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18+ New Adult Contemporary Romance
"I’ve never understood a year. A year was always a measurement of something bad for me. A year in my father’s prison sentence, a year since my mom’s death, a year left of school before I could get far, far away from here. Now, as I look down the end of my college career, with only a little more than a semester to go, a year seems like something magical. It has been a year since Lily chose me, since she sat with me on the old swing set and made a decision that I was worthy of her. And every minute of the entire year has been better than the last."
You already know their stories: Lily, the perfect princess, always living someone else's life. And Jack, the broken boy, who had stopped believing in hope. Somehow, though, they found each other and what was one night blossomed into a love story.
Now, a year later, Jack and Lily are dreaming of the future. Despite all of his promises to himself that he would never be indebted to anyone, Jack makes a new promise - this time to Lily - that he will be there for her forever. But when life unravels for them, he starts to pull away, and Lily worries he's out of reach for good.
When Jack does the unthinkable, Lily is left destroyed. Is it possible to have a happily ever after? Does love ever really save anyone?
He’s smiling. Not that smirk he gets when he’s bitter but also pleased about something. It’s not the smile that says that he knows happiness is temporary. When he lines up his Skee-ball shot, there is a smile on his face that is pure. Genuine. It’s like taking a step back and seeing Jack in a photograph. One from years before his life went crazy. He’s just a dorky kid playing Skee-ball and he’s so happy when he nails the shot. He does an awkward little dance and it’s the kind of thing about Jack that makes me love him. He’s gorgeous and sexy and aggressive yet sweet. He’s kind and considerate of me, both sexually and in general. But I don’t love Jack for that. I love him because there is light in the world in the space he takes up. I know he doesn’t see it, but he’s inside himself. From the outside, all I see is the absolute electricity and fire that fills the air around him.
“That’s how it’s done,” he tells me when he finishes his game, wrapping up his ridiculous stack of tickets. I’m so going to lose, but I don’t care. He’s happy. I just almost wish I was better at this, so we could stay here longer, so that Jack could be this part of himself for as long as he needs.
“I think you’re perfect,” I say.
“Because I’m good at Skee-ball? Shit, that’s all it takes?”
I shake my head. “No, but you tell me all the time. I don’t think I ever say it to you. I don’t like the idea of perfection. It’s too much of a standard to live up to, but I don’t think you even understand. It’s cheesy and probably cliché, but I just can’t imagine how I could breathe without you. How did I exist before this?”
He looks down, uncomfortable because it’s one thing to tell Jack he’s hot or sexy; he can handle that and he gets cocky and ridiculous when I tell him that. But this part of him, this vulnerability, he buries it so deep that drawing attention to it makes him want to disappear. But I don’t want that. I want him to embrace it, because it’s sweet and beautiful.
“Don’t look down,” I say and I lift his face to look at me. His eyes explode with light, the way fireworks do on New Year’s when the sky is like ink and then it’s suddenly on fire. I lean in and kiss him, feeling his hands tighten on my arms and his lips opening against mine. He’s scared. I can feel it in the way he kisses me today; he feels himself falling and he’s trying to hold on and I need to figure out how to be steady enough to hold him. “Trust me,” I plead. “Let me take some of what you’re feeling. I can handle it, Jack.”
He nods. “Another day. Today, I just want to stay here, to be here with you, where it’s safe and comfortable and my entire world is this. Where strawberries and popcorn and Skee-ball and shitty plastic toys are the entirety of what exists.” He pauses. “I promise, Lily. I will. Soon. But let me hide from it. Just for a little longer?”
“Okay, but don’t hide from me, okay?” I ask.
“I’ll try,” he offers and it’s okay that he can’t promise. He’s honest and I would rather he is than say something he knows is a lie. I’m not fragile. I won’t break if he hurts me. I just don’t want him to worry about doing it. I never signed up for it to be easy. I knew from the start that it wouldn’t be. “Now, stop distracting me. Unless you want to concede defeat?”
“Never gonna happen,” I say and I settle in to play more Skee-ball. I don’t really care about winning since whatever the prize ends up being is going to be more of him, regardless. But I try my best and actually win two games in a row. Of course, that’s as long as it lasts.
