Cover reveal + exclusive excerpt: The True Story of Atticus and Hazel by Fisher Amelie

atticus-and-hazel

Fisher Amelie has a new romance coming Monday—The True Story of Atticus and Hazel—and together with Natasha from Natasha Is A Book Junkie, we’re sharing with you the first chapter in two parts! Below you’ll find the first half, and you can read the second half on Natasha’s blog right here.

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Synopsis

It only took a second.

Overwhelming chemistry isn’t something anyone ever prepares you for. It’s not like your mama sits you down and warns you one day you might stumble upon someone impossible to resist, someone who sets your soul on fire. Combustible, explosive attraction is just the tip of the iceberg for Atticus Kelly and Hazel Stone. One touch between them can set them on fire, one word from their lips can send them careening, one look can cripple them to their knees. They are an inferno and they’re approaching the end of their wick.

Burning too fast, way too fast.

Except there’s nothing to temper the fever.

And the ramifications may be more than they can afford.

Everyone knows when it goes up in flames, there’s no saving the kindling.

The decision only took a second. Just a second.

“Hazel, what happened?”

Chapter 1 

Hello, all! Thanks to Vilma for so graciously hosting me today! Here you’ll find the first half of the first chapter of The True Story of Atticus and Hazel! When you’re ready for the first half, visit Natasha is a Book Junkie!

“Hazel, don’t look.”

Immediately, I whipped my head around. “What?”

“I said don’t look. Gaw, you never follow directions!” my best friend gritted. Her hands shot out to situate me. “Let’s try this again. Don’t look but there is a boy sitting in the back of the room who is burning a hole into the back of your head. I’m shocked you can’t feel him.”

“Etta, tonight is the airing of the grievances. We are not here for the boys.”

“Well, well, well, Hazel,” she continued, ignoring me, “I think this one might be striking up the nerve to come over.” She looked at me. “You look like an idiot.” Her eyes dragged to my favorite baby-doll dress. “I see you found that paper bag again, and I thought I’d hid it better this time.”

My eyes blew wide. “I knew it! I knew you’d hidden it again. I asked and asked and you swore up and down you didn’t know what I was talking about and—”

“Hazel, hush!” she whisper-yelled. Her body stiffened and I followed suit, unable to help myself. “Oh my word, he’s coming over here. Here,” she said, fluffing up my hair then squeezing my cheeks.

“Ow! Stop, Etta.”

“Shh!”

“You’re treading a fine line.”

“Shh!” She pushed a pink fingernail into my thigh. “Cross your legs.”

“Etta!”

“Shh! Quiet, he’s coming.”

She made a move to fluff my hair again and I shooed her away, which only prompted her to fluff more wildly. We ended up in a battle of slapping hands as we heard someone clear their throat to my left.

Etta pushed my hands at my side and straightened, turning toward our interloper. “Hi,” she greeted sweetly, like she wasn’t made of salt and vinegar.

“Hello,” a deep voice crooned.

I turned toward the bar and refused to look at him just to spite Etta.

“How are you ladies doing tonight?” he asked.

Original. I snorted. Etta elbowed me.

“We’re well,” Etta laid on thickly. “How are you, baby?”

“I, uh,” the poor sap struggled. He cleared his throat again and I rolled my eyes. “I’m well, thank you.”

“What happened? Losing your nerve?” I asked the bar top.

Etta’s head whipped my direction and she shot daggers. “This is my rude, stupid friend. Don’t mind her. She’s kind of whiny today because her boss harasses her at work. She’s not usually this way, though.” A boldfaced lie. “She likes to act all tough and moody like this sometimes because she’s scared of almost everything, yet she refuses to acknowledge this fact.”

“Etta!” I protested, finally turning her direction.

