New Release Blitz for Tomboy by Janelle Reston (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Tomboy

Author: Janelle Reston

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: March 19, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 17000

Genre: romance, historical, LGBT, Historical, lesbian, 1950’s, tomboy, student, blue collar, mechanic, NASA, scientist, friends to lovers

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Synopsis

Some kids’ heads are in the clouds. Harriet Little’s head is in outer space.

In 1950s America, everyone is expected to come out of a cookie-cutter mold. But Harriet prefers the people who don’t, like her communist-sympathizer father and her best friend Jackie, a tomboy who bucks the school dress code of skirts and blouses in favor of T-shirts and blue jeans. Harriet realizes she’s also different when she starts to swoon over Rosemary Clooney instead of Rock Hudson—and finds Sputnik and sci-fi more fascinating than sock hops.

Before long, Harriet is secretly dating the most popular girl in the school. But she soon learns that real love needs a stronger foundation than frilly dresses and feminine wiles.

Excerpt

Tomboy
Janelle Reston © 2018
All Rights Reserved

The first time I met Jackie, I thought she was a boy. Of course, she was only eight then, an age when most humans would still be fairly androgynous if our society didn’t have the habit of primping us up in clothes that point in one direction or the other.

Jackie was in straight-legged dungarees, a checkered button-down shirt, and a brown leather belt with crossed rifles embossed on the brass buckle. Her hair was short, trimmed above the ears.

“Who’s that new boy?” my friend Shelley whispered as we settled into our desks. It was the first day of fourth grade, and Mrs. Baumgartner had made folded-paper name placards for each seat so we’d know where to go. Shelley always sat right in front of me because our last names were next to each other in the alphabet. She was Kramer; I was Little.

I looked at the blond cherub in the front row. He—as I thought Jackie was at the time—had his gaze set toward the ceiling, eyes tracing the portraits of the US presidents that hung at the top of the wall. A cowlick stuck up from the back of his head. He reminded me of Dennis the Menace, the mischievous star of my new favorite cartoon strip, which had debuted in our local paper that summer. I liked the way Dennis talked back to adults but somehow never got in trouble for it. I wished I had the same courage.

Mrs. Baumgartner walked into the room. The class fell silent and we straightened in our chairs, facing her. “Good morning, class. I’m your teacher for this year, Mrs. Baumgartner.”

“Good morning, Mrs. Baumgartner,” we answered in unison. She spelled her name on the chalkboard in cursive and asked us to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Back then, the Pledge didn’t have the gist of a prayer like it does today; “under God” wasn’t added to “one nation indivisible” until three years later, after Eisenhower became president. I wiggled my toes around in my hand-me-down saddle shoes as we recited the words.

The trouble began when Mrs. Baumgartner started to take attendance. “Jacqueline Auglaize?”

“Here, Mrs. Baumgartner,” Dennis the Menace answered from the front row.

Mrs. Baumgartner narrowed her eyes. “New year at a new school, and we’re starting with the practical jokes already?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Will the real Jacqueline Auglaize please speak up? This is your only warning.” Mrs. Baumgartner’s eyes scanned the room. I craned my neck around. I hadn’t noticed any new girls in the classroom before our teacher’s arrival, but maybe I’d been distracted by the Dennis the Menace boy.

“I’m Jackie Auglaize, ma’am,” Dennis the Menace piped up again.

Mrs. Baumgartner’s face screwed up as if she’d accidentally sucked on a lemon. “What you are is on the way to the principal’s office, young man.”

“I’m not—”

“And a detention for talking back.”

Mrs. Baumgartner called on one of the other boys to escort the new, nameless student to his punishment. From chin to scalp, Dennis the Menace’s face turned red as a beet. His flushed ears looked almost purple against his pale hair.

Kids playing pranks didn’t blush like that.

“I think that really is a girl,” I whispered to Shelley. But if she heard, she didn’t respond. She knew better than to turn around in her seat when a teacher was already angry.

