First things first, did you see the cover reveal and excerpt from yesterday? It's HERE if you didn't.
Second, feast your eyes on this ...
Have you read ANY of my titles but not left a review on Amazon yet? There are marketing things I can't do without having at least 50+ reviews on my books. I know it takes time, but a quick word is so helpful to #indieauthors.
After the Fall and Austin went #LIVE on iBooks today! I'm so excited to get to share this edgier Rutledge brother story with y'all, but I know my Amazon/Nook/other readers are feeling a little blue at having to wait until 10/26 for their copy.
So, I'm throwing you a small bone. The first 2,000 words of Austin and Cassie's story is below. Enjoy!!
**Fair warning: After The Fall is considered New Adult and the excerpt has some language in it.
The Ending . . .
I blink, setting off a bomb of excruciating pain. A mirror has exploded within my head, the shards tearing fissures through my brain matter, chasing the lurking shadows from my mind.
“He’s waking up. Tell them he’s waking up.”
A voice like a gunshot speaks from above me. Loud. Jolting. I turn away from the noise, and a click reverberates, filling my ears as a searing slice of pain screams up my neck, shooting into my jaw.
The shadows return, pressing me down, down, down. I gasp.
“Hey, dude, don’t move.” I feel a sudden pressure on my forehead. “We’ve called 9-1-1. Stay still.”
My mouth fills with sour bile as I attempt blinking again. My eyes won’t open, not completely. My vision is reduced to a slit of light. A glowing face. No. A face, lit by the glow of a cell phone, and outlined by the night sky. My mouth opens and nothing comes out. My tongue is thick, coated with the tang of metal. I swallow. Blood?
“Is that—” A feminine voice joins the deeper one above me. She’s further away. Standing, maybe? Her gasp is audible. “Ray, that’s Austin Rutledge.”
Ray’s gunshot voice startles me, “Holy—”
Yes. Yes, I’m Austin. What happened? Why won’t the words form?
“What about the other—?” the female’s voice waivers. There’s sniffling. A sharp intake of air. Is she crying? The pressure on my forehead lessens. What did she mean by “the other”? What is “the other”? Answer her question, Ray.
There’s a faint whir of sirens in the distance.
“They’re almost here. Hang in there, man.”
I attempt drawing in a deep breath, wheezing at the pain and lack of oxygen. What is wrong with me? Think, man, think. Where are you?
A scream explodes in my head. A memory.
It’s female and blood-curdling.
“Damn it,” the words tumble from my lips, blood pooling in my mouth. I twist, spitting out the thick warmth, gagging on it, and on the fear in her scream. Dread coils within my gut.
“You shouldn’t move. You could have a spine injury,” the wavering female voice advises. Spinal injury?
My mind scrolls through sounds and images in an attempt at figuring things out. There was a scream—she screamed, didn’t she?
Why can’t I remember?
“What do you think happened?” the girl asks Ray. His reply is a low mumble, their voices fading as the sirens become louder as they come closer.
I blink. I have to concentrate to accomplish the simple movement—my forehead wrinkling, my teeth gritting. I have to force it. Each breath is an order, not an act of human nature.
Ray moves out of my line of sight and I focus on the sky. The night is black. No city lights or buildings. It’s dark pillows of gray clouds painted against an inky sky with pin prick stars peeking in and out of view.
Red flashing lights break into the haze.
I grip at the cold grass beneath me, my fingers digging into the ground for leverage as I attempt sitting up. It’s pointless. My entire left side throbs with pain. I vaguely remember something striking my arm. Do I even have an arm left? I can’t feel it, but I’m pretty sure it’s there. I hope. I know it was there because earlier she was holding onto it. I see it. I see her—laughing up at me, holding my arm, making a joke.
“C-c-c,” the gurgled sound barely touches the air beyond my lips as fire and darkness press down me. Sirens fill the air, much louder now. Doors slam. New voices speak. My eyes slip closed as hands probe. I float between two worlds. Darkness and pain. Darkness fights harder, winning . . . except—
Her scream . . . her voice.
I jerk awake, but don’t move. I’m tied down. Wincing, I force my head to clear. To see. To speak.
“Cassie.” Her name is stronger this time. My chest tightens as though my air has been cut off.
