Good morning, darlings! As promised, this week I shall give you lazy blogging, in the form of an excerpt from Jeremiah Quick, which I am busy polishing for beta readers and hoping to release by February 28th, 2014.
I dearly wish I could give you ten books a year, I do. But I just can't churn out well-edited awesomeness that fast, and honestly, I hate giving you less than my best. One book a year seems to be about what I can manage.
Jeremiah Quick is a rather different sort of book for me, dark in a way that's a cross between the vampire DeVante books and the Dungeon series. It's dark and at times desperately bleak, though it's definitely a love story. It's not action, but reaction, not making love so much as unmaking the pain of the past, and quite an emotional journey for main characters Pretty Loberg and Jeremiah Quick.
Jeremiah's feeding me all the film for this story, and, ultimately, what more is there to say than that?
Jeremiah Quick - expected release February 2014
Three people in the world are important to Jeremiah Quick - Pretty, Jamie, and Corrie.
Pretty wouldn't be the person she is now if Jeremiah hadn't taught her critical thinking, so when he asks her twenty years late to go for a ride, she readily agrees. But when she discovers Corrie and Jamie are both dead, she realizes that getting into a car with Jeremiah Quick might be the biggest mistake she's ever made.
Jeremiah Quick wants Pretty to remember everything he taught her way back when, and he'll make sure, this time, that she never forgets.
I have never hated myself.
If I held the straight-edge to my flesh and pressed it until it drew blood,
if I dragged bladed red patterns into my skin to carve a memory,
it was always, always for love.
Never punishment, never mutilation, and certainly never self-loathing.
Only this pretty-sad-bitter failure to have loved hard enough.
Delicate throat. Adorable collarbones. How collarbones can be adorable is beyond me, but… there you have it.
It's hard to explain, and just as hard to understand, but…
She became mine with that first offer of candy that she doled out to me in tiny rectangles, piece by piece, as if attempting to tame me, somehow.
And piece by piece I accepted them, allowing the taming.
I had not lied to her. She was mine, but I didn't know how she fit. Not anywhere. Not into my life, certainly not into my bed. She was a puzzle piece, same as I, but if I was an odd-shaped middle piece, she was an edge. Or maybe she was from a different box altogether.
She'd been so innocent, so clueless.
And even after all these years she still feels like mine. She's still Sunshine, still clueless. How can that be?
The remembrance she'd written was dated years ago. Years and years. She had never forgotten me.
Maybe I was hers, too.
I fill up her kitchen. I know I do, and I know she feels it.
I step away from her, setting her free, well… sort of. As much as I would ever set her free, now.
But there were some things that had to be clarified.
I pull my wallet out of my pocket and fish out a pink piece of paper, hold it out to her. "Read it to me. Just the first part."
She takes the paper, carefully avoiding touching my fingers. I hate that she does that.
But then she glances at the paper, and the cutest blush colors her cheeks, and I stop hating her immediately. The poem that she flung out to the internet when she thought I was dead. Would have been nicer to get it from her when she thought I was alive, really, but maybe it's one of those things that's better late than never.
She seems to know it by heart – her voice wavery and self-conscious.
There's a childhood friend
You'll never forget
He's the one who affects you the most
He'll make your heart melt
With the things that he's felt
But the memory's only a ghost.
There was that word, that stupid vague word that deleted all my horror.
Her heart melts for all the things I'd felt.
I want to shove her against the fridge again and slap her pretty little face.
"Not things," I say, a little bit sorry that I sound deadly, but I truly cannot help it. "Pain. Rape. Desperation."
Something flares in the dark blue of her eyes, grief maybe, or regret. Or maybe simply fear.
I am so out of place here, I don't fit in any sense of the word, so fear is probably her most appropriate response, actually.
"Let me tell you about the things," I say, not even sure where I'm going with this.
"The snot-licker who claimed himself my father gave me oodles of pain, my dear. A punch here, a slap there. A kick, if he could get one in. I never knew why he hated me, just that he did. I wasn't all-American-boy enough, perhaps. Makes no difference why, the fact is he hated the sight of me. Cigarette burns, drowning by toilet flush. I kept trying to turn his hatred, but never had any luck.
"I had a paper route for a long time while planning my escape. Saved and saved my money until I had quite a lot. Saw this car. Had some asinine idea that fathers and sons work on cars together, and maybe that would change things, so I paid for it, had the guy I bought it from drop it off.
"My old man smiled, put me to work cleaning the garage, making room for this car. I should have known to be scared. I'd just given him a whole new arena in which to perpetuate his abuse."
Her voice came from off to my left, startling me into silence.
Rage makes me see red. Literally, because I'm on a roll and now she's interrupting my train of thought and the words were flowing so effortlessly, and there's a part of me that can't believe I'm going to tell her all of this. But I've started now, and so apparently I am. "What are you sorry for? You weren't there. You didn't do anything."
"I'm sorry I didn't know. I'm sorry I didn't ask."
She's moved away from the fridge – has she seen my impulse to slam her against it and watch her head wobble?
She sits down at the kitchen table. Not exactly out of reach.
"Doesn't matter. I wouldn't have told you anyway." I shake myself, literally, then tuck the sides of my hair behind my ears, looking for the thread of my story, finding it, tugging it.
"The car. I was… fifteen, I suppose. Anxious to get my drivers' license and get the fuck out of dodge, but young enough that it felt like forever away. It was a '78 Ford Ranchero, ugliest yellow you ever saw. It had a bed, and a tailgate like a truck, but was a car. Oh, not the skinny streamlined El Camino – the Ranchero, more square. I thought my dad would like it."
