I haven’t posted anything of my own in a while, so that’s what this post is all about: ME! I have another book coming out sometime in late October called Blue Sky. I adore this story, but I finished it a loooong time ago, like last year. It also kicks off a series I’m calling Trouble in Trespass. Evernight is the publisher. I’ve got a kick-ass Pinterest board set up for the book as well. If you want to check it out, go here.
I’m also doing something else a little different today… I’m sharing an entire chapter and Bond, my heroine, is meeting the “bad guy” in the story, her ex-boyfriend, James. Let me know what you think.
At one time Pine Top boat ramp had been impeccably maintained by the county. A popular spot for picnicking on the banks of the Suwannee, the road had been regularly graded, the grass mowed weekly, trash and debris routinely picked up by a prison work crew.
Now, due to budget cuts, it’d been discarded like yesterday’s newspaper. The thick, bright-green grass was overgrown and choked out by rampant weeds, the limerock access road barely discernible through the trees and dense brush. The concrete ramp itself was cracked and covered in slimy green algae, rendering it useless. Beer bottles littered the ground around the picnic tables, and the doors to the bathrooms were chained shut to deter vandalism.
A sole utility light weakly lit what the moon couldn’t reach through the treetops as Bond rolled her truck to a stop in a small clearing. The steering wheel bit into her sweaty palms while she scanned the shadows for any sign of Jimmy. Tethered to a Cypress stump at the edge of the river, a sleek silver bass boat gently rocked back and forth, its metallic paint sparkling in flashes when the moonlight hit it just right.
He was here somewhere.
She shut off the truck’s engine, then sat and listened to it tick as it cooled. Her stomach roiled nervously. Thank God she hadn’t eaten since breakfast, otherwise it might not stay down. Behind her ribs her heart hammered so hard she could feel it pulsing in her throat. Bond sucked in a deep breath of recycled air, held it for a count of ten, blew it out harshly before opening the door.
She wasn’t afraid of Jimmy, per se. The last thing he would ever do would be to harm her physically. That, she had never doubted. The danger was purely psychological. It was what he said to her when they were alone. Not threats, only words.
They all told her the same thing: his feelings for her hadn’t shifted a single degree.
Her weak moments where he was concerned had passed years ago, nearly six of them to be exact, the last time she’d succumbed to his gravity and allowed him into her bed. The word mistake was grossly inadequate in describing that lapse in good sense.
She’d known it going in, but somehow he’d caught her in a wine-fueled depression caused by guilt and loneliness and, seeking some form of solace, she’d stupidly given in to her baser needs. Jimmy had always had some fucking psychic gift where Bond was concerned, showing up at times when she was most vulnerable. Times when she was most likely to surrender her soul like he was a demon come to claim it, dragging her right back down into the depths of Hell.
You can’t rationalize irrationality, Bond.
Oh, but she tried.
It would never happen again. That was a certainty made of cast-iron. If one thing had gotten stronger over the past six years, it was her resolve.
Through the silence, the pop and hiss of a cap being twisted off a beer bottle came from her left and several feet away. She turned her head sharply at the sound, searching as her eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness. He was perched atop a concrete picnic table, bare feet resting on the bench as he leaned forward, elbows braced on his wide-spread knees, the beer casually dangling from long fingers.
Her footsteps rustled through last fall’s leaves as she approached him. He wore faded jeans frayed at the hem and a red t-shirt with yellow lettering that had been laundered to the point of illegibility. Jimmy had always seemed so out of place to her in Trespass. With his shoulder-length, sun-streaked blonde hair tucked behind his ears, tanned powerful body, and up-to-no-good grin. He looked like he belonged on a tropical beach somewhere, living in a shanty and surfing every day. Maybe still selling weed, but to the partying tourists instead of the obsessed locals.