A face appears before me. “There you are. It’s going to be okay, Austin. We’re—”
“Cassie.” Blood dances over my taste buds as I raise my voice. “Where’s Cassie? Where is she?”
The face morphs into a frown, shaking back and forth.
No, don’t shake your head at me. Where’s Cassie?
My body goes weightless. A gurney. An ambulance. The pieces of the puzzle sort themselves, understanding sinking in. I’ve woken to a nightmare. I’m being loaded into an ambulance. I’m broken. The police are here. The medics are here.
She’s not here.
I blink, forcing my eyes wider—and I vomit as the ambulance doors slam closed. A medic tilts the board I’m attached to sideways as the feeling of movement sets in. The ambulance drives away from the wooded field where my body was found, leaving behind the couple who found me. Leaving behind strobes of red and blue lights.
Leaving behind a black body bag.
BEFORE THE FALL
Four months earlier . . .
Every story has a beginning,
But most of us walk in at the middle . . .
What a shitty day. Those legs, though. They have the potential to turn it all around. I lean my shoulder against the cool metal shelving to my right and stare, blatantly. This is the best damn view I’ve had all day.
The legs aren’t long and lean so much as shapely and—thanks to the position of their owner—shown to perfection. She’s balancing atop a black stool, her body stretched from her toes to her fingertips as she reaches for the top of a ten-foot shelving unit. Her skirt—probably an acceptable length when standing flat—lifts dangerously high, allowing a glimpse of smooth thighs nearly up to where they met her ass.
Hell yeah, the legs are worth the stop.
I’m on a quick library run. Grab a book for class and head to dinner. Fifteen minutes, tops. I’m exhausted. My plan for tonight is to grab dinner, knock out my assignments, and throw my ass in bed. But, like everything else about this day, I have no luck. Apparently finding a simple book requires the freaking FBI. I searched row after row for fifteen minutes before giving up and heading to the student desk for assistance. Or I was seeking assistance before I passed the higher reference stacks near the back of the building and caught this pair of smooth legs near the end of the aisle I’m currently standing in. The angel on my shoulder—and I’m surprised he’s still there—reminds me of my original intent for being here. Go find your book, Austin. But the devil—oh yeah, he’s a sneaky son of a bitch—has me admiring the view with the appreciative eye of a connoisseur.
The object of my attention, and a whole lot of lust, drops to the flats of her feet with a heavy exhale. She shakes her arms at her sides before stretching up once again. The girl is determined, and I’m transfixed. She can’t be more than five feet tall. Her body, like her legs, is shapely. All of her curves are in all the right places. A curtain of long hair conceals everything else, the dark curls bouncing side-to-side as she struggles. She grunts once more, flipping her head back, and the curtain parts. The strands slide behind her shoulder—a shampoo commercial couldn’t have caught the motion any better—and my breath catches.
I know this girl.
Neither her legs nor her ass hold my attention anymore. No, I’m caught by everything about her. I don’t know her name, but she intrigued me the moment I spied her reading at a corner table a few nights ago. Her focus is commendable. She sat entranced by her books for hours, never noticing the people around her. Four days into classes and I’ve seen her here three times. Always at the same table. Always focused. Always alone.
“Excuse me,” I call down the aisle before thinking better of it. “I’m looking for a book.”
Twisting my way, she braces her palms against the shelving unit, and my breathing becomes difficult as her eyes meet mine. “I’m sorry?”
Damn, I’m turned on by the mere sound of her husky, irritated voice. This girl could wrap me around her finger with one lusty sigh. I have no sense of self-preservation, so I move deeper into the aisle and close the space between us.
“The system says it’s in, but I can’t locate it.” I hold out the slip of paper with the shelving location.
Dark brows lift under black-framed glasses as she studies me. I’ve seen her with and without those glasses. Either way, she’s adorable. It’s not the way I typically describe a girl I’m interested in, but that’s her to a T. Adorable.
“And I was hoping you could check behind the circulation desk. You work here don’t you?”
Her cheeks puff, a disgruntled breath blowing from her mouth as her eyes roll heavenward and she lowers from her toes. “Actually, I don’t.” From the look on her face, I can tell she’s restraining herself from calling me an idiot, or worse. Her irritation with my interruption is palatable, and I grin.