I stop to laugh for a minute. It was so ridiculous.
"Now he'd say, 'C'mon, jackass, let's go work on the car,' and I could look forward to odd-shaped bruises made by a whole new set of tools, no longer just hands and feet and glass ashtrays in assorted shapes and sizes."
She makes a noise deep in her throat, a strangled indicator that she doesn't want to hear this.
"Yeah, you know that jacket you loved so much? I put all those studs on it so when he hit me, he'd hurt himself." I laugh a little at my poor deluded young self and and my pathetically ineffective suit of armor.
"Sometimes we actually worked on the car.
"One day my dad's older brother came to see it. It was eerie how much nicer my dad was when my uncle was present. My uncle said didn't matter if it was a Ranchero or an El Camino, that both of them were stupid, wanting to be a car and wanting to be a truck. Make up your mind. I tried to explain that it wasn't a big truck, and didn't take up as much room.
"He blinked at me slowly, then said, 'Are you retarded or something? This ain't no compact car.'
"I was so pissed, I made a gesture like I was going to hit him, but he caught my arm, then spun me around so my back was against his chest. He pinned my arms and held on.
"I didn't have my jacket yet, in case you're wondering."
She doesn't say a word just watches me with apprehensive eyes.
"My uncle shuffled us both around so we were leaning against the rear quarter-panel of the car, looking into the rusty bed. He said, 'What is the point of that?'
"Something was happening, but I didn't know what. His voice was so calm, it was like the very molecules in the air knew something that I didn't. I struggled against the heaviness of the air, though not against his arms, which were still locked around me. 'For hauling stuff,' I said in exasperation. 'Like a truck.'
"'Really?' he said, and his moist breath tickled my ear. 'What's it called?'
"My head swam in confusion. I knew it was called the bed, but I was afraid to say it."
I refocus on her, sitting on a kitchen chair, hands clenched in her lap. She isn't watching me anymore. Her eyes skitter around the kitchen, looking at her own hands, then the pile of mail strewn across the table top, then out the window… back to her hands. Willing to look at anything but me.
She must have felt my attention leave the past and settle on her, because she hunches her shoulders in and whispers, "You don't have to tell me."
"Ah, but I do," I say. "I want you to know. I want you to know that it was pain. And I want you to know exactly how much."
Now she does look at me, for maybe as long as a whole quiet minute. I can't tell exactly the expression on her face - if it's sorrow or dread or the exasperation of having a crazy person telling ugly stories in her kitchen. But then she bows her head and nods.
As if I need her agreement.
Fuck that. She'll sit here and listen to the story becasue I want her to.
"'Tell. Me. What. It's. Called,' my uncle spat in my ear. And then he bit me, hard, and I yelped. He bit me again, even harder, and there was this hot point of fire that started in the middle of my outer ear and radiated into my head. I shrieked and struggled against him, begging him to let me go.
"'No,' he said, and his voice was hard, emotionless, and he held me even tighter. And I could feel his cock was hard, and it dug into my ass through his jeans. Through mine.
"'Tell me what it's called or I'll bite you again. I'll bite and grind my teeth right through, and then you'll really scream.'
"'Okay, okay,' I said, trying to catch my breath. 'It's called a truck bed, okay? There.'
"'Close,' he said, and pressed his hips harder against my backside. 'Now tell me what it's called in just one word.'
"I sagged in his arms. I knew I'd lost, that I was too small, he was too strong.
"'A bed,' I sighed.
"'That's two words, but I'll forgive your mistake this time. Now. Tell me what a bed is for.'
"He rutted up against me, and I knew what he wanted me to say, but I wasn't going to say it.
"'Hauling things,' I said, defiance clinging to my vocal cords.
"He ground his teeth together, right there next to my ear, and my blood turned to ice water. I trembled in sheer terror. Which was when I remembered my father. Wouldn't he stop this? He wouldn’t just watch his brother... rape... me, would he?
"I craned my head, trying to see past my uncle's bulk, willing to plead for my father's intervention. But he wasn't there. He'd left the garage, left me with this sick fuck. Did he know what was happening?
"'There's no help for you, boy,' my uncle breathed in my ear, as if he'd read my mind. 'Do what you're told, and it will go better for you.' His arms squeezed the breath out of me. 'Tell me what a bed is for.'
"His teeth edged against my ear, pressing in without hurt, holding on to it delicately.
"I could feel the tears pooling in my eyes. I fought them, didn't want them to fall, didn't want him to see me cry. His teeth tightened, then released, then tightened again. I thought I felt saliva drip down the skin of my neck, slide beneath my shirt collar, slippery and wet and gross, making my chills even worse.
"I gave up, all my muscles going loose, and would have fallen to the floor if he hadn't had a firm hold on me.
"'Fucking,' I whispered, defeated."
She makes some noise, shaking her head, violently. "No," she begs. "Please."
I move to the table until I'm looming over her, then lean down to set my lips against her ear. "Yes," I hiss, and then I bite. I can’t help it. Her innocence is delicious.
She squeaks, one hand flying up to cover her ear, the other pushing at me, pushing me away.
I have mercy on her and step back. Just one step back, though. "Listening doesn't hurt."
Still holding her ear, she twists in the chair so she can look at me. "Yes, it does."
Have a good, safe weekend, darlings. Try to stay warm!