Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Luck of the Draw Sample by Jade Kerrion @Bonnie Edwards

I’m sharing samples from the books in the “good fortune changes lives” box set Luck of the Draw. This set contains 13 wonderful, eclectic stories revolving around taking chances and winning!



Luck of the Draw is an Amazon exclusive that contains all new stories and will be released May 11. For a very limited time this set is selling for only 99c.



Today I offer our sample comes from Jade Kerrion's story, Owned

CHAPTER ONE

A ring is round, has no end. That’s how long I’ll be your—

Marie Vargas’s mental voice cracked as she twisted the wedding band on her left hand. The lump filling her throat made it difficult to suck down her next breath of air. Jeez, I’m such a basket case.

Divorcing Phil was the right thing to do.

It didn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

The unsigned legal papers that would end her marriage were a leaden weight in her tote bag, dragging her down as she walked along the street toward her lawyer’s office in downtown Manhattan. Passersby jostled past her, obviously unwilling to put up with her less-than-brisk speed on a busy Monday morning.

They were crazy if they expected her to run with excitement toward the end of a relationship that had meant everything to her, even if it was the right thing to do. In a fit of rage spurred by the demons of a war he had survived and the restraining order she had taken out on him, he had shot her—he had missed—and then he had shot himself, and mostly missed.

Marie squeezed her eyes shut briefly, but the image of Phil, bleeding from the grazing wound on his head, slumped to the ground, had seared into her mind. She had screamed. Neighbors scurried out and called 911. One of them—old Mrs. Jones who lived in the next-door apartment—had wrapped her arms around Marie. “It’s going to be all right, dearie,” she had crooned. “You’re going to be all right.”

Mrs. Jones had lied.

Nothing was going to be all right again.

Marie swallowed hard.

To be fair, nothing had been all right for a while. Not since the attack in Afghanistan that killed many of Phil’s marine buddies and sent him home with invisible mental and emotional injuries far more scarring and damaging than physical ones. The Phil she had known—the funny, calm, patient man—had become short-tempered, then hostile, and finally violent.

He had hit her. Not once, but many times.

How long would she have put up with the abuse if he hadn’t shot at her?

Too long. Perhaps one time was already too much, but she loved him, and he had loved her; she was certain of that much.

What else would explain the horror she had seen in Phil’s eyes after he pulled the trigger? The bullet had pierced the brick wall, inches above her head, but he had stared at her. Their eyes met. Nothing came out of his lips, but she could almost hear him scream his denial. She had never seen as much pain in anyone’s eyes as she had in that moment before he turned the gun on himself.

Marie sniffled. Tears leaked out the side of her eyes. Oh, jeez. She had to pull herself together before seeing her lawyer.

She entered the little convenience store on the first floor of the high-rise office building and idly browsed through its shelves—mostly to steady herself—before walking over to the counter to pay for her small pack of gum. Her gaze fell on the garishly colored poster behind the attendant. She and Phil had a small collection of lottery tickets they bought to mark important occasions. They had never won anything, not even $2 from one of those scratch-off game tickets, but over the years, buying a lottery ticket was their equivalent of sending a card to celebrate the date.

Today was momentous, wasn’t it?

So why not? Marie set her jaw. “I’d like one of those tickets, please.”

She tapped the end of her pen against the counter. Six numbers. The most obvious ones—her birthday and Phil’s—came to mind, but at the last moment, she changed her selection to two other dates.
Dates that meant everything to her.

Dates that were about to mean nothing to her.

Marie paid for her purchases and tucked her lottery ticket in her wallet before heading toward the elevators that would take her to her lawyer’s firm. She was promptly ushered into Nicole Lefton’s office. With the steadiest smile she could muster, Marie sat across from Nicole and pulled the unsigned divorce papers out of her tote bag. “Got a pen?”
~*~
A week later, 1,500 miles away from Manhattan, Phil Casteen drew a deep breath as he stepped into the cottage—cabin, he corrected mentally. Cottage was hyperbole for what was a hut on the edge of a cluster of trees. The furniture in the living room looked to be at least a decade old, judging from the patterns on the cushion covers, but were in excellent condition. The refrigerator, microwave, and stove in the kitchenette were newish, and the dishwasher, according to his manager, had apparently just been installed the previous week.

“Looks decent enough, but it won’t win any awards from Architectural Digest,” a voice behind him said.

Phil turned around and found himself staring into the eyes of a man about his age, casually dressed in a white T-shirt and denim jeans.

The man extended his hand and offered a friendly smile. “Rio Loren. I’m the permanent inhabitant of Dawn Cottage.”

Phil had heard about the reclusive writer who had put down roots in Coastal Escapes, a laid-back but exclusive resort on the eastern side of Key West. “I’m Phil Casteen, the new caretaker.”