When I did, I caught a glimpse of the guy and nearly fell from my chair. My eyes climbed his body up to his face. The corner of his mouth lifted in a bashful grin, his head bent, and his hand went to the back of his neck. There were tattoos as far as the eye could see. I mean, the guy was covered in them, from the tops of his hands all the way up his throat as well as, I could only assume, everything in between. He had a ring in his bottom lip just off center to the left, and his chin-length hair sat tucked behind his ears. He was built but not overly so. His clothes were worn and layered. When his hand dropped, the leather of his jacket moaned in complaint.

“Hi,” he quieted.

I swallowed. “Hi.”

“What’s your name?” he asked me.

“Hazel,” I answered.

“Nice to meet you,” he told me, holding out his hand. I slid my fingers into his warm palm, which caused satisfying tingles to dance over my skin. “I’m Atticus.”

“Nice to meet you as well.”

He let my hand go. “Are, uh, are you from around here?” he asked me, looking unsure of himself.

He was standing awkwardly in front of us, and I was starting to feel a little sorry for him, which I never did, because I thought men in general kind of sucked and I liked to watch them squirm on occasion, but he felt different for some reason, and it made me sad to see him uncomfortable.

“Do you want to sit down?” I asked, shoving Etta off her stool.

“Hey!” she yelled.

Atticus’s eyes popped wide. “No, no, that’s okay,” he said, beginning to back away.

Shit, I’ve scared him off. 

Etta glanced at me and rolled her eyes. “She doesn’t mean anything by that. She’s just socially inept is all.” She pointedly stared at me then turned back to Atticus. “Come,” she invited him, “sit on my stool. I’m heading out anyway. My auntie will be waiting up and every minute I’m past eleven p.m. she thinks I’m ‘caught underneath a boy and up to no good.’”

Etta leaned over and kissed my cheek but not without a parting jab. “Scare him off and I’ll kill you.”

“Look who’s talking, Dexter,” I whispered.

She faked like she was going to hit me and I flinched.

“Made you blink, white girl.” I popped her on the butt and she squealed. “You’re a brat,” she complained.

“I know.”

“Love you,” Etta threw over her shoulder.

“Love ya. See you mañana.”

“Tomorrow!” she yelled, heading for the door, not bothering to turn around.

I turned toward Atticus.

“So you and Etta,” he stated, “you’re good friends?”

I almost laughed at his facial expression. “Etta and I shared a playpen. We’re more than good friends; we’re practically sisters.”

“Thus the nonexistence of normal social boundaries?”

“Thus.”

“Cool,” he said, bobbing his head. He sat in Etta’s abandoned stool and balanced a heavy boot on a bottom rung.

His hands went to the bit of stool between his legs and I found myself mesmerized by them. I loved men’s hands. I don’t know why. I loved the callused skin there, how sensitive they were, the way the muscles bunched and contracted, the shapes of their fingers.

He mistook my staring at his fingers for my staring at his tattoos and brought them up for me to see.

“Do you like tattoos?”

“I don’t care either way, to be honest.”

He gave me a cheeky grin, and I felt my stomach flip on itself. What is this? 

“Most people love them.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not most people.”

He laughed. It was a deep, throaty laugh. I watched the line of his throat, the skin there, the lean line of his neck, his defined Adam’s apple. He was pretty spectacular.

Have you ever met someone with whom you felt an instant chemistry? That was this stranger for me. It was instantaneous, intoxicating, and overwhelming. It was the most smack-you-in-the-face, deep attraction I’d ever felt. His teeth were beautiful, his skin a perfect peach color, save for the attractive bits of red that would paint his cheeks when he talked. He kept taking his fingers and tucking his hair behind his ears.

His fingers drummed with incredible skill at the lid of his stool.

“Oh no,” I said, my stomach sinking. “You’re a musician.”

He looked taken aback. “How did you know?” I gestured at his drumming fingers and they stilled. “Oh.” His hands went to the tops of his thighs and he leaned forward. “What did you mean by ‘oh no’?”

“I don’t think this is going to work out,” I said, standing up.

Atticus looked shocked and stood quickly. “Wait, what are you talking about? We were just chatting here.”