When he beats me, by eight games, he gloats in his victory, but he ends up using his tickets to get me a green plastic piggy bank. The options are pretty bad, but I love that he picked the bank, because it’s hideous and cheap and we spent far more than we could even fit in the bank. I love it because I’ll never use it, but it will always be like this day – something that doesn’t really belong but needs to exist because the world is simply better for it being there.
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Note: Orange Blossom will be available for the 1st Week for just $0.99 on Amazon
The Flowering Series
Reading Order Note: Forget Me Not, Lily of the Valley, and Blue Rose can be read in any order. There is some crossover in scenes between the titles, but each stands alone as one character's story. Star of Bethlehem is a direct continuation from Forget Me Not and Lily of the Valley. Orange Blossom and Ambrosia assume readers have read the other four titles and read as sequels. In essence, the first three are #1, Star of Bethlehem is #1.5, Orange Blossom is #2, and Ambrosia is #3.
Forget Me Not
~ Synopsis ~
18+ New Adult romance
Lily had a crush on her brother’s best friend, Derek, for years – which led to their steamy night ten months ago in her bedroom. Now, she’s off to college and she and Derek are still going strong. However, when school starts, Lily realizes it’s hard to maintain a relationship, while also trying to live her own life. She and Derek find themselves falling apart and she has no idea where to turn.
Enter Jack. Everything about him is wrong for Lily and she knows it, but she can’t stop herself from being attracted to him. When things implode with Derek, it’s Jack who’s there to pick up the pieces – and to show Lily an entirely new set of experiences she didn’t know she was missing. Of course, Jack has his own problems and once Lily gets to know him better, she starts to wonder if she can handle all of Jack.
When Derek reappears on the scene, Lily is forced to decide between two guys and herself. Can she find herself without losing the people who matter in the process?
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~ Excerpt ~
The movie is awful, but it’s fun spending time with people who are easygoing and, when Don suggests going to Denny’s afterward, I agree without even asking Derek. When we get in his car, I worry that he is disappointed, though.
“Are you mad?” I ask him.
He shakes his head. “Of course not. Lily, I love you and I’ll be there for you, but you need to have other people. I wouldn’t expect you to demand that I have no one at school.”
“Do you have a lot of friends at school?”
“Yeah,” he admits. “There’s a group Jon and that I spend a lot of time with. If you come up sometime, I’ll introduce you. Although, if you stay with me, you know what that means...”
“Yeah. Hands off all weekend - under penalty of death by older brother.” I laugh. Jon would obviously never hurt either of us, but I still don’t think it would be kosher to get too frisky with Derek in his room.
I debate about asking the question I know I shouldn’t, one I have never worried about, but for some reason need an answer to now. I survived my entire senior year by not asking this question; now that we’re on the same page, I feel like I need to know. I have to know what I’m facing.
“This group. Are there girls in it?” I ask.
Derek pulls into the parking lot at Denny’s, puts the car in park, and turns to look at me. “Three. Alyssa, Maya, and Jodie. Jon had a thing with Alyssa for a while, but nothing serious came of it. And stop it. I see the jealousy brewing. They are all homely and hideous and you’re the only girl I’m interested in.” He kisses my forehead and I know it’s supposed to make me feel better, but it only makes me feel like a kid. I had moments over the past year when I worried that Derek would think I was too young, but now I have these three women to picture and I don’t want to picture them.
Although I was a virgin when I slept with Derek the first time, he wasn’t. I don’t know what he did at school before we got together, but he had plenty of girlfriends in high school and I can’t imagine he was celibate for those first few months last year. We’ve never talked about it; although I know how many people he’s been with, I don’t know for sure who they are or when he was with them. I can’t bear to know. I hate thinking of him with another girl so close to when we started dating.
I’ve managed not to be the jealous type for almost a year, despite him being away, although I can’t pretend that it doesn’t bother me if I think too much about it. I know it’s hypocritical, since my new group of friends includes guys, but I can’t help it. I feel like Derek’s going to realize sooner or later that I’m not enough for him.
We go into the restaurant, because I don’t want to think about Alyssa, Maya, and Jodie; it is easier to fake it with company. Everyone is in high spirits and I try to let the worry slip away. There is not a lot I can do anyway. I’m pretty sure that Derek has been faithful. Right now, all I can do is trust him. As hard as that is, I have no reason to think that he would cheat. Still, I can’t stop picturing him in bed with someone else.