“Yeah, Sophia from the front desk said you were starting today. How’s your digs?”

“Looking pretty good.” Phil swept his hand across the living room. “Bigger than my Brooklyn apartment, that’s for sure.”

Rio held up a six-pack of beer. “Welcome to the neighborhood.”

“Thanks.” Phil accepted it. “I didn’t know resort guests brought around gifts for the staff. Are you gay or something?”

Rio burst out laughing, displaying white, straight teeth. “Wow, you New Yorkers don’t hold anything back. No, I’m straight, or at least I was the last time I checked.”

“When was that?”

“Last night, when I picked up a chick at Spotlights.”

“That’s the club on Flagler Avenue.”

Rio nodded. “I’ve got a running tab there. Maybe we could go check it out sometime.”
Phil made a snorting sound. “You always move this fast?”

“You’re the only male staff here at Coastal Escapes.”

“So?”

“Sometimes, I want some rational conversation, and the girls at the front desk or in housekeeping aren’t the ones to provide it. Besides, I’ve been a guest for so long, I’m practically part of the crew.”

“Except you don’t do any work.”

“Work’s overrated.” Rio grinned again. He mimed typing on a keyboard. “I do plenty of work, just nothing that breaks a sweat.”

“Well, would be a shame to waste ice-cold beer, so why not?” Phil handed Rio a can and took another for himself. Both men strode out of the cottage to stand on the sand-blown porch. “Not much of a sunset.” Phil observed the darkening sky.

“We’re on the wrong side of the island for that,” Rio pointed out. “The sunrise is pretty amazing, though you’ll have to wake up for it.”

“I’ll probably be up and about pretty early,” Phil said. “Got to get some yardwork in before the day gets stupid hot.”
“Don’t sound so excited.”

Phil snorted. “What’s there to get excited about? The sand gets everywhere.”
“Not much of a beach bum, are you?”

Phil shook his head. The beach—Key West, in particular—had been more of Marie’s thing. What am I doing here?

He knew exactly why he was here—where he had never wanted to be. It came down to the sealed envelope his lawyer had handed to him before he boarded the plane. His divorce papers, signed and finalized. It was a done deal. His marriage was over. Marie would have her fresh start and he had his, here, in Key West, where she had wanted to be, where he could hold on to that part of her that still dreamed happy dreams.

It was the only way he could still be close to her.

Marie would have loved it—the endless sounds of waves and overlapping harmonics of the seagull cries, the salty breeze in her face, the wind tugging at her hair. He could almost see her smile, soft and sweet, the subtle curve of her lips infused with love.

Pain twisted in his chest.

Yes, she was here, in spirit.

It was nothing like having the real her—the girl he had loved since he was a boy—but it was the safest way, the only way. He couldn’t risk hurting her again. He loved her too much for that.
Sometimes, love separates instead of brings together—and it’s the right thing.

Phil’s mouth twisted into frown. He needed counseling, partly for his own long-term sanity, but mostly because he owed it to Marie. Psychiatrists abounded in New York City like grass in Central Park, but here in Key West— He snorted and wondered if he could trust the man, his new neighbor, who had come bearing beer and wearing a smile. “You know of any good therapists around here?”

“Physical therapists?” Rio asked.

Phil’s frown turned into a smirk. So, Rio had noticed his now-awkward movements. The bullet he had aimed into his skull hadn’t killed him as he had intended, but it had slurred his speech and saddled him with permanent nerve damage and the occasional tremor in his limbs. He needed physical therapy too, but it was out of his budget. Paying Marie’s alimony didn’t leave him with much. He’d have to make a choice on what kind of help to get. “No, not physical therapist. I meant counselors.”

“What kind?”

The kind that could teach him how to get a grip on his nightmares and memories. The kind that could show him how to control the powerful urge to strike out at the ones around him, especially the ones who loved him most—those who still looked at him as if he were a great hero instead of a broken soldier.

He couldn’t live up to what Marie wanted him to be. He couldn’t deal with the expectations, the pressure. Couldn’t deal with life.

Phil stared down at his fisted hands and then looked up. Rio was watching him without any apparent concern or fear. Phil drew a deep breath. He needed help. He needed to start somewhere, and why not here—with someone who had reached out in friendship and who hadn’t yet run away.
The story tumbled out, bits and pieces of it—the war that invisibly scarred him, the PTSD that turned him violent, the eventual divorce. Phil couldn’t bring himself to say Marie’s name, not yet. It lodged in his throat like a fish bone turned sideways.

Rio listened in silence before speaking, his tone as relaxed as if he were talking about local restaurants “I know of at least one—Dr. Biles—and I’m sure there are others. I’ll ask around and let you know. There are lots of other support groups in the area, although I haven’t heard of any specifically for war veterans. Most people just hang out at the local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter. They’ve turned into a catch-all for people who need emotional support and tough love.”

