Check out this excerpt from my upcoming contemporary romance, Things Lost In The Fire! This highly anticipated new release will debut on December 4th, 2014 in eBook and paperback. There is a giveaway for a signed, paperback copy of the book along with a $20 Amazon gift card! You can also pre-order the eBook at a discounted price up until release day!
Read the excerpt and learn more about Things Lost In The Fire below.
Sadie McRae grew up in the Hollywood Hills, the only daughter of two rock ‘n’ roll legends. When a violent assault on her life ends in a torrid scandal, fifteen-year-old Sadie escapes to the quiet forests of Lake Tahoe.
Unable to resist the music in her blood, she returns to Los Angeles years later and sings under an alias. When her secret is unintentionally exposed by an old friend, journalist-turned-paparazzi Brody Odell, he’ll do anything to make it up to her, including uncovering the truth about the attack from eleven years earlier.
Stardom beckons and the chance at love is within her grasp, but the horrors of her past threaten to tear everything apart. As Sadie fights for the life she deserves, a dangerous stalker begins his game, determined to bring it all to an end.
Brody waited in his car a short distance from Valerie’s driveway, tapping his fingers against the steering wheel. Over thirty minutes had passed since he’d watched Sadie pull up the driveway with her mother and disappear behind the security gate. Thirty long minutes of wondering if he’d missed his chance for the day and should take a hike and go home.
Then he spotted Sadie’s car slowly creeping down the driveway. Anticipation filled him when he realized she was alone. It was now or never.
He slipped from the car and leaned casually against the driver’s side door, folding his arms over his black T-shirt. He grinned at her and waved as she drove by, pleased when she came to an abrupt stop. The look of stunned surprise on her face was quickly replaced with suspicion, then by a hint of fear as he motioned for her to roll down her passenger window.
She rolled it down a few inches, regarding him with a cool stare as he approached. “You know, I don’t make a habit of talking to paparazzi.”
“Glad you made an exception.” Brody continued to smile as he tucked his hands into the pockets of his jeans. He eyed her through the slim crack in the window, his eyes hidden behind aviator sunglasses. “I take it Tess filled you in, then.”
“She told me some things. She’d kill me if she knew I was talking to you. Apparently you’re bad news.”
He laughed. “Not much has changed, has it?”
Sadie’s lips curved, bringing out that dimple he missed so much. “No, not really. So what are you doing here?”
“I wanted to see you again and since you forgot to give me your number, I figured I’d find you here.”
“I just dropped by. I’ve been staying at my dad’s old house.” She bit down on her lip, unsure if she could trust him. “Look, I don’t want anyone knowing I’m in town.”
“I get that.” He leaned in closer to the cracked open window, then rested his arms on the door frame when she rolled the glass down all the way. The scent of her perfume, all warm vanilla and feminine honeysuckle, assaulted his senses and he lost himself in it for a moment. When she only stared at him expectantly, he smiled again. “If I promise not to tell a soul about seeing you, will you have lunch with me?”
She considered his offer, weighing the pros and cons in her head. It would be nice to catch up, and she couldn’t ignore the nervous excitement that coursed through her just by seeing him. Then again, she still didn’t trust him. He needed to prove himself, but first she needed to give him the chance. “Okay. But only on my terms.”
“We go to the restaurant of my choice, sit in the back and you leave your camera and any voice recording equipment in the car.”
“You drive a hard bargain, McRae. But we have a deal.” He slapped the door frame and grinned. “Lead the way.”
He walked back to his car and hopped inside. He followed her down Laurel Canyon and onto Sunset Boulevard, where she detoured down a few side streets before turning into a small lot behind a quaint, hole-in-the-wall café. He understood her preference when he walked inside and found it cozy and private, with small booths tucked safely behind beautiful plants and ornamental screens. They took a seat at one of the booths and he got his first real good look at her.
Without the black wig and makeup she looked just like he remembered, only refined. He drank in the old, familiar lines of her face, curious to know how much the girl inside had changed.
She glanced up from the menu and caught him staring. She blushed, then tried to hide her face behind her hair. Seeing her embarrassment delighted him in ways he couldn’t explain.
“You know, you don’t look any different,” he mused, not even bothering with the menu. He was too fascinated by the subtle curve of her smile and the nervous, fluttery way she moved. All her calm composure seemed to crack now that they were in such close proximity.
“I certainly feel different,” she replied, unable to look him in the eye. Her stomach was a riot of nerves only made worse by his intense stare. Had he always looked at her that way?
Sympathy darkened his mood, knowing full well what changed her. “I’m sure you do.”