An hour later, Mrs. Baumgartner was quizzing us on our classroom rules when the school secretary appeared at the door. In tow was a student in a frilly cap-sleeved blouse, knee-length blue corduroy jumper with a flared skirt, lace-trimmed white bobby socks, a pair of shiny black Mary Janes—and short blonde hair.

The cowlick stood like a sentinel at the back of her scalp despite the hair polish that had clearly been combed through since we’d last seen her.

An audible gasp filled the classroom. Actually, it was multiple gasps, but they happened in such synchronization that they had the effect of a single, sustained note.

“Mrs. Baumgartner,” the secretary said, “Jacqueline Auglaize is ready to return to the classroom. We’ve explained the school dress code to her mother. The behavior of this morning won’t be repeated.”

“Thank you, Miss Hamilton. Welcome back, Jacqueline.”

Titters filled the room as Jacqueline walked toward her desk. Mrs. Baumgartner slapped her ruler against her desk. “Does anyone else want a detention?”

We went quiet. Detentions are never an auspicious way to start a new school year.

We spent the rest of the morning learning how to protect ourselves from atomic explosions. Mrs. Baumgartner said this knowledge could save us now that the Soviets had the bomb. “When an air raid siren goes off or you see a bright flash of light, duck and cover underneath a table or desk, inside a corridor, or next to a strong brick wall. Then pull your sweater or coat up to cover the back of your neck and head,” she explained.

We all squatted under our desks as instructed. My father said the Russians weren’t stupid enough to bomb us, that they loved the common people and wanted to protect us. But Mrs. Baumgartner seemed to think they were. She went on in excruciating detail about the things that could happen to us if we didn’t duck and cover. Glass from broken windows could fly in our faces, we could get a terrible sunburn from the blast; pieces of ceiling might drop on our heads. I wasn’t sure whom to believe about the bomb—my dad or Mrs. Baumgartner. I didn’t want to think about it. I shut out my teacher’s voice and stared at my scuffed saddle shoes, pondering how a boy could magically turn into a girl in the wink of an eye.

“She’s not a girl,” Shelley insisted as we walked out to morning recess. “Girls can’t have hair like that.”

“They can if they cut it.”

“But no mother would let a girl wear her hair so short.”

“The school wouldn’t let a boy wear a dress to class.”

Shelley must have been won over by my logic, because the next thing that came out of her mouth was, “Maybe she has a little brother who likes to stick gum in people’s hair.” Shelley’s brother had done that to her once, but since he only got it on the tail end of her braid, she hadn’t lost much length to the scissors when her mother cut it out. “Or she got lice. Yuck.”

I didn’t like the direction of Shelley’s last comment. As it was, the new girl was guaranteed to have very few friends after the morning’s clothing incident. If the lice rumor spread, she’d have no friends at all. I’d been new once too.

“She doesn’t look dirty,” I said. “Maybe her hair got caught in an escalator and they had to cut it off.” I was terrified of escalators. My mother had warned me never to play around on one or my clothes would get snagged between the steps and I’d be pulled in, then smashed as flat as a pancake. Back when she worked in a department store, before marrying my dad, she saw a lady get caught by the scarf in an escalator’s moving handrail, and it would have been death by strangling if an alert gentleman with a penknife hadn’t been nearby to free her. I still get a little on edge every time I step onto one.

We got in line to play hopscotch on a board a couple other girls had drawn earlier that morning. I looked around. The whole school was out on the playground, and it was harder than I would have expected to find a short-haired girl in a blue jumper. There were lots of blue corduroy jumpers darting around the swings and monkey bars and jungle gym. Wanamaker’s must have featured them in its back-to-school sale that year. My dress wasn’t new. It was a hand-me-down from my older sister, with a ribbon tie and a skirt made with less fabric than the newer fashions. Shelley and I had done a test run of our first-day outfits the previous week, and no matter how fast I spun around, my skirt failed to billow as dramatically as Shelley’s.

Still, I tried to make the skirt swing gracefully as I hopped down the squares. I had no desire to be dainty, but I liked the aesthetic of fabric twirling in the air. We went through the hopscotch line four times before I finally spotted Jackie. She was over by the fence, poking at the dirt with a stick. Alone.