“Oh, my bad.” I cock my head to the side. “I see you here all the time. I thought you must—”
“Of course,” she nods, her lips twisting as she returns her attention to the shelves before her. “A girl can’t possibly be at the library to study?”
A witty retort slips through my mind as my hungry gaze locks on her stretched calves once again. The way her muscles bunch and lengthen, pure lust shoots through me as my mouth goes dry.
“Here, let me give you a hand.” It’s either that or I grab some popcorn and enjoy the show. Moving toward her is a win-win option.
The heel of her blue flat pops off her right foot as she teeters on the stool. Her shield of hair flips over her shoulder. “You work here?” The sarcasm in her voice is thick as her brown eyes meet mine. “I mean, you’re here all the time.”
I halt mid-step. Well, hell.
“Touché,” I drawl, biting the edge of my tongue as she resumes her search. Stepping back, I linger, watching her. I swear she squares her shoulders as her head tilts sideways and she struggles, reading the titles inches above her eyeline. Okay, I’ll make her sweat. Make her ask for help. She can pull books down one by one until she finds what she needs, or she can ask me.
“Do you mind?”
Her frustration propels me forward. “Not at all.” I reach up without permission, my fingers skimming the book spines on the top shelf as I move closer, brushing her back lightly with my free hand. “Which do you need?”
Wobbling, she stumbles to the ground as though my touch repulses her. “I wasn’t asking for help.”
“Which do you need?” I repeat.
“None, thank you.” She inches back, her tone formal. I grin, but my boyish smile doesn’t dent her facade.
“Oh, c’mon, I’m a foot taller than you. Let me help find your book.” The words chase after her as she turns, hurrying down the aisle and out of sight.
Well, that’s an ego crusher.
Shoving my hands in my pockets, I return to the main aisle and glance around the nearby stacks. There’s no one around. No witnesses to my humiliating rejection. My phone vibrates in my pocket and I fish it out to find Jules’ face glowing up at me. For the first time since we ran into each other in July, I don’t answer her call. When she shoots me a text a moment later asking about dinner, I ignore it. All I can think of is the tiny little spitfire who blew me off moments ago, and it makes me question what I’ve been doing with Jules.
My favorite Texas boy, West Rutledge, wrote a little blog post the other day for an event. In case you missed it I thought I would share here...
Follow high school seniors, Jules and West, as they put their lives back together after a tornado changes their world.
See that picture up there? That’s Jules and I walking into the sunset. It wasn’t always like that for us though….
Oh, I’m West, West Rutledge and I guess I’m here to tell you about our story. Jules and I that is. So here it goes… we both grew up in the small town of Tyler, Texas. You’ve heard about Texas right? There are three things you can count on – the heat, the cattle and Friday night lights.
Football is a way of life, especially when you’re from a small town, so of course our story starts there. On a Friday night in August, after the first game of the year…
“Still can’t miss a game?” Jeff asks as he jumps onto the bench of the picnic table at The Ice Shack and sits next to me. Students from Hillsdale have been showing up in droves for the past twenty minutes. The Shack is always the place to hang after Friday night games, especially the first game of the year.
I shrug; he knows me well.
“Why do you keep showing up if it bothers you?”
“Who said it bothers me?” I ask with another shrug, and Jeff raises his brow. “Whatever… you played a good game. A little weak to the right, but you keep it up and A&M won’t regret recruiting you.”
“It’s a long year, man,” Jeff says with a rueful shake of his head. “Senior year.”
“Senior year,” I repeat, sending a knowing smile his way. “Hard to believe we’ve almost made it.”
“Psh… hell, it’s hard to believe we’ve survived this long. Hey, why don’t you come hang out with the living for a change tonight?” Jeff mocks, nodding toward the crowd of jocks and students from Hillsdale who are hanging around the parking lot. I’m spared the need to refuse by the uptick in crowd noise as the sudden blare of a car horn pulls Jeff’s attention.
With a smile, Jeff hops down from the table and motions to a car sitting in the middle of the parking lot. “Gotta run, my girl’s here.”
“You and Katie? Again, man?” I groan, knowing it’s pointless to argue. “Will you ever learn?” I call after him as I survey the scene behind his back.
“Come over,” Jeff offers again, and I shake my head. “Don’t pretend those little skirts have no effect on you, Rutledge. I know where your eyes focus.” Jeff shouts with laughter as he jogs backward to join the others. I flip him off before turning my back to the crowd.
