I’m not sure what I expected from the postcard town of Avernus. The place where my Mom grew up but hasn’t returned to in two decades. Everything here is old and picturesque. Without hockey to take up my time anymore, I knew I’d need to figure something else out. It didn’t take me long to see her. With her copper hair carefully tied away from her face, she was surrounded by the most curious combination of people. But I also stumbled upon them that first day. The worst kind of trouble, but I didn’t want to admit it until it was too late. I got myself into this mess, and it’s on me to figure that out. But I’m also far too selfish to not know her.
It’s not often that we get new people in our sleepy little town. I could feel him watching me at lunch and in the class that we shared. At first, I felt too busy with other things to investigate his motive. But my curiosity won out. He became a lifeline out of the mundane monotony. A whole adventure, just knowing him. Everything with him felt easy. He was my knight in shining armour. Until I realized just how deep into the dragon’s den he had gotten swept. Because, of course, it was too good. Maybe, he can walk away from the warmth he’s found in the proverbial blaze. But I’m not sure I’m strong enough to stay away from him in the meantime. I can only hope that whatever this is between us doesn’t go up in smoke.
At ten to nine, I’m slipping out the back door and around the tree line, in a threadbare black sweater that Jo pulled from Nox’s closet and the tightest leather pants I’ve ever seen. Originally, I just went to Jo to try and borrow a pair of boots because I didn’t want to wreck my white sneakers in a field. But the boots turned into her fully dressing me and lining my eyes with kohl, before she made my eyelashes also thick and black. Two boxes of dye would literally turn me into Jo at this point, but she had her fun.
The boots are so much heavier than what I’m used to, so being quiet is a feat. But I make it around the edge of the greenhouses, coming out along the end of our street. Pacing there, I pull out my ponytail and re-tie it before checking my phone. I should have waited another five minutes before coming out here, but I was restless. Seeing headlights come down the road, I back into the tree line a little. That car could be anyone from town, just heading north and if I’m seen, Gram will know before morning. Not that she wouldn’t have let me out, but there would be all sorts of questions that I’m not sure I’m prepared to answer. Especially dressed like this.
I watch as the car pulls onto our street and then backs around the corner again, to park almost directly in front of me. Tail lights flash and I can’t help but smile when Bellamy steps out of the little car, running a hand through his floppy hair. He takes a deep breath before easing the door shut and moving toward the curb. When I step out of the trees, he startles, hand flying to his chest.
“Shit, Ace. You scared me.” He smiles though, eyes crinkling in the corners as he closes in on me. “Hey,” he whispers, one hand curling around the back of my neck and the other resting on my hip.
“Hi,” I return, looking up at him before stretching to kiss him. Our mouths only meet briefly before he pulls back and looks me over.
“Did your sister get a hold of you?” My belly warms when he chuckles.
“What gave it away?” I tease with sarcastically wide eyes.
“Funny,” he deadpans before trailing a finger down the long line of my neck. “We should go, before we don’t end up making it to the party.” I watch as his tongue darts out and wets his bottom lip before I nod.
“Sure.” When he takes a step back and opens the passenger door, my heart thuds in my chest. It’s not getting into a car with him, I’d do that in a heartbeat. But not knowing what to expect on the other side of town brings me pause.
“You’re worrying too much,” he says, tilting his head. “I promise, we’ll just hang out for a while. We’ll talk to some people, watch the bonfire flicker in the dark, and then I’ll bring you home.”
Nodding, to both him and my own thoughts, I take a step forward and sink into the seat. ‘The good shit starts at the edge of your bubble Ace,’ Grant told me tonight, from where he lounged on Jo’s bed when I hesitated to let her play with my appearance.
The good shit. I’m not positive that I can consider a party at the clearing good, by any stretch. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to spend the time with Bellamy. Even surrounded by people who are practically strangers. Sure, my time in student government has thrown me around social circles like a tilt-a-whirl. I can pair names and faces, and maybe tell you what sort of clubs or athletics they frequent. But it’s superficial, I don’t know them and they don’t know me.
I grew up in a tiny place in rural Alberta, Canada. I plan literally everything, except my plotlines. I have a stationary addiction and I read about 100 books a year. I married my husband a month before I turned 21, eleven months after we started dating (19 months after the first time we met) and we’re coming up on 15 years, in September 2023. We have a 5 year old spitfire of a girl and most of my world revolves around the two of them.
I’ve been writing since I was a child. Mostly essays about my thoughts/life experiences, but I also dabbled in short stories and attempted a couple of novels in my early teens that were heavily influenced by teen movies. But they never amounted to much. Then, during a particularly groggy middle-of-the-night feeding for my newborn (in 2017) I scribbled a scene that had been playing on repeat in my head, onto 16 post-it notes and forgot about them. In October 2020, I found them in a notebook and while I re-read them, more and more scattered scenes played out in my head So I sat down to write every night until I finally typed The End. And that’s how Showcase (my dark debut) was born.
Chaotic, at best. I’m what I’ve heard referred to as a quilter. I write scenes out of order and then stitch them together. Also a pantser, through and through. When I sit down to write a book, all I am certain of is the characters. Their personalities, how they look, how they think. But I often have no idea, outside of a vague trope direction, of where their story will go until I’m actually writing it. I also almost exclusively write in my car (waiting for school or extracurricular pickups) or after midnight.
Honestly, I mostly just work, a lot. I have a 9-5 and a side gig, plus a hurricane of a 6 year old. I write when I can but I read a lot, too. I will always be a reader first and an author second, because I wouldn’t have ever sat down and finished my debut novel, had I not started ARC reading for indie romance authors.
I don’t really celebrate that part. I honestly panic for a day or two, that it’s terrible before I send it to my own kindle for a read-through and my first round of basic edits. Once those edits/additions are complete, it’s off to betas. And then it’s on to the next book. I usually have 2-3 books I’m working on simultaneously.
On release day, I bake with my five year old. I did it for my first release because I had a cake to make anyway. And then it became a thing because it serves as a good distraction from the fact that I have new words out there for public consumption again.
The Grey girls bloomed in my mind unexpectedly and I started taking notes on their characters before I had even finished the last book in the previous series. Then scenes started distracting me from the other book I was trying to finish and this series became a beast of its own. It wasn’t until book one was finished and book two was almost there too, that one of the characters decided that he needed to change the game, so the prequel novella was born too.
Actually, in this one, Ace is a lot like I was in high school. And as for everyone else, some have more in common with real-life people than others. Each of my characters shares at least one trait with me and with someone I love in real-life.
This book needed more re-writes than the others. Because Ace is so much like who I was in my youth, I found it challenging to separate from her at times.
Truly, I love my secondary characters. They bring it all together, in my opinion. And watching Ace bloom a little.
This book, in particular? No one specific. But I’m a huge Meagan Brandy fan. The way she weaves stories is literally goals for me. Samantha Lovelock, Lindsey Iler, Kandi Steiner, Ilsa Madden-Mills (and so many more) are all big inspirations to me as well. I love their writing and I probably wouldn’t be writing at all, without authors like them.
This question always kills me a little. Because picking a favourite is hard. But if I had to choose? Ace talking about the rain is my favourite.
His chest heats my back and rumbles with a chuckle at my statement. “What exactly does rain smell like?”
“Um,” I stop and inhale deeply again. “It smells like wet and churned dirt, almost like the mossy undergrowth of an old forest. Like calm and chaos collided. Like something new and clean is coming. Have you ever stood at the foot of a mountain and looked up at its magnificence? That feeling of being small and insignificant in comparison, but so privileged to be able to witness such a thing? That’s how rain smells.”