You’ll be the mature down-to-earth A-list actor who chose to be with a physically-disabled woman when he could have anyone. You’ll be admired by all of Hollywood. And a man like that might just win himself an Oscar, whether he earned it onscreen or not—that’s simple Academy politics. Not that you haven’t earned it, but no one in the Academy would hesitate to vote for you. And no director will hesitate to consider you for a role in the future. Play your cards correctly right now, and you’ll be earning thirty million a picture for the Cinder Chronicles sequels and turning down roles you’d beg for right now.”

A year ago, that would have been a persuasive argument. “It’s not me I’m worried about. I’ll earn my A-list status eventually; I don’t need to use Ella to get there.”

She might want to use this opportunity, though. You should at least explain to her what is going on and what it means for her. From what you’ve told me, she’s an extremely independent woman and isn’t going to want to live off of her father’s money forever, or yours. This could be a very lucrative time for her. It could help her with her future and even give her something to focus on. It could give her positive reasons for living with the fame and maybe help her make sense of how much her life has just changed.”

I shot Scott a glare, hating that last accusation, and got his Super-Assistant-Stare-Down again. “Like it or not, Brian, the moment you gave that Cinderella interview on The Kenneth Long Show, you changed her life. There’s no going back for her, so help her move forward. Help her make the best of a hard situation. Ease this transition for her by being straight with her. You know no one else will.”

I rubbed my head. All this thinking about the future first thing in the morning was giving me a headache.

Sorry, boss, I know it’s not what you want to do, but it is what you need to do. I’d let you keep ignoring them and turn off my phone over the holiday if it wasn’t.”

My hands dropped to my sides as all the fight left me, and I met Scott’s gaze again, frowning. “Do you ever get tired of being right?”

The corners of Scott’s mouth twitched. “Not really, no.”

Read the whole story HERE!

 

More release day fun — Giveaway and Interview!

To celebrate Happily Ever After’s release, I have a Rafflecopter running for a SIGNED copy of Cinder & Ella. All you have to do is sign up to my newsletter. By doing so, you’ll receive a free copy of my novella Sixteen Kisses and get email alerts when I have new releases. This giveaway runs until April 30th, and is open international.

Enter HERE!

And last but not least, here’s a little interview. My long-time fans will recognize the first part of the interview, but I answer some new questions at the end. Enjoy!

First, the blurb everyone gets:

I love to read and I’m a ginger. I wrote my first novel at age fifteen–a fan fiction about my favorite music group, The Backstreet Boys, for which my family and friends still tease me. I’m obsessed with reading, talk way too much, and like to eat frosting by the spoonful. I live outside of Phoenix, Arizona with my husband, four children, and my cat, Mr. Darcy. And we named his litter box Pemberly because it’s where he makes ten thousand (poops) a year!

The Fun Stuff:

  1. I love to sing and went to college as a voice performance major.
  2. I once competed in the Miss Michigan Teen USA pageant. (I did not win LOL.)
  3. I’m a baseball fanatic. (Go D-backs!)
  4. I broke my head as a kid and had to wear a hockey helmet to school as my cast.
  5. I own my own 10-sided dice for role-playing that no one but me is allowed to role.
  6. I’m left handed.
  7. I am credited as associate producer for the independent film Amber Alert.
  8. I live for road trips. Best vacation I ever took was a three-week coast-to-coast-and-back drive with my father.
  9. The Backstreet Boys were my 1D in high school, and I was a total fangirl. I still have a whole collection of fan paraphernalia.
  10. I took both golf and bowling classes in college to fulfill my PE credits. (I still suck at both.)

Where did you grow up? Tell us a little about your childhood. I grew up with two amazing, loving parents and a bunch of siblings that I only realized were amazing after I grew up and moved away from them. We moved around quite a bit, but I spent the majority of my life in Colorado, Michigan, and California. My childhood was crazy and chaotic at times but fun and full of love. I have no complaints.

What was it like living in Los Angeles right out of college? LA is crazy, and the film industry is rough. It was overwhelming for my husband and I to go there when we were so young, had never been there, and had no family within hundreds of miles. But it was an adventure. We learned a lot, grew up a lot, and have a lot of great memories of our time there.

Share with us one thing most people do not know about you? Umm… like I mentioned about in the fun facts, I modeled a little bit as a teenager and once competed in the Miss Michigan Teen USA pageant. Neither modeling, nor the pageant circuit was really my thing and I quit both pretty quickly. But it was an experience I’m glad I had. I got to do something that not many get the chance to do. I also learned that I belong behind the spotlight, not in it. LOL.

If you could pick one, which one of your books would you make a movie based on? Hmm. I think it would be a toss up between Serial Hottie and Cinder & Ella. Serial Hottie is just fun and I can totally picture it being done similarly to The Burbs, or Suburbia. A fun quirky murder mystery romance. I’d love it. But I’m also a HUGE sucker for anything Cinderella, and it’s always done so well in the movies. Seeing Brian and Ella on the big screen would be so awesome.

Do your family and friends read your books? Some of them. The ones who enjoy reading do. I never expect people I know to read my work, and I only encourage them if I think they will genuinely enjoy my stories. As a writer, I know not everyone is going to love my work, but my friends and family don’t always believe me when I say it’s okay if they don’t like my books. I’ve had friends read my books because they were curious but who don’t normally read the YA romance genre and then they felt really bad when they didn’t like it. It’s really okay. But it’s also fun when someone I know comes up to me and says, “OMG I finally read one of your books and I loved it!”