That last bit was no surprise.

It took three more rounds of hopscotch before I worked up the nerve to go find out what she was doing.

“Where are you going?” Shelley called as I marched off.

I didn’t answer her, afraid I’d lose my momentum. It was risky talking to an outcast. On the one hand, it was the only way to turn her into not-an-outcast. On the other hand, it might turn me into one too.

“What are you doing?”

Jackie looked up. “Thinking about digging a hole to China.”

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Meet the Author

Janelle Reston lives in a northern lake town with her partner and their black cats. She loves watching Battlestar Galactica and queering gender. You can keep up with her at http://www.janellereston.com.

 

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Release Blitz for Sweet William by Diane Hartsock (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Sweet William

Author: Dianne Hartsock

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: October 30, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 15800

Genre: Historical, student, dub con/non con, historical, abduction, romance, gay

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Synopsis

William Wilkerson leads the life of the privileged rich. Head of his father’s shipping business, he indulges to his heart’s content in the pleasures of the flesh with Boston’s finest young men.

That is, until he reunites with Fredrick: his former tutor and the one man who captured his heart. But William’s father has declared Fredrick off limits. And Fredrick, himself, believes he’s beneath the attention of the Wilkerson heir.

After having lost his current pupil to graduation, and with no prospects of a replacement, Frederick is homeless, hungry, and easy pickings for the men on the docks. When Frederick is shanghaied into service on William’s own merchant ship, will William discover his plight in time to rescue him?

Excerpt

Sweet William
Dianne Hartsock © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Fredrick held up his glass and stared at the candle’s flame through the amber liquid. He took a sip and savored the rich, biting taste on his tongue, welcoming the burn down his throat. This was the very last drink he could afford, and he had to enjoy it.

A giggle erupted from someone out of sight on the back staircase, and a smile tugged his lips, despite the dire state of his wallet. The laugh had been carefree, joyous, naughty. Fredrick shifted on the cushioned bench. The lunch hour had passed, and he was the only customer in the dining room. He wondered if the innkeeper up front would notice if he adjusted his cramped cock as it throbbed in sympathy with the bright laughter that reminded him of his own ardent affair.

Rather than risk it, he watched the fruit vender outside the window beguile a customer. Another giggle and stifled moan floated down to him and he grinned, even though the laughter emphasized his own loneliness. It had been far too long since he’d had someone in his bed.

Fredrick looked up at the clatter of footsteps, distracted from his memory of lush lips, white skin, and wide hazel eyes. He caught a glimpse of red hair and an embarrassed cheek before the gentleman crammed a hat on his head.

“Damned Wilkerson,” the man muttered as he passed him, face averted.

With conscious effort, Fredrick loosened his hold on his glass, but he had no way to stop the wild hammering of his heart. Wilkerson? Could it really be…? Perhaps not, but the Wilkerson family he knew had strong ties to Boston. At least, the father often traveled there. But did William come now? He had to know. Before he lost his courage, he stood and swallowed the last of the brandy and then crossed the room to the staircase.

He shook his head at his eagerness. It had been three years, after all, and they’d parted in anger. Would William acknowledge him? A man stepped onto the landing and Fredrick allowed his gaze to travel up the white spats and checkered trousers. Blood heated his face when he found the silk vest and shirt open at the throat to expose soft white skin.

A sigh brought his gaze up to the attractive face that stirred his dreams. Rich brown curls surrounded lovely hazel eyes and full, pouting lips. Panic swept the pretty face, and then a delighted smile revealed the even white teeth that had nipped his collarbone on more than one glorious occasion.

“Freddie, is it you?”

He hasn’t forgotten! Fredrick stored away the joy to visit later. God knew his pleasures were few and far between these days. “How are you, William? I had no idea you came to Boston.”