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~ Synopsis ~
18+ New Adult romance
Plagued by a dark past, Jack sees college as a way out. Desperate to escape the area where he grew up, the people who know his secrets, and his own family, he deals with his problems through alcohol and meaningless sex.
When he first sees Lily, she’s the epitome of everything he hates. Yet something about her makes Jack rethink everything he knows and assumes about other people. Now, with the help of his best friend and lover, Jack has to decide if he wants to pursue something that he knows will only end badly.
Can Lily be one of the few people who can see Jack for who he really is – or will his darkness be too much for her to handle?
~ Excerpt ~
My grandmother is so happy that I agreed to visit with my father on my way back to school that I almost feel okay with the decision. Until we reach the prison and the familiar sickness returns. I can’t turn around now and say I don’t want to go in, but the sky is steel grey and I wonder why it’s never sunny when I come here. Even the weather hates me.
She has a hat on, because it’s a prison day, and I don’t have the heart to tell her that she tries to look nice for a group of lowlifes. I feel like somewhere in her head she convinces herself that she looks like she’s going to church or something and that people will think that’s what she’s doing. She seems to believe that if other people assume she’s not the mother-in-law of a killer, then she’s not the mother-in-law of a killer.
The security check is backed up today because some guy is arguing with the guard about his belt. They want him to leave it at the entrance, since it keeps setting off the metal detectors, but he’s apparently really attached to the stupid thing and doesn’t want to give it up. They argue back and forth and it’s the dumbest conversation I’ve ever heard. And I go to college with frat boys.
“Buddy, you have to take off the belt and leave it, or you can’t get in,” the guard explains. “Unless you can pass through here without setting off the machines, you aren’t going to see anyone.”
“You’re just trying to rob me. You’re all part of the system, man, and I ain’t giving you shit.”
“You’ll get the thing back,” the guard tries to reason.
“Fuck you. You’re just trying to keep me down.”
The guard sighs. “Look, just put the belt right here on this shelf. I will personally watch over it and make sure it’s safe.”
“Why should I trust you? You work for them.”
“I do and I make less than twenty bucks an hour. I don’t care about your damn belt.”
“More than I make. Think you’re so special, judging me, acting like you’re too good for something that belongs to me-”
“Holy fuck, just give him the fucking belt,” I yell. The guard, the random dude, and my grandmother all turn to look at me. “What? This is fucking stupid.”
The guy seems so taken aback that he quietly removes his belt and hands it to the guard. He goes through the metal detector, this time without setting anything off, and turns back to look at me. He shakes his head and mumbles, “Crazy ass motherfucker.”
The guard just stares at me. I walk through the machine and the thing goes insane. It’s my belt ironically. He raises an eyebrow and just holds out his hand. “I need you to leave your belt here.”
I don’t care about the belt or this visit and the sooner we get in, the faster we leave. I hand him my belt and then my grandmother is through. The guard buzzes us into the next area, where a few more guards are sitting in a small office. I wait for them to lead us to the room where we’ll meet my dad. The metal table shines in the fluorescent light. If I stare at it long enough, maybe I’ll go blind.
“No outbursts,” my grandmother warns.
“It wasn’t an outburst. He was wasting time.”
“I don’t care. Your actions impact your father.”
“Yeah, well, his kinda impacted me,” I point out.
She shakes her head and turns to face the door through which my dad will enter. I hate it here. I hate the way the lights are covered in weird metal mesh grates that make it always feel like five o’clock on a winter evening. I hate the way that the voices of other visitors and prisoners bounce off the walls, disembodied and incomprehensible, but invasive enough to remind you that you’ll never be alone in here. I hate how the guards try to treat me like their own kid, as if by being sympathetic it will fix anything. And I especially hate the stupid look of hope that refuses to leave my grandmother’s face no matter how many times we come here. Sometimes I think maybe it’s that look that makes me limit my visits as much as I do, more so than even hating my father. Because the fact that she believes someday things can be okay? Well, there is just nothing I can say about that.
Warning: This book deals with topics of abuse and may trigger reactions in people who have experienced those things in their own lives. It remains a story about healing, but it's not always an easy journey.
