Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Teaser...er...Wednesday

This week's FUN AND GAMES WITH K & K schedule is a little askew.  Sorry about that, folks, but with Thursday being the Book Hungry posting day, and Kelly, cracking the writing whip on me with wanting to do TWO posts this week...well...things have been a little hectic. 

So, today, you will get my snip.  Tomorrow, you will get to peruse the Book Hungry book reviews of NEVER LET ME GO (this month's pick) and then on Friday, you can pop in on Ms. Kelly's blog for another fun snip of Fun and Games.  Then, the ball will be lobbed back at me on Monday.  Whoa! Holy Guacamole!  That's a lot of Harper and Grace.  Can you handle it?

I thought so.  So, here you go :)

Owen slid the phone back into his pocket and blew out a resigned sigh. Lucky was probably right. Maybe, he shouldn’t be pursuing this thing with Harper. It was painfully obvious—at least, to him—that she just wasn’t ready to be around anyone right now, especially guys. She needed time to heal, to sort through this whole mess and figure out where she stood.


So, where did that leave him? SOL, he thought with a frustrated groan. Just like Lucky’d said earlier. Owen would be damned if he’d admit that to his obnoxious twin. He’d never hear the end of it.

Straightening his shoulders and pulling in a deep, fortifying breath, he headed back into the house. He stopped at the entrance to the living room and leaned against the doorway, letting his gaze slide over to the girl folded up on his couch, her knees drawn up to her chest, arms banded around them to keep them close, and her head bowed forward, her long locks tumbling down around her, a shield for her to hide behind.

Yeah, he was definitely shit out of luck when it came to her. The enormity of that thought hit him with the force of sledgehammer right to the chest. The pain of it radiated throughout him, stealing his breath and momentarily, his sanity. No, he couldn’t just abandon her at the first sign of trouble. That’s exactly what his dad had done, and Owen was definitely not his father’s son.

“Harper,” he said so softly, it was almost a whisper. Her head jerked up anyway, the tension, the fear, the hurt all tattooed across her features with the brightest ink imaginable, a glowing neon sign that fairly screamed, “Damaged!”

A moment of thick, anxious silence passed between them. “Owen,” she finally lobbed back at him, the corners of her lips twitching upward, but he could see the effort behind the small movement.

“I called Grace.” He cringed inwardly as the sentence stumbled off the tip of his tongue, his whole being revolting against the words that he knew had to come next, the ones that would send Harper into an unforgiving rage which would be directed only at him. “This thing between us…I don’t think it was such a good idea.”

“So, you called Grace?” she said stiffly, rolling the sound around on her tongue as if the syllables were a foreign delicacy that she hadn’t yet made up her mind as to whether she liked it or not. The look on her face told Owen she was leaning toward the or not.

“Harper, it’s just—“

“No, I get it,” she cut in, a flat monotone that ripped his chest wide open, leaving the skin in tiny, jagged ribbons that might never piece back together again. “You look at me and see damaged goods. What guy wants to deal with that kind of baggage? Right?”

“Harper—“

“So, you ran and told Mommy,” she barreled on, her voice rising as she sprang up to her feet, eyes flashing and fists clenching at her sides. A hollow, bitter laugh flitted out of her. “It doesn’t matter what I say or how many different ways I say it. You’ll always look at me and see some victim, won’t you? I can tell you and Grace until I’m blue in the goddamned face that nothing happened, but you won’t ever believe me. Will you?”

“Harper.” He took a small, tentative step forward, hands outstretched, palms up in an I come in peace gesture. With her spitting and scratching like a wounded animal backed into a corner, his options were severely limited. Where the hell was Grace at? “You need to calm down—“

“Will you?”

He stopped, dropped his hands, and swallowed visibly. “I’ll believe anything you tell me.” He paused, considered her for a long winding second. “As long as it’s the truth.”

She stilled, her whole body going rigid with the accusation lurking beneath his every word. “Nothing happened,” she bit out.

“Nothing?” The one echoed word twisted and morphed as it fell out of him and crashed back into her in the form of a question instead of statement of fact.

A sharp jerk of her head, not quite a nod but enough to have him bobbing his own head in response.

“Okay, then,” he blew out a heavy breath and then held his hand out to her. “Prove it.”

“What?” She couldn’t possibly have heard him right, but still his hand floated out in the space between them, daring her to lay her palm in his.

“You heard me.” His brows lifted in challenge, his blue eyes watching her carefully. “You told me nothing happened between you and that bastard,” he sneered over those last two words, rage flashing across his face only to be gone in a blink as he schooled his features into a clean, clear façade. “And, I believe you. Because we’re friends, Harper, and friends don’t lie to each other.”

“No, they don’t,” she agreed, reluctantly. So, what did that make her? A friendless liar.

“So, take my hand…friend.”

Lifting her gaze from his open palm up to his face and then dropping it back down again, she groped for some reasonable response. One that would keep her from having to place her hand in his. Cold fear gripped her entire body just at the thought of any kind of contact, and those icy fingers of dread were even now circling around her throat, threatening to cut off her air supply.

“Friends?” she asked in a petrified voice, even as she slowly raised a trembling hand up to his.

“Friends,” he repeated, solemnly.

It took forever, but her arm raised up, her fingers tremulously sliding over his palm until her hand laid on top of his. His eyes never left her face, and the war he witnessed being fought on the battleground of her porcelain skin just about broke him. Slowly, ever so slowly, he rotated their hands up so that they mirrored each other, palms flattened out, fingers pointing toward the ceiling. His fingers pressed lightly on hers until they slid apart, allowing him to lace their digits together.

“Friends,” he whispered again, taking a step closer to her.

She nodded, opened her mouth to echo but her throat constricted, a lump forming at the back as her eyes burned and blurred. He took another step closer and then another. Heat rolled off him in giant scorching waves that lapped gently against her skin, thawing the frozen surface a little.

“Harper.” The pad of his thumb grazed her damp cheek, wiping away tears she hadn’t realized she’d been shedding. “I’ll never let anyone hurt you again. I promise.”

She started to shake her head, to deny it all yet again, but something inside her broke, some wall came tumbling down, and she was left standing in the ruins. A loud sob raced up the back of her throat, choking her, and her knees buckled. But, she didn’t collapse, not with his strong arms coming around her waist, silently supporting. His hand glided over her back, rubbing small soothing circles along her spine, and even though her heart, her mind, and her body were all screaming different commands at her—some to get as far away as possible, others to hold on tight and never let go—she leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder and letting the tears fall free.

“It’s okay, Harp. We’ll get through this,” he whispered over and over, a soothing chant that effectively put her at ease.

But, all too quickly, it was over. Harper never heard the car pull into the driveway or the front door crash open, for that matter. One minute, Owen held her close, comforting her and chasing away all her demons, and in the next, he flew away from her and slammed up against the wall, Truman’s fist connecting solidly with his stomach.

Okay friends, that's it for now.  Don't forget about our Book Club meeting scheduled for tomorrow.  We hope to see you all there!  And, then slide over to Kelly's place on Friday for more Harper and Grace action :)