Despite the stereotype though, and the assumptions people automatically made about Jimmy, given what he did for a living, she knew he didn’t smoke what he grew and sold. And the only form of alcohol he drank was beer in moderation. Robert and Garrett regularly sampled the product, but Jimmy abstained. He didn’t like the laziness that marijuana produced, both mental and physical. He was sharp as a tack, which was such an absolute waste that he was using it in all the wrong ways.
He smiled at her when she stopped in front of him. That pirate’s smile used to melt her insides like chocolate in the sun. And her resistance. She experienced a brief pang of disappointment at not being able to see his mesmerizing cerulean eyes clearly. They were so unique and expressive. It would’ve also been helpful since they tended to change color with his emotions—darkening when he became angry or suspicious.
When Bond looked at him, her mind flashed back to the guiltless boy he’d once been and a dull ache would roll through her. God, but she’d loved him so. At times something would spark a memory, taking her back to the places they’d made love, the silly things they’d talked about, little intimate jokes they’d shared. Real, untainted good times, brief as they’d been. Emotions would swamp her like a rogue wave, drowning her in their bittersweet depths. But the happiness had been erased in a flash, in the time it took for his jealous fists to hit undeserving flesh.
She wasn’t going to lie and say he didn’t affect her still. He did, but in a purely superficial way. Jimmy could make a nun forsake her vows. For Bond, his impact was dulled now by the painful memories of the past that followed them around like a shadow. And by the choices he still made in the present.
“Hello, beautiful,” he said in a voice as sultry as the summer night enveloping them.
He patted the tabletop beside his hip. “Come sit down. I brought you a beer.” Reaching behind him, he pulled a Bud Light from a six-pack and twisted the top off for her. Instead of tossing the cap to the ground like so many had done before him, he stuck it in his back pocket.
Ever the environmentalist, she thought wryly.
Bond sat down and accepted the cold bottle, wanting badly to rub it across her flushed face. Jimmy picked up his bottle and clinked it against the neck of hers. “Cheers.”
She took a long pull from the beer, holding the fizzy liquid in her mouth until the bubbles popped and the bitterness mingled with what was already on her tongue, then swallowed slowly while the condensation cooled her fingertips.
They sat quietly for a while, listening as a balmy breeze whispered through the trees, the air redolent with the scent of Slash Pine and a tinge of loamy earth. It was a smell Bond normally associated with home and Trespass, comforting and familiar, but tonight that didn’t apply. Tonight it smelled like something you’d scrub your floors with, a backbreaking task that would leave you exhausted and sore for days.
She wondered what was going on back at the bar, if Nathan had ventured over to listen to the band. He’d be looking for her if he did, wondering where she was this late at night. They’d only known each other for a few days, but Bond could sense his deep concern when he looked at her, his need to calm her unspoken fears, as easily as she felt his desire for her. Just that quickly, she’d begun to crave that narcotizing Nathan fix she got when they were alone together. An ironic giggle threatened to slip from her throat. Would she need rehab when he left?
“I nearly swallowed my tongue when I got your text,” Jimmy said.
“Yeah?” she replied, trying to keep the quiver from her voice. They would have to get around to the reason for that message eventually.
“I wish it happened more often, ya know.” Bond sipped her beer to coat a tongue as dry as powder. “We could get together like this every once in a while; share a beer and talk. It doesn’t always have to be so difficult between us, Bond,” he said soberly.
You make it that way! She looked away and squeezed her eyes closed, fighting the urge to scream the words.
At her marked silence, he said, “Shit, I’m sorry for going there this early in the conversation. I know how it shuts you down and I don’t want to do that, not when the moments I get with you are so few and far between.” He shook his head in exasperation, making a chunk of blonde hair fall across his cheek. “How’re things at the bar?”
“Good. I’m getting ready to make some repairs to the back deck, thinking of maybe putting a roof over it,” she mumbled inanely, stalling.
“You need money for the improvements?”
Figurative thunder rolled through her head, warning of a coming storm. She had to tread lightly here. “Jimmy—”
“Don’t say it, Bond. I’ll give you the money, dammit. In fact, I’d love to give you whatever you need.”