Instead of joining them, I remain in my spot on the table looking to the left of the Shack as I out into the shadowy field in front of me. The late summer night is humid and a trail of sweat trickles down the small of my back as a light breeze picks up. It’s the last weekend of summer break. Senior year starts Monday and I’m not sure if I’m relieved or not. I have no concrete plans for my life after high school. Not anymore. I’ll go to A&M - because that’s what Rutledge boys do - but I won’t be doing what I’d always planned. Instead I’ll spend my Saturday’s cheering on Jeff, my best friend, and my brother Austin as they chase their dreams without me. That thought leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. A hollow feeling sinks into my chest and I push it aside as my ears pick up the cheers and name calling around me. Funny enough, I don’t feel as though I’m missing out on anything. I like it here in the dark corner away from the rest of the kids I’ve known most of my life. Flipping a small flask around between my fingers, I contemplate what Jeff said when he first showed up. Going to football games, the ones I should be playing in, doesn’t bother me. Not really… at least not usually. It’s been four years since I took an official snap, threw a pass under the Friday night lights, and hoisted a teammate into the air after an amazing connection. Four years since I gave it up. Yet, I show up to every game my old teammates play and I watch. I still find myself studying their moves, deciphering the playbook mentally. I curse their stupid mistakes as though they affect me, and I begrudgingly cheer their wins.
My breath catches at the word. Maybe I care more than I’ll admit, but it’s too late now.
"Poor Tanya, that can't be comfortable.”
The unmistakable voice of Jules - head cheerleader, town sweetheart, and Quarterback’s girlfriend - Blacklin breaks into my confusing thoughts. Startled, I shift and look over my shoulder. Jules has taken a seat at my picnic table, her back to me. Her tiny cheerleading uniform hugs her figure, the pleated skirt riding low on her hips offers me a tantalizing glance at the smooth skin of her lower back. I bite back an admiring smile, and a dozen dirty thoughts, and engage her. "You always talk to yourself, cheerleader?"
Jules’ red hair flies over her shoulder as her head snaps my way. Her eyes are wide as though I’ve surprised her. She blinks as though she’s trying to recognize me. Her forehead wrinkles as she speaks, "Excuse me?"
"You're excused, Buffy," I drawl, shocking myself with my own words as I tip my head to the side and allow my eyes to rove over her backside again. I've barely spoken to Jules in years. I’ve watched her, though, the good Lord knows that’s the truth.
Jules takes me in, her head tilting to the side to get a better look, before her russet brow arches as she asks prettily, “Does that make you Spike? Sitting here brooding in the dark with your flask?"
I don’t bother suppressing my grin at her witty comeback as I lift said flask to my mouth saluting her with a mock toast. Jules’ eyes focus on my mouth and a million thoughts whirl through my mind. Why the hell is she sitting here? I’m shocked she didn’t walk away the moment I spoke, and I’m doubly shocked at her poking back at me. But that’s nothing compared to the jolt I receive at the way she watches my mouth as though she wants to taste the liquid dripping from my bottom lip. My insides clench at the thought and I swallow hard. Making the decision to enjoy this rare encounter, I turn fully toward her and lean my elbows to my knees as she abruptly stands with a shake of her head.
"I think I could live with you calling me Spike,” I say, hoping for another verbal punch as a breeze lifts her red and white pleated skirt A guy’s gotta love those little skirts.
"Really? You do know Buffy and Spike hated each other?"
Her voice is filled with surprise when she asks me her question, almost as though she’s hurt. I can’t fathom why she’d feel disappointment and I brush the thought aside as the lights in the Shack flicker next to us. I’m reminded of the enemies-to-lovers story arc between the characters of Buffy and Spike and grin. Silently thanking my ex, Carley, for forcing her addiction to the show upon me when we were dating, I lower my voice and correct Jules’ statement. "At first.”
Her eyes narrow. “At first?"
"Jules!" interrupts Katie, jogging our way. "Can you believe this? Every freaking weekend they do this crap. Can’t we just get Tanya and go? I'm so tired of all the pissing contests."