"Four. My life has been shaped by four people. Four men, to be more specific. My father, my stepfather, my best friend, and my boyfriend. The first two shaped it in horrible ways, but what I am, who I am, is all because of four men."
Over the last twenty years, I've learned how to keep secrets. It doesn't really matter, since everyone already seems to think they know everything about me. So I hide. I avoid confrontation, I treat Xanax like a magic pill that will make it all go away, and I become everything they think I am. A slut. A whore. Nothing but trash.
I can only name two guys who have ever made me feel like I was more than that. Jack is my best friend and I've loved him since I met him. Now, though, he's in love... with someone else, and I guess I need to get over him. Somehow.
And then there's Dave. The guy I never gave a chance. The guy I used almost as much as people used me, because I wanted to pretend I was someone worth loving. Two years have passed since we last spoke, but I don't know how to stop thinking about him.
My new therapist is making me face my past, and she tells me that life inevitably changes without our permission. I believe it, but I know what I am. I hear what she's saying to me, and I want to try again with Dave, to help Jack find joy, to love myself, and to move on. I just wonder if anyone can do that, really.~ Link to Buy ~
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Later that day, at lunch, I had just found a seat by the window when he sat across from me. I was used to sitting alone. He didn’t say anything, and he had nothing to eat. He looked up at me, though, after a few minutes, and his eyes did it again. I hated my body, hated the way I looked, hated that somehow I owed my body and my looks to everyone else. But when Jack looked at me, I wanted to let someone touch me. I wanted him to hold me. He felt like safety.
It didn’t even make sense. He was just a broken kid, like me. He always wore the same threadbare hoodie. Most days, it covered his head. He was cute, but awkward. His hair was too long and usually greasy. His Chucks were a little too big, so they looked a little like clown shoes. Yet those gorgeous eyes were all I cared about. I hadn’t considered guys at all. I didn’t find them attractive, and I certainly couldn’t see the appeal of sex or of intimacy. With Jack, though, the thought of him near me didn’t make me nauseous.
“Do you want my orange?” I asked him.
“Are you sure?”
It wasn’t a groundbreaking question. But it was how I knew that what I naturally felt for Jack was right. Because no one had ever asked me that. No one had asked if I minded, if I was sure, if something was okay. They just took things.
He took it and I handed him my knife. It was flimsy plastic and wouldn’t even pierce the rind, so I took the orange back and peeled it with my fingernails. Jack just watched me and, when I handed him the orange, now peeled, he smiled. His upper lip curled more than it should have and he looked silly, smiling at an orange. But he drew the same smile from me.
“Thank you,” he said, and he pulled two slices free from the whole and handed them back to me. I didn’t eat them right away. I just watched him eat his part. He was messy and he ended up covering himself in the juices. He unzipped his hoodie after the orange squirted down the front. Underneath, he was wearing a washed out blue T-shirt with a train on it. He looked ten.
“Nice shirt,” I teased.
He looked down. “I live with my grandmother. She has no concept of clothes.”
He smiled again and it was less awkward this time. “Do you live with your grandmother, too?”
I was wearing a huge black sweater over baggy black pants. “No. I just… I don’t like people looking at me.”
“Yeah. I get that.”
He didn’t tell me that I was too pretty to dress the way I did; he didn’t say my body was too good to hide. He just went back to eating his orange, letting the juice spill all over the train shirt. We were fourteen, but I already knew Jack would always be the only thing that mattered in my future.
(Flowering Holiday Novella)
~ Synopsis ~
Jack isn’t a rock star. He’s not the leader of a MC. He isn’t a billionaire. Lily’s not the daughter of a mob boss, or a stripper, or a virgin with a BDSM fascination. They’re just regular college kids, who somehow found each other in the middle of all the crap and chaos of growing up.
“With you, Jack, it was the first time I ever felt real. It was the first time anyone looked at me and saw substance. It was the first time I wanted to make someone see me.”
Jack and Lily have navigated his past, her desire to move on from her family’s demands of her, his depression, and her loneliness. Now, on New Year’s Eve, they have an entire year laid out ahead of them. First, though, Jack needs to meet Lily’s family, to be welcomed into her life. It’s intimidating, but with a sweater that is way too hot and his grandmother’s ugly car, he arrives at Lily’s gleaming house on a hill, ready to open himself up completely to her.