Frustrated tears threatened, like angry gray clouds behind her eyes. She should’ve known better. The two of them were incapable of having an innocuous conversation. “Please … don’t. I can’t do this.”
He sat his beer bottle down with a loud clang of glass forcibly meeting concrete, making her wince. “Right, because just like me, my money’s dirty,” he said bitterly.
Bond scrambled to her feet. “That’s not why I can’t accept it and you know it!” She spun around to face him. “I’ve told you before; I don’t hold what you choose to do against you. That has nothing to do with it. I don’t … need you to take care of me, Jimmy.” Allowing him to help her would only resuscitate this undying fucked-up relationship they had by making her feel indebted to him. Again.
“Then what do you need, Bond?” he pleaded. “Name it, anything at all, and I’ll gladly give it to you.”
His earnestness finally brought the rain. She blinked rapidly and stared at the ground, not wanting to let him see the dampness in her eyes. He’d only take it as a sign of weakness where he was concerned, and she’d shown him enough of those already.
Jimmy thought that one day Bond would eventually crumble and give in to him. That she’d stand here like this, her will finally broken, and tell him the words he wanted so very badly to hear. He sorely underestimated her determination. “What I want is for you to give up and let me go,” she said, forcing out each and every word.
She’d never doubted his strength.
He slowly shook his head, that same unwavering look in his eyes from back when they were seventeen and he’d told her that he loved her for the very first time. Jimmy didn’t bother to repeat those words anymore. He didn’t have to. His actions spoke louder than any overused verse.
“Not that. You know I can’t. I won’t. Not now, not ever.”
Bond’s hands formed angry fists. Her blood heated in her veins until it felt like lava, thick and hot enough to melt her bones. She wanted to launch herself at him, scream and strike him until her throat was raw and she was too spent to lift her arms. The kind of raw passion they inspired in each other was staggering. But it had already erupted into violence once and that was one time too many. No way was she going to yield to it, no matter how good it would feel to finally let those poisonous emotions out.
Her voice cracked when she asked, “You expect me to live with this the rest of my life?”
His eyes didn’t waver from her face. “If I’m forced to live without you the rest of mine.”
Fucking poetic. She almost spat the words at him. He always made it sound like some tragic love story, the two of them. Maybe it was, depending upon whose side you favored. What he forgot, though, was those stories never had a happy ending. This one wouldn’t either.
She breathed out the air burning her lungs and flexed her fingers to release the painful tension in her hands.
He picked up his beer and sipped then tapped the lip of the bottle against his mouth. “What did you want to talk to me about, Bond?”
Remembering there was an important purpose to her being here, she turned around and wilted onto the bench, keeping her head down so he couldn’t see her face clearly. “Is it true that Garrett has Rebecca Ames with him?”
“Yes,” he said simply, no other explanation, not that she cared to hear one. He must’ve assumed she came by that information through the Trespass rumor mill because, thankfully, he didn’t question her sources.
“I want you to make him take her home,” she said, residual anger making her bold in her request.
Bond turned her head sharply to look at him then, certain she’d heard wrong. “Did you say okay? Just like that?”
He gave her one of his effortless smiles. “Just like that.”
“Why was it so easy? And don’t say because I asked.”
Jimmy ran his hand through his hair, pushing it away from his face. His features tightened briefly before he looked down at her again. “I want you to know I had absolutely nothing to do with it, and no knowledge of it beforehand. I told him it was stupid, bringing this sixteen-year-old girl home with him like some stray puppy. That he was asking for the worst kind of trouble.”
No, not the worst kind, Bond thought. Bad, but not the worst.
“I believe you,” she said honestly, giving him the vindication he seemed to seek with his clarification to her.
“But I’ll see that she gets home safe tomorrow, and it is because you asked me to, sugar.”
Bond inwardly cringed at the endearment. Not because she hated it, but because he’d used it. “Do it because it’s the right thing, not because I asked.”
