Sunday, 15 May 2016

#samplesunday - THE GROOM

It's #samplesunday again.

And a great opportunity for you to get a look at our books. Make sure to follow us on Twitter to get notice of when: @bottomdrawerpub

Today we we're checking out The Groom from Elise Marion. 





When Lyle Cummings is left standing at the altar on his wedding day, all of his carefully composed plans for the future come crashing down around him. The pragmatic doctor is left questioning his well-ordered existence and wondering if there isn't more to life than the achievements of wealth and career.

When he meets Katrina Giordano, a fiery lounge singer with more passion in her pinky finger than he possesses in his entire body, his mundane life is turned upside down. In Katrina, he finds everything his life has been lacking. With her, he will learn that what he thought was love really wasn't at all.

But will Katrina's dark past threaten the happiness that Lyle has found after so much heartache? With her life, and now his, hanging in the balance, Lyle will find himself tested when it comes to how far he will go for love. 


Please enjoy this sample chapter from the book . . . 


CHAPTER THREE

LYLE WAS SNATCHED abruptly out of sleep by the blaring of his cell phone. The irritating chirp combined with the vibrations coming from his pocket, making it impossible for him to slide back into the alcohol-induced slumber he’d finally succumbed to a few hours ago. Scraping his fingernails over the rough stubble lining his jaw, he reached for his cell phone with his free hand and glared at the screen through blurry eyes.

He didn’t say a word as he pressed the green call button and held the phone to his ear, but he was sure a grunt of some kind passed from between his lips. The voice of Dan, his co-worker, best friend, and best man, filled his ear and echoed through his pounding head.

“Climb out of whatever liquor bottle you’ve sunk to the bottom of and answer the damn door. I’ve been down here buzzing you for the last fifteen minutes.”

Lyle groaned and ended the call, tossing his phone onto the couch beside him. He didn’t want to see or talk to anyone, but he also knew Dan wouldn’t leave until he let him up. Fighting nausea and the urge to fall back onto the couch and sleep until the end of the year, Lyle peeled himself off the leather and shuffled on bare feet through the house. He buzzed Dan up, barking “I’ll be in the shower” through the intercom before continuing on his dizzying voyage to the master bedroom, unlocking the front door on his way to let Dan in.

He was too hung over to give a damn about rose petals on the bed this morning and managed to getinto the bathroom and his marble-tiled walk-in shower without melting into a puddle of depression on the floor. The hot sting of the shower woke him up some, and he welcomed the pain of nearly scalding water. It turned his skin red and filled the shower with steam, relaxing his muscles until he felt nearly weightless. He faintly heard Dan enter the apartment, the slamming of the front door, and the gentle hum of voices. One of them was feminine, and Lyle distinctly recognized the Southern tones of Twila, his housekeeper. She was supposed to have the next week off for obvious reasons, but Lyle should have known she’d show up today.

Meddlesome woman.

He took his time, avoidance his strategy for as long as he could get away with it. After a while, he knew Twila would come running in to be sure he hadn’t passed out in the shower and drowned—that woman watched way too many horror films—so he quickly dried and threw on a pair of dry-cleaned khakis and an already starched white shirt, sliding on socks and loafers before combing his wet hair back from his face and leaving the room.

Twila had already brewed a pot of coffee and was across the room in a flash, a white ceramic mug extended and full of her strong, potent brew. Dan was seated at the long, curved bar jutting away from the kitchen, his own cup and a plate of Twila’s scrambled eggs in front of him.

“Good morning,” Twila chirped cheerily. Lyle glared at her over the cup but took a sip of the coffee—no need to let it go to waste.

“You’re not supposed to be here,” Lyle said eventually, his voice low and raspy.

Twila bustled back over to the stove, piling a plate with bacon, toast, eggs and a mixture of cantaloupe and honeydew melon. She set the plate on the bar and pulled a stool out for Lyle.

“Well, I am here, so you’re just going to have to deal with it,” she said in that abrasive way of hers. 
Usually Lyle appreciated her frankness and in-your-face personality. Today, he wasn’t in the mood.

He speared Dan with his sharp gaze, his hand once again finding the five o’clock shadow on his face. The stubble irritated him, but he didn’t feel like shaving.

“What about you?” he asked. “What the hell do you want?”

Before Dan could even answer, Lyle already knew. Dan was wearing his “lucky” plaid pants and golf shoes.

“Thought we could play a few rounds at the club today.”

“Okay, stop it, both of you.” He couldn’t help the edge in his voice; it was just kind of there.