“On occasion.” William stepped off the landing, only a slight sway in his lean body betraying his inebriation. Fredrick’s heart skipped. The top of William’s head barely reached his shoulders—perfect for Fredrick to rest his chin on if he gathered him close. To his surprise, William didn’t hesitate, clasping Fredrick in his arms and stretching for a light kiss. Fredrick’s hold tightened instinctively, but William didn’t seem to mind, winding his arms around Fredrick’s neck. He licked Fredrick’s lips, his sweet tongue seeking entrance.

Fredrick laughed, breathless with the need that swept him, but moved his head back, denying the kisses sure to topple the defenses he’d built against this man.

He chuckled wryly at William’s delicious pout. “You promised not to tease me.”

“That was years ago. I made no promises today.” William nibbled at Fredrick’s lips, but eased away when he resisted.

Fredrick glanced over his shoulder at the innkeeper watching them. “William, what are you about? Anyone could have seen you. This is dangerous—”

“It was only a few kisses, but perhaps you’re right.” A scowl darkened William’s face. “The proprietor is paid handsomely for his discretion, but it’s possible I’m growing careless.”

Distracted by William’s open shirt, Fredrick closed his hands into fists to resist the urge to embrace him again. Memories stirred of the slide of fabric under his fingers: images of cool sheets and creamy skin. He longed to run his tongue down the exposed flesh of William’s neck and revisit the delights he’d enjoyed, once upon a time.

“How is Lord Wilkerson these days?” he asked instead, throwing that barrier between them. A shutter seemed to close on William’s eyes, his gaze becoming less warm. In sudden panic, Fredrick touched his arm, afraid William would walk away. “Forgive me. This is hard for me.”

He trembled when William put a hand over his. “For me, as well, darling. I had no idea you lived in Boston.”

“Or you would have stayed away?” Fredrick regretted the jealous words the instant they left his lips and looked aside to hide the blush he knew reddened his face. He always played the fool with William.

“My father’s been ill for some time. I’ve taken control of the shipping portion of the estate and come to Boston from time to time to check the wares from the Orient. We managed without incident these past ten years, since eighteen seventy-four, but recently we’ve had an increase in damaged goods. My presence at the docks seems to deter clumsiness.”

“Of course.” Fredrick chewed his lips as he searched for something to say, his heart heavy.

“And what is my former teacher doing in this wild town?” William asked, his voice kind.

Fredrick shrugged, not about to tell him he’d run as far from William as he could when Lord Wilkerson had humiliated and dismissed him. “I’ve been tutoring Lord Anadaile’s daughter.”

“For truth? That must be hell on earth. A more spoiled child I’ve yet to meet.”

“She has a good heart, but this position is soon over, anyway. Miss Cynthia comes of age next month, with her debutant party in June. No need for me after that.”

A cough from the innkeeper at the far end of the room caught their attention. As if recalling his state of undress, William buttoned his shirt and did up his vest. Fredrick groaned inwardly as he remembered doing similar service for William after an afternoon spent undressing him.

William gave a brilliant smile as if sharing the memory and took Fredrick’s hand. “Will you have a drink with me at the club?”

Longing almost overcame discretion, but the barrier of their positions couldn’t be ignored, by either side. “Forgive me. I’m not dressed appropriately for your friends.”

William’s beautiful eyes widened as if seeing the frayed brown suit for the first time. Fredrick’s heart warmed. William had the fine trait of seeing a man behind his outward trappings. Rank held little interest for him. For an instant, the ugly thought that William could well afford the fine principle pricked him, but he knew it was his own poverty that prompted the emotion. William had a true heart.

He watched in fascination as a blush tinted William’s porcelain cheeks. William kept his gaze on their clasped hands, and his words started an ache in Fredrick’s chest. “Damn convention and society can go to hell. I’ve missed you, Freddie. I want to see you. Not at the club, and not here.” A flirtatious glance. “I wouldn’t want to bring scandal to my favorite tutor.”

“It’s better we don’t—”

“Probably.”

William leaned up and kissed Fredrick full on the mouth. A sweet tongue slid passed his lips to tangle with his, tasting and teasing. Caught unawares, Fredrick opened to him, drowned in memories of sultry afternoons, bodies entwined. William’s scent surrounded him, spiced with tobacco and whiskey and expensive cologne. Underneath, there was the heady fragrance of heated skin.