Phil nodded and took a slow sip from the bottle of beer. Emotional support and tough love. Just what I need. It won’t bring Marie back, but she deserved far better than she got. I owe it to her to be the hero she sent off to war, not the asshole who came back, even if there’s nothing left for me to come back to.
~*~
Six weeks later, Marie sat in another lawyer’s office, much like Nicole’s, but on the other side of the oak table was a heavyset man with jowls like a bulldog. He turned the page of the legal document on the table and pointed in three places. “Initial here and here, then sign here to acknowledge you’ve received the check.”

Her heart pounding rapidly, Marie scribbled her initials and then signed her name.

“Congratulations,” the man said in a monotone more suited for a funeral as he slid a check across the table.

She stared at the numbers on the check, scarcely believing the number of the digits printed on it. The lottery ticket she had purchased to commemorate the end of her marriage had turned into a million dollars—well, seven hundred thousand dollars and change, since she had opted for the amount up front instead of over thirty years. Regardless, it was far more money than she had ever had at once, ten times her annual pre-tax salary as a teacher.

Later that day, she sipped iced coffee at a café, across from Nicole, who was not just Marie’s lawyer but also a pivotal friend through the eventual collapse of Marie’s marriage. “What are you going to do with all that money?” Nicole asked.

“Well, after the tax men take their share—” Marie wrinkled her nose. “—what’s left is going to bolster up my shaky savings account.”

“Really? That’s it? You’re not even going to give yourself a special treat to celebrate?”

Marie winked wickedly. “Well, I’ll buy drinks this time around.”

Nicole laughed and raised her glass of iced coffee to Marie. “Big spender.”

“But you’re right. I should do something for myself.”

“You’ve earned it.”

Marie nodded. Most days, it was a struggle holding her head upright and keeping her back straight. The stress knotted in her neck and shoulders were literally bowing her over, wrecking her posture and appetite in the bargain. She had lost ten pounds since her divorce, and not intentionally.

The divorce shouldn’t have affected her as badly as it did. Phil had moved out months earlier while their divorce was being finalized. It wasn’t as if the physical change had been jarring. Yet the emotional change from “separated” to “divorced”—Marie bit down on her lip. She hadn’t been prepared despite all the books she had read and websites she had browsed for advice on how to go about her newly single life.

“I could use a good holiday.” Marie stirred her iced coffee with a straw. “Though it’ll have to wait until the summer.” She wrinkled her nose again, a bad habit she had been trying to break for years. “Can I wait that long, or will I lose my sanity in the eight months between now and summer?”

Nicole chuckled. “How is work?”

“It keeps me busy.” Marie managed a weak smile. “I took on extra responsibilities, including after-school tutoring. It helps.”

Nicole nodded. Her gaze was sympathetic, and Marie knew she did not have to explain further. Keeping busy was the most important thing now; it kept her from thinking too hard or feeling too much the emptiness of her home and of her life.

Nicole reached for Marie’s hand and squeezed gently. “It’s going to get better.”

Marie nodded. “I know. It takes time, like everything else.” She forced gaiety into her smile. “It takes time to plan a fabulous vacation too.”

“Where are you going to go?”

She thought for a minute. There was one place she had always wanted to visit, but Phil had never been keen on it. My fresh start. I’ll go on my own, and by then, eight months from now, I’ll be ready. Marie grinned at Nicole across the table. “I want a beach vacation. A summer fling. I’m going to Key West.”



What readers are saying about Jade’s books:
“…I wish I could award more than 5 stars”–Hillel Kaminsky, Amazon Reviewer
“…This is the kind of series you’d expect to see with a movie deal.”–Full Time Reader, Amazon 

JADE KERRION defied (or leveraged, depending on your point of view) her undergraduate degrees in Biology and Philosophy, as well as her MBA, to embark on her second (and concurrent) career as an award-winning science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance author.


Her debut novel, PERFECTION UNLEASHED, won six literary awards and launched her best-selling futuristic thriller series, DOUBLE HELIX, which blends cutting-edge genetic engineering and high-octane action with an unforgettable romance between an alpha empath and an assassin.

LIFE SHOCKS ROMANCES features Jade’s sweet and sexy contemporary romance series, which proves that, at the very least, she knows how to alphabetize books.

Jade writes at 3 a.m., when her husband and three sons are asleep, and aspires to make her readers as sleep-deprived as she is. www.jadekerrion.com



3 comments:

  1. I'm pulling for Phil and Marie! What a lot of work they'll both need to do!

    This is a very powerful start to what looks to be a powerful story.

    ReplyDelete

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