“Stop what? Eat your eggs.”

Lyle cut his eyes toward Twila. “I don’t want eggs.”

“Then drink your coffee.”

Already mid-sip, Lyle shot both intruders another defiant stare over his mug. He didn’t want them here. He didn’t want anyone here. He definitely didn’t want to talk about . . .

“Has she called?” Twila asked as she moved toward the dishwasher, unloading Lyle’s meager dishes from the day before and replacing them with her used pans.

Lyle snatched his gaze away from the dark colored contents of his mug. “Did who call?” He’d hoped his voice would have enough warning in it that she would take the hint. No such luck.

“Holly. You think she’d at least call to apologize or—”

Twila yelped in surprise, and Dan leaped about a mile in the air as a white ceramic plate made contact with the ecru wall. Scrambled eggs joined the d├ęcor, a sunburst of yellow against the neutral tone. Bacon grease dripped down the wall in slow motion, traveling in rivulets toward the broken bits of plate spread out over the tiles.

“Get out, both of you,” he said calmly.

Dan, who looked as if he was about ready to haul Lyle off to the nearest psych ward, traded nervous glances with Twila, who had already lifted her broom and dustpan and was headed toward the mess staining the walls and floor.

“Stop!” Lyle barked. “Stop cleaning. Stop cooking and stop asking me questions about her. Stop asking me to go play golf and stop calling me. And for God’s sake—I don’t think I’m asking for too much here—get the hell out and leave me alone!”

Without waiting for either of them to answer or make a move, Lyle turned and fled, retreating back to his office and away from wide-eyed stares and the stench of pity. By the time he’d lowered himself into the plush, leather chair behind his desk, he heard the slam of the front door and knew that he was alone. Sagging against the back of the chair with relief, Lyle booted up his computer, cringing in emotional pain that seemed to translate itself into the physical as Holly’s face filled the screen. The photo was a candid shot someone had snapped of them at a holiday mixer for the surgical staff at Mount Sinai Medical Center last December. In it, they appeared the quintessential couple; Lyle in his bow tie and tux, Holly in a sexy but demure red cocktail dress.

In the photo, Lyle had one arm around Holly, pulling her back against his front. His eyes were on her, full of adoration and pride at the beauty of the woman on his arm. Maybe he’d been about to lean in for a kiss, he couldn’t quite remember. Holly’s attention was focused elsewhere, her gaze just beyond the camera, her red lips parted in a smile. As his computer finished booting, he couldn’t help leaning forward to study the picture, his elbows propped on the desk, his chin resting on his hands.

Looking at the photo now, he couldn’t help but think of the irony of his current situation. Had he really been blind enough to think Holly actually loved him? The old saying went, that a picture was worth a thousand words; in this case the photo on his desktop was speaking volumes. Throughout their year-long relationship, Lyle had been entirely devoted to her and, just like in this picture, focused completely on her. It never dawned on him to second-guess her words of love. Now he realized that Holly’s eyes had never been fixed on him, and her love had never been equal to his. Like a fool, he’d believed that marriage would solidify them, that if he showered her with all the adoration, money, gifts, and security—everything that he thought a woman would want—she would eventually come to feel as passionately about him as he did her.

It just hadn’t been enough. Even on what should have been the most important and profound day of his life, it hadn’t been enough.

Deciding that he’d suffered more than any man had a right to, Lyle went through the motions of changing the desktop picture to something more generic. White clouds against a blue sky splashed across the screen, and he was finally able to get down to the business of checking his email. In his inbox, he found about fifteen messages from friends and family members, people he hardly ever heard from. Subject lines such as “my condolences” and “hang in there” filled his computer screen, flooding Lyle’s gut with cold, heavy stones of disgust. He deleted each one without opening them, deciding that he’d had more than enough pity for one day already and it wasn’t even ten a.m. yet.

That done, he shot an email to the Chief of Surgery at Mount Sinai and told his boss that he’d be back to work in the morning. He neglected to include that his right hand was still swollen and bruised and that performing surgery was out of the question for now, but decided to deal with that later. There were plenty of things to do without going into the operating room, and Lyle intended to bury himself in even the most menial of tasks to keep from having to think about anything else.

_____

He was back again. Katrina noticed him the moment he stepped into Parson’s, his dirty-blond head towering above most of the men in the room. He wasn’t the kind of guy who would catch her eye ordinarily. He was obviously a working stiff, the type to clash with her free-spirited personality. It wasn’t just the starched khakis or the Oxfords that gave it away; it was something in his posture, in his carriage that suggested it. If she had to guess, she’d peg him as some kind of high-powered attorney or stockbroker.