Fredrick groaned as lust swamped his defenses. His cock swelled to life for its lover, ached for the touch it had missed for far too many lonely nights. He returned William’s kiss with fervor, forgetting where they were, his position, everything but the need to taste again this man he loved with all his being.

William broke off their kiss and leaned against the wall, his chest heaving. They stared at one another and Fredrick bit hard on his lip. Dearest Lord! William stood before him, everything he desired in life, intelligent and beautiful. Mine! Fredrick’s heart broke, while agony twisted in his gut. He had nothing to offer the eldest son of one of New England’s finest families. He’d known that three years ago. Nothing had changed his circumstances.

William had always been able to read him, and he set his pretty lips in a firm line. “I’m in Boston through the week. I want to see you, Freddie. Please don’t be cruel. Meet me at the pier in two hours.”

“But—”

His protest went unheard. With a flash of anger in his eyes, William strode past him without another word.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Dianne is the author of paranormal/suspense, fantasy adventure, m/m romance, the occasional thriller, and anything else that comes to mind. She lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon with her incredibly patient husband, who puts up with the endless hours she spends hunched over the keyboard letting her characters play. She says Oregon’s raindrops are the perfect setting in which to write. There’s something about being cooped up in the house with a fire crackling on the hearth and a cup of hot coffee warming her hands, which kindles her imagination.

Currently, Dianne works as a floral designer in a locally-owned gift shop. Which is the perfect job for her. When not writing, she can express herself through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage.

Website | Facebook | Twitter |  Instagram | Pinterest

 

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Blog Tour and Giveaway for Permanent Jet Lag by A.N. Casey (author interview and excerpt)

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Title:  Permanent Jet Lag

Author: A.N. Casey

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 29, 2017

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 87000

Genre: Contemporary, literary, Student, family, coming of age, alcohol use, illness/disease, tear-jerker

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~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with A.N. Casey~

 

What’s the one thing, you can’t live without?

I’d say my water bottle because I have that thing with me constantly and get very moody when thirsty. Like Hangry but Thangry maybe? Plus, bonus: it gives me something to do with my hands, and as a fidgety anxious person, having something to hold onto during conversations—especially lulls in conversation—keeps me calm. 

What internet site do you surf to the most?

Tumblr. I have a blog there where I work with other writers to help out on new projects and answers questions (ancwritingresources.tumblr.com) and also have a couple writing blogs that just serve as a good creative outlet (and an excuse to put off writing the stuff I’m supposed to be writing).

If you had your own talk show, who would your first three author guests be and why?

The easy one that is probably over said is J.K. Rowling because I’d like to ask what it feels like to have seen your story not only turned into a movie but a theme park; what’s it like knowing that nearly everyone in the world has heard of your character even if they haven’t read your book. Malinda Lo because I’d want to ask her about Ash, about recreating this story everyone knows—Cinderella—in a brand new way and just congratulate her on what a good book that was. I mean, that’s my dream, moving forward, to begin to tell these stories that “old as time” but with the LGBT representation we deserve. And for the same reason, my third guest would be Madeline Miller. The Song of Achilles was a real game changer for me, so many of my favorite things—LGBT YA novels meets Greek mythology—all put together in such a beautiful way. And she’s not even a novelist by trade! I’d want to ask her what it was like to write that book and just get to learn more about that process.

When you got your very first manuscript acceptance letter, what was your initial reaction and who was the first person you told?

My reaction was disbelief, without a doubt. There comes a point after countless rejections when you just get used to it; without feeling, you read the nice form letter and move on with your day. So when I got a letter back, I assumed it was more of the same. I had to read it over three times to realize it said “yes” and not “no.” I told my best friend first, and then about 48 hours later, I actually got excited when I fully realized it was real.