I smiled at him. “Yeah, have a nice life, drummer boy.”

“Wait,” he said, stopping me by lightly touching my forearm, “don’t jet off just yet. Take a seat, have a drink with me? Just stay for a minute. Hell, tell me what it is about musicians you don’t trust.”

“Besides every stereotype ever imaginable? Beside those?”

He laughed. “Yes, please?”

I shook my head. “Probably going to regret this, but okay, one drink.”

He helped me to my stool, which earned him one Hazel point, and signaled for the bartender. “What’ll you have?” he asked me.

“Guinness,” I told him. He nodded and turned toward the bartender. “Hey, Sam, can I get two bottles of Guinness, please?”

“Sure, man,” the bartender answered and dug into his ice pit for two dark bottles, propping them up on the bar top, and popping the tops of each before handing them over to us.

The bartender walked off, which surprised me.

“You drink for free here?” I asked.

He smiled that knowing grin. “Something like that.”

“That’s cool.”

“Sure,” he said, lifting the bottle and taking a small swig. I did the same then set the bottle on the bar top. “Etta was saying something about your boss harassing you?”

I sighed, exasperated. “Yeah, the bastard is just yucky.”

Atticus laughed. “Well, like how?”

“He makes excuses that he needs to fix things underneath my desk, which makes no sense because there’s nothing under my desk but my legs and a small outlet for my drawing table. I guess he doesn’t think things through all that well. Anyway, the first time he did it, I didn’t think much about it, but the second and third time? I was like ‘what’s up, man’ and he just shook off my questions. He works in the desk in front of mine and the other day he placed a mirror on the top edge, settling it so he could get the perfect angle to watch me. I guess he doesn’t think I can see him in the mirror, but I can.”

“What the hell? That’s pervy as shit.”

“Right?”

“Why don’t you turn him in? Or leave?”

“Aye, there’s the rub. I need this job. Like, really need it.”

“What do you do?” Atticus asked.

“I hand paint animation cels for sale. I’m only one of three people in the company who has the position. I do it to pay my bills so I have the freedom to finish school as well as freelance, which is my real passion.”

“Wow, that’s cool. Would I have seen your work?”

“You know that big brick building on Elm with the painting on its side?”

“Holy shit,” he said, studying me a little closer, “the one that looks like the bricks have fallen away, revealing strange people living inside compartments?”

“Yeah, that one.”

“You did that?” he asked, leaning closer.

“That’s me.” His eyes cut down to my hands. I held them flat on the bar top. “Yeah, can’t ever get the paint all the way off.”

“I can’t believe you painted that.”

“Why?”

“When I have writer’s block I’ll sit on the bench across the street from it and stare at that painting, imagining the people you drew were alive, and letting their world take over.”

I swallowed. “You do?”

He looked at me, really looked at me. “I do.”

“What do you write?” I asked.

“Music, Hazel.”

“That’s right,” I realized out loud, as if a bucket of cold water had been dumped over my head. “I almost forgot. You’re a musician.”

He watched me closely and the intrusion wasn’t unwelcome. “Who was it?”

“Who was who?”

“Who was the musician who tainted musicians for you?”

I laughed. “He was older.”

“Of course.” He smiled.

“I was seventeen and naive, hopeful, and trusting.”

“Naturally.”

“I fell hard, fast, and without any guard up. I wasn’t careful. He chewed me up and spit me out before moving on to the next girl. It was pretty humiliating because I was left reeling and didn’t know what was up.”

“That can happen,” he added, “but you have to admit that was only one guy.”

“Right, that’s what I thought too, then I met Simon. He was so charming, so believable, so convincing.”

“Oh no.” He laughed.

“Then he dropped me like a bad habit when the next pretty bauble walked by.”

Atticus laughed, really laughed. “Like children, musicians.”

“Exactly!” I told him, smiling. “Needless to say, I’ve had my fill.”

“Were both of them singers?”

“What difference does it make?” I asked.

“It makes a huge difference.”

“Then yes,” I confirmed.