If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be? Uh… are there other options? Kidding. Well before this I was a stay home mom and it worked well for me. I’d also love to give musical theater a shot. Broadway would be fun!

What inspired you to write Happily Ever After?

Um…. Actually, that would be a who, not a what. Who inspired me to write this book was my personal assistant Karie. Lol. No really. I get so many requests for a sequel or an epilogue to Cinder & Ella. I never planned to write one, but then Karie somehow talked me into it. She reminded me how much I love Brian and Ella, and got me all pumped up to write them again. You all owe this book to her because I wouldn’t have written it if not for her.

What scene was your favorite to write?

Hmm, Well, without giving away any spoilers, my favorite scenes were all the ones where Ella and Brian got some time to themselves. The two of them have a bit of a chaotic life in the book, and those moments where it slowed down and was just the two of them are my favorite. I think that’s why you really get to see Cinder & Ella shine. When nobody’s watching them, it’s easy to see why they’re so perfect for each other and remember why we love them so much.

Who is your favorite—Brian or Ella? Pshhh. That totally depends on which one of them I’m dealing with and how they are treating me at the time. Kind of like my kids, it’s hard to play favorites, but well-behaved characters are usually higher on my list than the difficult ones.

What’s coming next? What are you working on now?

Well, those are two different answers. Right now, I’m not working on anything. I got very sick back in December, spent a lot of January in the hospital, and I’m still in recovery. That’s why Happily Ever After got delayed from its original Valentine’s Day release date. It’s been a hard few months on me and my family, and I’m not better yet. It’s going to be a long time before I feel like my old self again. Unfortunately, because of that, I’ve decided that I’ll be taking this entire year off from writing, if not more. There’s going to be a Kelly Oram shortage for a while.

HOWEVER, I do have some good news. I did have one other manuscript that was finished before I got sick and it’ll be releasing this summer. It’s called The Ghost of You and Me, and it’s a young adult drama romance. In grand Kelly Oram fashion, it’ll make you laugh, cry, and swoon. (Mostly cry this time.) It’s about a girl whose boyfriend died, and he comes back as a ghost a year later to take care of some unfinished business because he can’t find rest in the after life. Only his “unfinished business” seems to be setter his girlfriend up with his old best friend. This one’s a story about overcoming grief, finding redemption for past mistakes, and the healing power of friendship and love. The official release date is June 20, 2017 and it’s up for pre-order already: GHOST_cover_small

The tragic death of Spencer Schott unravels the lives of the two people he loved most—his girlfriend, Bailey, and his best friend, Wes. Secrets and guilt from that fateful night keep both Bailey and Wes from overcoming Spencer’s loss and moving on with their lives.

Now, nearly a year later, both Bailey and Wes are still so broken over what happened that Spencer can’t find peace in the afterlife. In order to put his soul to rest, he’s given one chance to come back and set things right…even if that means setting up his girlfriend with his best friend.

With the emotional resonance of Jellicoe Road and the magical realism of The Lovely Bones, The Ghost of You and Me is a story about overcoming grief, finding redemption for past mistakes, and the healing power of friendship and love. Fans of John Green, Sarah Dessen, and Nicholas Sparks are sure to love this haunting new tale from Kelly Oram.

Coming June 20, 2017  PRE-ORDER NOW!

 

HEA Delay

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Hi there, Kelly Oram fans! This is Karie, Kelly’s intrepid personal assistant. (Ha! I love being in charge of writing the blog posts. I can call myself all sorts of wonderful things. )

So, an announcement: Happily Ever After has been delayed until further notice. Kelly hit a snag and she has gone dark to get some time and space to work it all out. She’s coping, her family is fine, and a meteor did NOT hit their house. Just in case you were wondering.

I have no further information, except to say that while you, dear fan, may feel some disappointment, complaining on Kelly’s various social media pages will not speed up the production process. In fact, it may very well slow it down. Hugs and positive thoughts, on the other hand, are ALWAYS welcome and very uplifting.

Thank you for your patience and concern and for showing Kelly so much love. I will keep you all updated. Promise.

Exclusive sneak peek of Happily Ever After!

As a special Christmas gift, I’m offering a limited time exclusive sneak peek of Happily Ever After to all of my newsletter subscribers. Those who are already subscribed to my monthly newsletter, along with those who subscribe during the month of December, will receive the first TWO chapters of the new book. And just in case you missed it at the Cinder & Ella anniversary party back in October, I’ll add the 30 Cinder & Ella bonus pages from Brian’s point of view!

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Happily Ever After isn’t up for preorder yet, so make sure you sign up for the newsletter so you’ll be notified as soon as it’s available. And remember, my email subscribers and Reader Squad members get fist dibs on launch team opportunities!

ALSO, I’m shouting out to all the bloggers out there–if you’re interested in helping me with promotions and the such, and haven’t signed up already, please sign up for my blogger email list. This email list is for book bloggers who would like to be notified when I have advanced reader copies of my books available for review (DIGITAL COPIES ONLY), and also when I have things like cover reveals, blog tours, and author events coming up. I will never give out your email to anyone, and I will only contact you for these types of events. Thank you for all your support! SIGN UP HERE.

All right, I’m done with the shameless plugging. How about I leave you with a Happily Ever After teaser!

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