 

 

Synopsis

Nineteen-year-old Lucas Burke prefers being alone. He likes the silence, and he loves not having to care about anyone else’s problems: the less he’s forced to feel, the better. But after a year of college-induced isolation from everyone he used to know, the wedding of a former classmate sends Lucas back home, and that means reconciling with a group of friends that now might as well be strangers.

His sister hardly knows him, his “genius” best friend is nothing more than an addict, and his ex-boyfriend is still in a coma. All the while, wedding preparations send Lucas head first into a relationship with the groom’s best man—a recently cancer-free ex-Olympian who can’t stop talking.

Lucas knows that if he wants to survive the summer, he’ll have to learn to be a friend again, but it doesn’t come easy, and it might already be too late.

Excerpt

Permanent Jet Lag
A.N. Casey © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

96 Days Before

On the last day of my freshman year of college, my parents—dressed head to toe in the obnoxious green and gold colors of my school—arrived on the threshold of my dorm room with five extra-large boxes for packing, a tin of mom-baked chocolate chip cookies to cure my assumed “home sick blues,” and two snippets of hometown gossip for my ears only. When you leave home for college, there’s a certain assumption that says you will learn to be independent. You do your own laundry, you buy your own meals, and your parents never come knocking on your door to ask if you’ve done your homework or to ground you for coming home past curfew. You’re alone—blissfully independent and free.

My mother had other ideas. Ideas that filled the voicemail on my cell phone until I could no longer receive friends’ missed calls. Ideas that left a pile of cookie tins in the corner of the room and a dozen more care packages under the bed. Even now, as I finished the bulk of my packing, a poorly knit mom-made sweater hung limp over the side of the latest care package, threads unraveling and fraying in every direction with a note pinned to its sleeve with words I could not remember—words I likely never read.

My roommate sat on the other side of the room upon his stripped-down bed, munching away at the first cookie handed to him. He wore a thick pair of headphones that flattened his usually unruly brown hair. Though the cord was not connected to anything, my mother seemed pleased with this sense of security and began her “top secret” gossip. As though my roommate would care at all about the small-town news of Franklin Creek, California.

“Rylie Graham is getting married!” she squealed. Despite her rising age, my mother’s face still lit up with all the excitement and energy of the young woman I could just barely remember from the photographs on the walls at home. Today, my mother was plump and nearly always flushed in her cheeks. The freckles on her nose were faded underneath a splotchy tan that extended only to the bottom of her neck, and her clothes, though neatly pressed, still appeared crumpled by her slouch and the endless movement of her limbs. She went on and on about the wedding, the beautiful invitations, and the color schemes she hoped they’d use, how she could still remember Rylie as a baby, crawling around at the neighborhood block parties.

I was already aware of this news, of course. The invitation had arrived in the mail two days ago, vividly pink with a handful of red hearts and almost a dozen purple and green flowers decorating the edges. Unless the groom was a botanist, there was no inkling of his presence in the design. To top it off, at the very bottom of the paper, beneath the RSVP notification, was a dried crimson lipstick mark. Nine months since I’d seen her, and I could still vividly imagine Rylie prepping her mouth with that darkened color she had so adored in high school and kissing each invitation one by one.

The invitation was now crumpled up in my suitcase with the rest of my belongings, but the image of it had not left my mind for a second.

“Isn’t it great, Lucas?” my mother asked, and I nodded. “She’ll look so beautiful as a bride.” Another nod. “Just wait until you meet the groom. What a charming young man.” At this, I fidgeted with the zipper on my luggage and forced a smile.

My father, lounging lazily upon my still-sheeted bed, gave me a knowing smile over the top of his third cookie. My mother promptly smacked it out of his hand.

“That’s enough, Tim. Didn’t you hear a word the doctors said? I think one heart attack is quite enough for one year, don’t you?”

“I thought two would make a more interesting story at this year’s Christmas party,” my father replied, grinning.

And so began an argument that lasted through the remainder of my packing, the long trek downstairs, and into the oversized van waiting for us in the parking lot. It continued as my father stabbed the key into the ignition, as my mother pulled on her seat belt, and as I peered through the window and watched San Francisco—all its big buildings and bustling bridges—disappear into the night.