“Well, there you go. You’re dating the wrong band members,” he told me.

I shook my head. “Uh, no, it’s a musician’s personality. It’s inherited by all of you. Even good ol’ Beethoven was afflicted. You’re all charming,” I said, gesturing down his body, making him laugh, “sweet, funny, hot as hell. I can admit this to you because nothing will come of us so I have carte blanche to say whatever I feel like without fear of sounding like a dweeb.”

He grinned at me. “You think I’m hot?”

“Like the surface of the sun, Atticus.”

“Huh,” he replied, then bit his bottom lip to keep from smiling and studied the bar top.

“Anyway, you’re all scoundrels.”

Atticus shook his head back and forth, the smile he’d been fighting finally making an appearance. “We’re not all that way, Hazel. I promise.”

Not caring how he might interpret it, my hand reached up to tuck a stray lock of hair that had fallen out from behind his ear. “But don’t you see, Atticus? That’s what they all say.”

“Then I’ll let time do my talking for me.”

He spun me in my stool so we faced one another, our knees interwoven. His incredible hand found mine; his long fingers curled around mine and brought it in front of his face. “This is one awe-inspiring hand,” he told me, echoing my own sentiments about his. His eyes met mine. “Have you painted anything else in the city?”

“Lots,” I whispered, unable to find my voice.

“Sam,” Atticus threw out at the bartender, keeping his hand on me, his eyes focused on mine. “Hand me a pen, will ya?”

“Sure,” Sam the bartender complied, tossing a pen and a pad of paper near Atticus’s elbow.

“Here,” he said, letting go of my hand and gathering up the pen and paper. “Write them all down for me.”

“All of them?”

“Don’t leave a single one out, Hazel.”

I picked up the pen and set its tip on the paper. “Okay,” I said, lining each address up one after the other.

There were fifteen pieces I’d done across the city. I started with the one nearest to the bar we sat in and worked myself around.

“There,” I said, sliding the paper over to him.

Atticus took it and ran his thumb over the indentations of the pen markings then tucked the list into the pocket of his jacket.

“Fuel for the muse,” he said with a smile.

“Those thieving birds,” I mock complained, not expecting him to get its reference, despite his being a musician, but secure in it still making sense.

“Hang strung from an empty nest,” he responded, shocking me.

“Stop,” I ordered him.

“Stop what?”

“Charming me.”

“You go first,” Atticus insisted.

I smiled at him. “You see this? This is how it starts, Atticus.” My smile fell. “You’ll put me under your spell, and I’m susceptible to spells. They do things to me and I struggle to get out from underneath them.”

He shook his head at me. “I promise not to put you under a spell, Hazel.”

I leaned back, away from his intoxicating smell, his inviting smile. “I don’t know you, though. I don’t know your promises.”

“We’ll start small, then. I promise not to touch you again tonight, even if I’m dying to, unless you ask me.”

“Not even a brush of your elbow?”

“Not even a whisper against your cheek, Hazel.”

“Fine, we’ll see how that goes.”

“Good,” he told me.

I sat back and crossed my arms to study him. “Tell me something about yourself, Atticus, something unappealing, something to break this tension bubbling up between us.”

“Okay, let’s see, “he played along. “I’m allergic to peanuts. Does that shatter the illusion?”

I looked at him again. “No, unfortunately it doesn’t. You’re still as hot as ever. Damn.”

He laughed at me. “Okay, try this on, I have crippling stage fright.”

I took him in yet again. “No, it’s not working; you’re still too much to take.”

He swallowed audibly and studied me for a moment. “So you feel it too?”

“Without a doubt,” I answered.

“It’s crazy, right?”

“I’ve been attracted to boys before but this,” I said, pointing between the two of us, “is on some nuclear level.”

“It’s definitely teetering on explosive,” he admitted. “It’s not helping that we’re acknowledging it. I thought it would, but it’s not.”

“For me, it’s your hands, your teeth, your throat.”