“Bond,” he chided softly. “We both know the lines between right and wrong are blurred for me and my family.”
“It doesn’t have to be that way,” she replied, sadness making her words barely audible. Being here, having this conversation with him, made her heart hurt for the things that might’ve been. She didn’t want him, not at all, but it was a bitter disappointment that the potential in their relationship had been wasted. That he’d ruined everything with his temper and his loyalty to a life mired in crime.
“Sweet, sweet Bond. Always seeking my redemption.”
She scowled at him. “It’s not unthinkable.”
He shook his head. “Too late is what it is.”
The finality in his voice made her shiver. If he truly felt that way then it was too late.
When the two of them were alone like this, trying desperately to have a somewhat rational conversation, Bond’s rebellious mind filtered the good from the bad. She didn’t want to think about the crimes Jimmy and his family had committed, that he might be capable of killing someone, even though she knew deep down inside, in places too dark to explore, he was. She wanted so badly to believe there was still some measure of goodness in him. Why, she wasn’t sure. She certainly didn’t owe it to him. But he showed this penitent side of himself to her when he wouldn’t let anyone else see it. She almost felt guilty for that strange gift. Almost. Perhaps he felt he owed it to her. And maybe in some ways he did.
“There’s no saving me, sugar. Don’t spend your time thinking there is.”
Her throat constricted. The urge to cry pressed over her again. That’s the other thing that happened when they were alone together—her emotions warred like North and South. It left her feeling completely wrung out when she left him, wholly empty and raw.
Bond used to foolishly think she could save him. Even after he’d nearly killed Michael Levy, she’d still fostered some small hope that Jimmy might change. In the end she’d ignored what others had told her, even her grandfather, and listened to her heart. The outcome had been the same, but still, ultimately it had to have been her decision. It was the only way she could live with it. Despite the lingering emotions, the trace of guilt she couldn’t seem to expunge for breaking his heart, she knew she’d made the right choice.
If they had stayed together, even if he’d found legitimate employment and shunned his family, eventually there would’ve been another incident where his possessiveness and jealousy exploded. Their relationship was just that volatile. It was hardwired into Jimmy’s DNA, like eye color and bone structure.
Seeking levity, Bond asked, “How’s your momma?”
“Ornery as ever,” he said.
“She’s got to be to put up with three mean sons.”
He laughed. “I’m sure she would agree with you. I would say you should pay her a visit but I know I’d only be wasting my breath.”
Bond didn’t offer a rebuttal because it was true. There was no way in Hell she was ever setting foot on Kyle property again. And she didn’t care if she ever laid eyes on Virginia Kyle again either.
She stood and ran her damp palms down her denim-covered thighs.
“I better get back to the bar. Thanks for meeting me.”
He climbed off the picnic table, sliding his feet into a pair of flip-flops when they touched the ground. Coming to stand close in front of her, he hooked his thumbs in his belt loops and looked down somberly from his six-foot-two-inch height. “I would find a way to meet you at the top of Mount Everest in the middle of wintertime if you asked me to, Bond.”
There were women in the world that would kill for that kind of devotion from a man. Too bad it was all for naught.
She nodded feebly. “I know.”
Then the inevitable came. He reached out, slid his arm around her shoulders and drew her against him. She didn’t resist. Their eventual contact was unavoidable anyway. Jimmy wouldn’t let her walk away without a hug. If she’d tried to, he would’ve only caught her and forced her into his embrace. That’s all he ever expected, and after that he respected her boundaries.
Bond let him hold her while her hands rested lightly on his narrow hips. His body was warm and firm, familiar yet foreign. She still felt his pull, but now it was more of a light tug instead of a rip current. She kept her head turned, willing herself not to breathe in his scent even as she heard him do that very thing in her hair. A slight tremor vibrated through him. His mouth pressed to the crown of her head for a moment as he hugged her tight, then gently set her away from him.
Bond left him without saying anything else. It wouldn’t matter. Jimmy never said goodbye.