The fabulous Steph Campbell and I are diving into final edits on our New Adult book Lengths, and we're so hyper-uber-phenomenally excited, we decided to share the first chapters of our book.
Though this was a total collaboration, with each one of us tweaking/adding to the other's chapters, in rough form I would write from Deo's point of view, and Steph would write from Whit's.
We alternated back and forth (which I LOVED), so I will be posting the ARC version of chapter one, from Deo's perspective, right here!
If you skip over to Steph's blog, you'll be able to read chapter two, which is Whit's first chapter.
SQUEE!!! We're almost there, friends!! This book makes me swoon, hardcore!
And, just for gorgeousness (and because I love blogs with pics) here's the cover one more time:
My mom stuffs me with homemade coconut cake laced with dark rum and gives me a name and number on an old scrap of grey recycled paper for my twenty-second birthday.
“Rocko does fantastic work.” She pulls down one shoulder on her flowery dress and shows me a bunch of lotus flowers in pinks and whites so perfect, I feel like if I reach out the petals would be smooth under my fingertips. “Tell him I sent you and that this means we’re even.” She ducks her face down, all her waist-long hair falling forward and hiding her little blush like she’s a teenager with some crazy crush.
I shake the paper at her. “C’mon. Tell me you didn’t do some fucking booty-call barter to get me a tat.”
Her eyes, light brown just like mine, narrow in my direction. “Don’t be a creep, Deo. First of all, the lavender I just pressed sold out before I finished bottling it, and I have double orders in for my next harvest. Secondly, my nookie is none of your damn business, but I will voluntarily tell you that I don’t use it for barter.” Her lecture completely loses its serious tone, and she pokes me with a foot decorated with a dozen silver rings. “Though it’s so damn good I could make a killing off of it if I wanted to.”
I’d just scooped a mouthful of rummy icing into my mouth, and now I have to resist the urge to vomit it back up. “Too much, Mom. I don’t need to know.”
“Then stop being a smart-ass and say thank you when your mother gives you a perfectly nice gift.”
She holds her cheek out and I kiss it, catching a whiff of the vanilla and jasmine scent she mixes herself in her little hippie-dippie store. It’s not my thing, but I’m happy for her. Her weird little cottage full of creepy potions and witchcraft draws every looney hippie from a hundred miles in for all kinds of herbs and oils, and she makes a decent slice for herself. I like that I don’t need to worry about her and that she’s happy.
And I thank Gaia, or whoever the hell she’s praying to nowadays, that she can’t hear my thoughts and give me another women’s libber speech. My mom thinks it’s cool that she doesn’t have to rely on a man for her living. Me too. Just, sometimes, I wish she had someone else to lean on when shit gets rough.
“Thank you. It’s an awesome gift. You know most moms would have picked up a nice sweater set or a tie or something.” I tug on her long hair, red from the henna she puts in it all the time.
She lays a cool hand on my arm. “Really? A tie?” For a minute she squishes her eyebrows down together uncertainly, like maybe she’s thinking a tie would have been a good idea.
“I have no clue, actually. We’re not most people, right? Let me go get a nice heathenish tattoo to celebrate my youth before it’s all gone.” Mom likes being edgy except when she thinks I’m behind the curve or losing out.
And considering I’m officially twenty-two, recently fired from my fucktastic full-time job, without a place of my own or reliable transportation, maybe she thinks a tie might have given me some direction.
“Just…get something meaningful, okay? Something you really care about.” Her eyes are shiny, probably from tears, but I’m just gonna pretend it’s because she’s excited.
I grab my hoodie off the back of the old wooden kitchen chair. “So, no severed clown heads?”
A smile tugs on one side of her mouth. “No. Unless you have some spiritual tie to severed clown heads. Don’t forget to take a plate of cake for Grandpa.” She gives me a too-tight squeeze as I head out the door, the cake she wrapped up balanced on one hand. “Oh! And you got a package.”
The smile that was almost a real thing goes wooden and overly wide on her face. I sigh, not knowing what’s in the little brown box, but positive about who it’s from.
“Dad?” I don’t want to even take the fucking thing, but she’s holding it out with all this hope, like I’ll be able to be super mature and look past his douchiness and be glad he sent something.
Being cool with his fuck-ups is her bag, not mine.
“You know he wanted to be here this summer, Deo. You know that. He’s in the Congo. There’s no way he could have made it back.” She presses the little box my way, and I pull it out of her hands and turn it over in mine, wishing I was badass enough to toss it in the garbage and not give it another glance.
But he’s still my dad. He still sent a gift. He still fucking cares, even if it’s not as much as he should.
I hold it next to my ear and shake it, long like a pencil case and strangely light. “I’m gonna guess it’s a boomerang.”
“Did he ever wind up getting you one? You must have asked five or six years in a row.” She tucks her hair behind her ears, and it hits me again how much my grown mother can look like a little girl. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t do the whole makeup thing or because she wears all this jangly jewelry like some teenager, or just because she has this optimistic-but-vulnerable vibe down pat, but she looks so young, it’s easy for me to pack up whatever hard shit I’m trying to deal with and put it away where it won’t bother her.