Inside the perfect, sparkling house, Lily waits for the boy she has come to love. But Lily’s house and family are a lot like her – shiny and pretty on the outside, with a sad emptiness on the interior. Lily wants to give Jack the one thing he has always dreamed of – family and love – but can she keep him from seeing how hollow a lot of the picture perfect life he fantasizes about really is?
This is a novella length work that follows Forget Me Not and Lily of the Valley.
~ Excerpt ~
I take his hand and pull him down beside me on my bed. I feel so complete in his arms, as if nothing can go wrong when he holds me. It’s all the other stuff. The world, people, pressure. Maybe it’s a little fear that things just ended with Derek. That one day, as quickly as I fell for Jack, I also fell out of love with Derek. I don’t have enough experience to know if that’s normal. What if it happens again?
“What? Tell me,” Jack whispers.
“Have you ever felt like your entire life is some surrealist’s joke? That you think you’re in control of it, while really, you’re probably just…”
“A melting clock?” he finishes and laughs. I look at him, disappointed that I can’t explain it, but also relieved that he doesn’t care.
“All the fucking time,” he says. “I know you’re scared. I know I’m scared. But I seem to remember you telling me that I should remember what matters. I made you a promise, princess. Yes, your house intimidates me. Your life intimidates me. Hell, loving you intimidates me. But I’m in this. I’m here. Present. Entirely. I’m looking only forward. And all I see is you.”
“Take the damn book,” I tell him. “I just wanted to show you that I have faith in us. It was a conscious decision to give you something that was a very special gift to me, to tell you that I trust you with it, because I trust you to be there. Long term.”
He takes me in his arms and kisses me. I decide I won’t stop him if he goes further, but he doesn’t. Our bodies crackle with the energy between us, but as much as the sex thrills me, Jack does so much more for my mind than his body could even do. I can’t believe how alive I feel when he’s near me. Perhaps it’s selfish. Perhaps it’s desperate. But I want him here in my life; I want him with me, because I love being this aware.
I speak against his cheek, while his hands slowly explore my body. It’s sensual but not sexual. He’s studying me like a work of art. “I don’t want to fall out of love with you. I thought Derek was all I ever wanted. I don’t want to be in the same place with you a year from now.”
“You won’t be,” he tells me.
“How do you know?”
He kisses along my face, brushing his lips against my cheek, my forehead, my nose, but never reaching my mouth. “I don’t know how. But I do.”
I love that he can put aside his doubts to ease my own. I know Jack’s had so much trouble in his life, and the fact that he can comfort me, when my problems are so petty and stupid in the scheme of things, is one more thing I love so much. “I know I’m shallow. But I don’t want to be, Jack.”
“You’re not shallow. You’re not empty. Anything you think of yourself – it’s crazy. If you want to talk about surreal, it’s the fact that you think you’re less than something. Maybe you didn’t get shit on the same way I did in high school, but clearly, people have underestimated you. They missed out on you. And you have every right to be hurt. But, Lily? No one will ever hurt you again.”
I smile. “Thanks. I’m sorry I’m being so moody. It’s probably hormones or something. I think I’m just frustrated.”
“Yeah?” He laughs. “Well… I mean… I can help you relieve some of that.”
He’s on top of me and I don’t care that it wasn’t exactly what I meant. I don’t care that someone could walk in. Someone probably will walk in, since eventually they’ll come looking, but I don’t care at all. I want to belong to Jack, and I don’t know any other way to do so.
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The Flowering Box Set
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~ About the Author ~
Sarah Daltry writes about the regular people who populate our lives. She's written works in various genres - romance, erotica, fantasy, horror. Genre isn't as important as telling a story about people and how their lives unfold. Sarah tends to focus on YA/NA characters but she's been known to shake it up. Most of her stories are about relationships - romantic, familial, friendly - because love and empathy are the foundation of life. It doesn't matter if the story is set in contemporary NY, historical Britain, or a fantasy world in the future - human beings are most interesting in the ways they interact with others. This is the principle behind all of Sarah's stories.
Sarah has spent most of her life in school, from her BA and MA in English and writing to teaching both at the high school and college level. She also loves studying art history and really anything because learning is fun.
When Sarah isn't writing, she tends to waste a lot of time checking Facebook for pictures of cats, shooting virtual zombies, and simply staring out the window.
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