Definitely not the kind of guy she’d normally pay attention to.

And yet there was something else that caught her gaze and kept it, a deep and obvious trauma that showed itself in his eyes. Intertwined in the swirling green and brown tones of his irises, Katrina found the barely-hidden emotion and recognized it for what it was. Agony.

Angie breezed past her with a full tray of empty beer mugs, pausing as she followed Katrina’s gaze toward the bar.

“Oh,” she said, surprised. “Sad Guy’s back.”

“Sad Guy?”

Angie shrugged, shifting the tray of mugs to balance them expertly with one hand. “Well, I don’t know his real name, but that’s what I’m going to call him. It definitely fits. Came in here yesterday wearing a penguin suit but looking like he’d just left the boxing ring.”

Angie moved on through the crowd, weaving her way back to the kitchen, reappearing a few seconds later with a set of clean mugs. Sad Guy was now seated at the bar, and Angie made a beeline for him, giving him what Katrina liked to call the “bartender’s smile.” Full of concern, understanding, and charm, the “bartender’s smile” hooked bar drinkers every time. The two chatted casually for a while, and Angie inspected his knuckles before nodding in approval. Katrina overheard a few snatches of conversation in which Angie offered him a free single malt scotch on the rocks before moving back behind the bar to make the drink. Sad Guy accepted it, and Angie went on about her work.

Katrina glanced at her watch and realized that it was almost time for her to go on. For some reason, she could feel the eyes of Sad Guy on her back as she moved up the four steps to the small stage. It was ridiculous, really. Parson’s was full, and most everyone was watching her take her place, some of the regulars already applauding in anticipation of her performance. It wasn’t that his gaze was lascivious either. There were plenty of men in the bar, most of whom had hit on her at least once and a few very persistent stalkers that Jake had been forced to bodily remove from the premises once or twice. Something about this gaze was different, and as she lifted her guitar from its case, took her place on the high stool, and flicked on her microphone, she changed her mind about the first number she would sing.

“Good evening, everyone,” she said, immediately met with catcalls, whistles, and applause. She laughed, a deep, throaty sound that she knew made her seem mysterious. She lowered her head as she strummed absently on the guitar, knowing that the curtain of curls falling over one eye added to the mystery. With the dim lighting of the lounge she was veiled, her own pain masked in seduction and promise. It was what kept her regulars coming back, what drew people to her. She knew it and understood how to work the crowd. She did it now without thinking . . . she’d been rehearsing her act for years. Yet something about this night was different. This time, as she leaned toward the mic, her lips almost touching it, she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the hazel ones boring into hers from across the room.

“As you know I like to start with a more upbeat number, but tonight I’m going to do things a bit differently,” she said as she strummed. “I’m going to sing a song by one of my favorite artists. She’s not very well known, but her music moves me. I hope it moves you too. The song is “Your Eyes” by Amel Larrieux.”

The words came from her mouth as she played, capturing the audience with the very first note.

Your eyes greeted mine and whispered
Softly, slowly a secret only for me.

Katrina sang the words, swaying from side to side on her stool, her fingers moving skillfully over the strings, plucking out the chords she had practiced over and over after learning the song by ear, having never learned to read sheet music.

Your eyes took their sweet time silently penetrating mine,

All the while, her eyes remained locked on the source of her inspiration, the hazel and green orbs that had caused her to change the direction of her entire set.

Spoke to me, slowly
Just to me.

The words stayed with her through the night, long after she’d finished singing, long after she’d collected her tips and closed her guitar case, long after Parson’s had emptied for the night and she’d hailed a cab home.

Even as she lay in bed that night, she couldn’t forget the image of the only pair of eyes she’d ever seen that were as pain-filled as her own.



Special promotional price until the end of May 2016, only:

99c



The Groom is available in e-book and print from all major sellers. Details for The Groom, including sellers' links, are at:

Bottom Drawer Publications

Also available at:

Amazon

Apple

B&N

Kobo



Find Elise Marion at:






Also by Elise Marion:

My Ex-Wife's Wedding





“If anyone here has any reasons as to why Holly and Lyle should not be joined in Holy Matrimony, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.”
Does anyone ever speak up?  Has a bride or groom ever hoped for someone to say something so that they don’t have to?  All of this, and more, is flashing though Holly’s mind as she’s standing at the altar with her soon-to-be-husband, Lyle. He’s good-looking, kind, dependable and he loves her. What more could a woman want?

Available for FREE download:

No comments:

Post a Comment