Straightening, I ignore Jeff’s on-again-off-again girl and lock my eyes on Jules. Silently, I will her to grasp the meaning behind my comment. Katie pays me no heed as she grabs Jules hand, ready to pull her away, but Jules doesn’t budge. I sense the moment she catches it, the double meaning of my words. Her blue eyes widen and she stammers, “Oh, at first.”
A blush creeps up her ivory skin and I’m transfixed. Without warning, my memories fly back to the seventh grade and a kiss with the girl I wanted to impress so badly that I manufactured our being picked for the age old game of Seven Minutes in Heaven. This is the girl Jeff was referring to only minutes ago as he laughed at me. The one my eyes always go to, the one who might have been mine once upon a time, if not for cancer. If not for Stuart Daniels. If not for my being a quitter. Jules Blacklin.
"Come on," begs Katie, tugging at Jules again as the lights around us flicker on and off once more.
Irritated at my thoughts, I salute the girls with a chuckle. “See ya around, Buff,” I say as I slide down from the picnic table and force myself to step away. Or I would have stepped away if it weren’t for the shouts that delay me.
Katie's angry interruption makes sense now as I look to where she came from. A fight has broken out in the parking and I shake my head, mumbling beneath my breath, “Stupid pricks.” I’m not able to identify the participants before their shouts are drowned out by a sound infinitely more terrifying. My pulse quickens as the piercing scream of the early warning storm sirens go off, making me and everyone around jump at the sound. I turn toward town as The Ice Shack goes silent and hold my breath as I take in the normally cheerful town of Tyler. It currently resembles a disco, the lights flashing on and off, and I know - we all know - something isn’t right.
And that’s all she wrote. Actually, that’s all I wrote. For now. Here’s the deal you can read Jules complete version of our story for #FREE everywhere right now. It’s called From The Wreckage and the links are down below.
If you like my version of the story, you’re in luck because I lied, I do have more - about 11 thousand words – coming out in a special box set for iBooks readers on October 13th.
Best part is it’s only 99 pennies to pre-order! For THREE books AND the bonus content.
See, everything isn’t bigger in Texas. BUT this deal is for a limited time only. The price will go up on 10/29.
iBooks Pre-Order link:
If you’re not an iBooks reader the box set will release EVERYWHERE on October 29th at the reduced price of $3.99. You won’t get ALL of my bonus content though – that’s an iBooks only deal, but you will get some.
Want ALL that bonus content??
What you need to do is pester the lady who puts our stories together for us, Michele G Miller, into releasing a new book with my entire POV! She’s always telling me I don’t shut up. Maybe if she shared my thoughts with y’all I would!
Well it’s time for me to run. I’ve got places to be and things to do… here are those links for Jules’ side of the story if you want to read that for free while you wait for the box set.
From The Wreckage #FREE links:
If you’re not the waiting type you can purchase Out of Ruins and All That Remains NOW.
Oh, and you should check out my friend Dani’s story, Into The Fire, too. You’ll meet her in the Wreckage series but she has her own tale to tell and it’s part of the Wrecked series of standalones Michele is working on.
Also, here’s what you need to know about Michele so you can bother her for more from yours truly ;)
Michele writes novels with fairytale love for everyday life. Romance is always central to her plots where the genres range from Coming of Age Fantasy and Realistic Fiction to New Adult Romantic Suspense.
Having grown up in both the cold, quiet town of Topsham, Maine and the steamy, southern hospitality of Mobile, Alabama, Michele is something of an enigma. She is an avid Yankees fan, loves New England, being outdoors and misses snow. However she thinks southern boys are hotter, Alabama football is the only REAL football out there and sweet tea is the best thing this side of heaven and her children's laughter!
Her family, an amazing husband and three awesome kids, have planted their roots in the middle of Michele's two childhood homes in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/chelemybelles/Instagram: https://instagram.com/chelemybelles/
So yea... that's West. Gotta love him, huh? Here's the really good news for you West lovers. I'm already hard at work on giving you West's entire POV for book one, From The Wreckage. This will be a brand new book with new dialogue and new scenes. It's not a complete rehashing of Jules POV at all. I'm putting you in West's world and those moments when you were wondering where he was and what he was thinking. Excited?
I hope so because I love these characters and they just wouldn't go away. Stay tuned for details on West's POV - it needs a title if you have any ideas let me know.
Until next time - KEEP READING!