“Yeah. The Christmas I was fifteen. Airmail from Sydney.” I toss the box and catch it in the hand not balancing the cake. “Thanks for the cake and the number. I’ll stop by when I’ve got some decent ink to show you, alright?”
She leans in the door frame behind the torn screen door I should fix but haven’t bothered to yet and smiles at me.
Pissed as I am at my father, I sure as shit managed to pick up some of his crappiest traits. Like being able to leave my mom hanging. Worrying the piss out of her. Dropping more on her shoulders than she needs to deal with.
I slam the door on my Jeep and throw the box into the back, then pull away from my mother’s house fast so I don’t have to focus on that rolling disappointment, all wishful eyes and sweet, sad smile.
I slide my phone out and unfold the scrap of paper she gave me, dialing with half an eye on the road.
“This is Rocko.” The voice is business-crisp.
“Hey. Marigold Beckett gave me your number, told me I should call you for some good ink.” I glance at the box from my father in the rearview mirror and wonder what he felt was an appropriate gift for this un-monumental birthday. Last year, for my twenty-first, it was Balkan 176, vodka so strong it knocked me over and out before I could drink enough to get myself in real trouble. My grandpa and my best friend, Cohen, pried it from my drunk fingers and proceeded to help me down the entire bottle over the course of a weekend. We were stupid-drunk as sailors on leave, and it was good times.
Would have been better to have had my dad there for it, but beggars can’t be choosers.
“Marigold, eh?” I feel a wave of pissed-offedness at the creepy happiness in this guy’s voice when he says my mom’s name.
“Yeah, Marigold Beckett. My mother.” I make sure the words are clear as a fucking ringing, clanging bell for him.
He clears his throat. “Right. Okay. I’m off of 80, past the Surf Shack. You wanna come by and check out my portfolios, work up some sketches? I have a client scheduled in a few minutes, but once she’s done, the night’s open.”
“I’ll stop by.” I click off just in time to pull into my grandfather’s driveway and honk twice. He swings the door of his tiny-ass house open with a bang.
“What are you honking like that for? You got no manners, you know that? You do that when you pick up girls? Cause if any girl comes when you honk like that, she’s a damn floozy!” He has a limp on his left side, but other than that, my grandpa could wrestle a fucking tiger with one arm tied behind his back.
“I only date floozies! They’re the most fun!” I yell at him, and he cracks a wide, gap-toothed smile. “I’m just stopping by to tell you I’m going to get a new tattoo, so I won’t be around til late. You need a phone you can hear, you deaf son of a bitch! I tried you twice on the way here!”
He leans into the driver-side window, slaps me on the back of the neck twice and says, “More tattoos? Why? You aren’t ugly enough yet? You think you’re a big man now? I can still put you over my knee and cane you anytime.” He pats my shoulder. “Did you bring home some of your mom’s cake?”
I pass the piece to him through the window. “Did you eat anything real today? I don’t need to come home to you in a diabetic coma.”
“Stop clucking around me like a damn mother hen,” he gripes, taking a swipe of the icing and eating it off his finger like a little kid. Or like me fifteen minutes ago. “Your mother is an angel. You got a package from that idiot son of mine?”
I jerk my thumb in the back. He raises an eyebrow at me. “I don’t want it,” I explain.
“Stop pouting like little girl and open the damn thing,” my grandpa snaps.
But I hear the letdown behind his grumpy-ass words. My dad is a professional at letting people down, fucking up, not being where he’s needed most, not doing what he should be doing. When I was a kid, all I could focus on was what that meant to me and how much it fucked up my world. Now that I’m older, it kills me to see how it bites and eats at my grandpa and mom.
“Fine.” I reach back with one hand and fish the box off the floor, rip the paper away, and dig through the little box, pulling out three cigars. “The label says ‘Gurkha,’” I read and my grandpa chuckles like a kid on Halloween. “Good?”
“Too good for you.” Grandpa grabs them in his hand and turns to walk back to the house. “Get home at a decent hour, and we’ll have these with the lobsters I caught. Bring that numbskull friend of yours too.”
“You made me lobster! Aw, you old sweetie!” I call to him. He waves his hand in disgust, but I catch the laugh that bobs his shoulders up and down.
So Grandpa and I will drag Cohen over, eat some lobster dipped in butter, drink beer, smoke cigars on the porch, and talk about life and everything good while we try to ignore the hole that’s always firmly in place when my father’s not around. Not the worst end to my birthday.
But first I need to get a little ink.
I find the place, a little neat-looking building, all modern and light with lots of windows and lots more art on the walls. There are the fairly standard pieces that every tourist or eighteen-year-old comes in and wants, no imagination, no real deep thought. Not that I should talk. I have an eagle on one bicep and a heart with ‘Mom’ through it on the other. So fuck my attempts to keep my tattoos all original and meaningful.
I’m heading to the heavy black portfolio books when a soft, husky voice behind the counter asks, “Did you make an appointment?”
When I look up, I have a feeling I might do even better than some ink and coconut rum cake, lobster and cigars this birthday.
Like it? Want more? Check out Steph Campbell's blog and get chapter two, where we meet the very sexy, funny, crazy Whit!