A waiter came by and took their drink order. When he left, Sadie chanced a look up at Brody and attempted a smile. “You don’t look much different, either.”
“And here I thought you barely remembered me.”
“Of course I remember you.” She tilted her head and eyed him curiously. “I can tell life hasn’t been easy on you.”
“I haven’t been easy on life,” Brody joked, trying to hide the unease he felt at her words. He shrugged it off, keeping the mood lighthearted. “You know what I did. I live with that guilt every day. But hey, we all have our demons.”
Sorrow creased her brow, emotion clouding her eyes. “Funny how much those demons change us.”
“They only do if we let them.” He held her gaze, wishing to God he could erase all those years and go back to the place where they’d once been friends. Without the ignorance of childhood, everything seemed so radically complicated. “So will you stab me with your fork if I ask why you’re in town?”
She laughed, releasing the tension in her shoulders. “I can’t make any promises.”
His teeth flashed in a devious grin. “I’m willing to take the chance.”
“I’m sure you are…” she trailed off, wondering what she should tell him and how much he deserved to know. She had a basic story prepared just in case she ran into someone she knew, but this was Brody. He was one step below Tess on her list of trusted friends. At least, he had been eleven years ago. There was a time when she’d confided in him on everything—her parents’ divorce, her feelings of being trapped between them, her anger over being used as a weapon in their war against each other. Other than time, what had changed from then to now?
A lot, and yet not very much.
“If you don’t want to tell me, I can respect that,” Brody said, interrupting her thoughts. She heard the disappointment in his voice and felt sorry for it.
“No, it’s okay. I want to tell you.” She lifted her eyes to his, a sad smile softening her face. “My mother has cancer. She doesn’t have much time left.”
“Valerie Ryan is dying?” Stunned surprise hit him like a wave and left him speechless. The legendary singer of Albatross was on her death bed, and no one had any idea. The urge to break the news exploded in his veins and the opportunist in him nearly snatched it, but he held back. He couldn’t betray Sadie’s confidence, not now. Not if he was going to use her to get to the bottom of what happened to Lee Walker.
Sadie nodded. “I came down to help her. I don’t know how long I’ll be in town…as long as it takes, I suppose.”
“I didn’t realize you two had become so close.”
“We aren’t, really.” Sadie sighed, regret filling her at the thought. “But she doesn’t have anyone else.”
He could hear the sense of duty she felt and admired her for it. God knows he wouldn’t do what she was doing if it was his father on his death bed. He’d laugh all the way to the funeral, then make a spectacle and laugh some more just to spite the old man who never gave him the time of day. “That’s pretty damn noble of you, McRae.”
She rolled her eyes and fought back a smile. “Not really.”
The waiter arrived with their drinks and took their food order. Sadie welcomed the distraction as she tried to gather her thoughts. One look at Brody and she knew he was hungry for information. Hopefully it was just innocent curiosity and not copy for a headlining story.
Brody waited impatiently for the waiter to leave, then turned back to her. “So then how did you wind up onstage at The L.A. Rock Lounge?”
“Tess talked me into it,” Sadie admitted, twirling a piece of hair around her finger. “I sort of have a YouTube channel under my alias…”
“Seriously? I gotta look this up.” He reached for his phone but she stopped him, her hand grabbing his arm.
“No recording devices, remember?”
His eyebrows shot up, amused by her. “All right. Later, then. So tell me more about this alias. Pepper-something?”
“Piper Gray,” she corrected, pulling back her hand. She took a deep breath and attempted to relax. “It was just something I did for fun one day. My grandpa helped me record and edit the video so that my face isn’t really visible and I wear the wig and makeup. You’d never know it was me.”
“Except I did,” Brody reminded her. “But not everyone knows you the way I know you. We were best friends.”
“It doesn’t really matter now. I probably won’t perform again.” She sipped her iced tea, avoiding his eyes. “If I’m that easily recognizable, then it’s only going to be trouble.”
“Why have the alias at all? If anything, your name will only help you.”
She grew quiet. “Of all the people out there, I thought you would be the first to understand.”
He was caught off guard by the coldness of her tone. He reassessed his words, wondering how he’d upset her. When she lifted her face and he saw her hopeful expression, it clicked.
“Because the world only looks at you as the daughter of Ben McRae and Valerie Ryan.”
She nodded. “And the world only looks at you as the son of Max Odell.”
He absorbed her words, relishing the connection they shared. Suddenly it felt like he really was sitting across from the old Sadie, and they were sharing those feelings only the two of them could understand. The effect it had on him was troubling. “I’m surprised you remember all that.”
“I told you I remember you.”
* * *