By the time we pulled into the driveway of my childhood home, my parents were just progressing toward the makeup phase of their disagreement, or, as I’d dubbed it over the years, the honeymoon period. They sat, arms tangled in the front seat, kissing and whispering loving platitudes into each other’s mouths with such nauseating enthusiasm that sitting through it was quite like staring at the sun: tolerance came in small doses. I left the car and dragged my luggage up the porch steps alone.

I had come home exactly twice since leaving for college, once for spring break and once after my father’s heart attack, and I was greeted the same each time. Homecoming generally went like this: my oldest sister, now sixteen, would nod her head in my direction over the top of her cell phone, give me a hug if I came close enough, and then resume her texting. My brothers, identical in all but their clothing, would rush in for the tackle. And my youngest sister would wave from the couch—a simple twist of her hand—and then return to her TV show. Today it was an old rerun about a teenage spy, and because the theme song was particularly catchy, the wave was even shorter than normal, barely a twitch of her fingertips.

I disappeared into my room.

From the window of my dorm room in the mornings, I could see the wide expanse of the San Francisco landscape for miles, a hundred buildings huddled together against the fading fog, life bustling below. From the window of my hometown bedroom, I could see the neighbor’s pool. A thoroughly unexciting, lifeless pool. As summer had not technically begun, the water that would soon promise endless good times and relief from the heat was still currently abandoned. A heavy pile of leaves covered much of the surface, but through the spaces between, I could make out a glimpse of the water—a murky, untouched green.

Rylie called at half past eleven while I was cleaning the windowsill for the second time. Her voice was shrill and rushed as she screamed into my ear, “Why didn’t you tell me you were home? I had to hear it from my mom, who heard it from your mom, and I feel like I’m in a weird stupid sitcom, because I’m not supposed to be hearing gossip from your mother, Lucas. You’re supposed to tell your friends when you come home. Clay is pissed.”

As she spoke, I tucked the phone between my shoulder and ear. Downstairs, my mom was yelling at the twins, and Dad was swearing about the score of a baseball game. I retreated farther into my room and closed the door.

“Sorry,” I said.

“Sorry?” Rylie let out a long, exasperated sigh, and I thought I could hear her nails tapping against the back of her phone. “Will you meet me somewhere? I haven’t seen you in ages, and everyone misses you. Please?”

“Okay.”

“Is this how this is going to be now? One-worded conversations?”

“Probably.”

Rylie laughed, a deep, chest-rattling sort of sound that in no way matched the high, squeaky pitch of her voice. It was for reasons like this I’d stopped trying to understand her in the third grade.

“You’re an ass, Lucas. Meet me at the flower shop across from the grocery store, okay? Ten minutes, don’t be late. Oh, and Todney is going to be there. I can’t wait for you to meet him. Don’t be late.”

“We have a grocery store?”

“Goodbye, Lucas.”

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Meet the Author

A.N. Casey is a Californian born and bred writer with very few interests beyond the literary. As a former copywriter and a current freelance writer and editor, Casey was asked what he likes to do outside of writing for work and responded only with: “write more”—much to the disappointment of his colleagues who had hoped he might be more interesting. His few attempts to leave his computer or notebooks behind have led to an interest in camping, traveling, and very bad attempts at cooking. He is currently studying to become a teacher where he hopes his fondness for the red pen will not make him too many enemies. Above all, Casey believes that storytelling has the power to shape lives, and that young people deserve to see themselves represented on the page in every shape and form until no one is left feeling alone in this wide and confusing world. You can find A.N. on Tumblr.

Tour Schedule

5/29    MM Book Escape

5/29    MM Good Book Reviews

5/30    Stories That Make You Smile

5/30    Reviews for Book Lovers

5/31    Divine Magazine

5/31    millsylovesbooks

5/31    Love Bytes Reviews

6/1      Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

6/2      Sharing Links and Wisdom

6/2      Happily Ever Chapter

6/2      Bayou Book Junkie

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