“For me,” he admitted, “it’s your hands as well, but also your eyes, your face, your hair.”

“Should we just walk away?” I asked.

“I don’t think I could,” he said, his body stiff beside mine. “I don’t want to. Do you?”

“No,” I told him.

He stared at me for a moment. “I have an idea.”

“What?”

“Take me to your painting. Show me all the little things my eyes are probably missing.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I want to trust you, but I don’t know you.”

“Here,” he said, taking out his wallet and pulling out his ID. He set it on top of the bar.

“Take a picture of it and send it to Etta. Tell her we’re going on a walk to your Elm painting and you want someone to know who I am and what we’re doing.”

“I don’t know.” I hesitated.

“Send it to her. I’ll take care of you.”

I slid his driver’s license closer and considered his face. “Oh my God, you even look hot in this picture.” Atticus blushed red, which made me want to roll my eyes or possibly my lips over his skin. The lips one. I’d take the lips option. I huffed. “Fine.”

I unlocked my phone and took a picture of his license, sending it to Etta.

I’m taking Atticus to see my painting off Elm, I texted her.

You hussy, she replied.

shut it, Etta 

Why send me his license?

bc I want you to have proof of who he is if I’m found murdered in a ditch

you’re ridic

it was his idea!

that doesn’t make me feel better

not the murder part, dumb ass, the picture part. He did it to make me feel better

Good idea. Fine. I have your evidence. Have fun. Love you, booger butt

Love you, my chocolate covered cherry

I locked my phone. “You’ve been entered into our database. Proceed.”

Atticus stood. “Here’s where I would normally offer my hand to help you off your stool—”

I jumped off. “Duly noted.” One more Hazel point.

“Sam, I’m out,” he called out to the bartender.

“Later, dude.”

“Shall we?” he asked, holding out a hand toward the exit.

I started walking toward the door, but he edged around me to open it for me. “Thank you,” I told him.

“My pleasure.”

The warm night air rushed around us, disturbing leaves that lay on the street, swirling them around and around with a pretty crackle as they slid in unison across the cobblestones they lived upon. Stars shone bright and sweet in the sky, peppered between tall buildings built at a time when it meant something to build and the moon hung soft and magical, throwing her light on us in beautiful greeting, telling us she was vigilant, she was there for us.

We walked in silence, neither of us feeling uncomfortable, it seemed. Atticus smiled at me and stuck his hands into the pockets of his jacket. I thought he did this to give himself something to do. He seemed to possess a pulsing energy that needed to be addressed constantly. Two blocks away from my painting, he finally spoke.

“How long did it take you to finish it?” he asked.

“Took me about two weeks total, five hours a day. Sometimes I’d work late into the night and would set up these large, crazy lights. The neighbors weren’t happy when I did that.”

He smiled at me once more. “A small price to pay. I’m sure they regret making any kind of fuss now.”

“I don’t know, Atticus, not everyone appreciates art.”

“People who don’t appreciate art aren’t living a full life. Art, whether it’s music, paint, words, whatever the medium, busts veins of color that usually lay dormant beneath our skin. It gives life love. It opens the mind for greater pursuits. I wonder how many mathematical theorems were bolstered or how many scientific breakthroughs were motivated while listening to Radiohead or looking at a Ron Mueck.”

“It’s beyond measurement,” I agreed, growing more and more attracted to him by the second.

No, Hazel. Go ahead and stop this right now.

My painting was on the side of a three-story brick building. It sat on a corner facing a park newly built by the city. It was prime real estate that caught the attention of several people, thus paintings two through fifteen.

Atticus led me to the bench across the street facing the painting and we sat down.

“What was the hardest part?” he asked me.

“That bit there,” I said, pointing to the top right corner of the painting.

“What made it difficult?”

“The subject matter.”

Atticus looked at the girl then back at me. “Ahh,” he realized, “you’re that girl.”

She was by herself, a 3D effect gave you the impression she was reaching out of the painting, but you didn’t know what she was reaching for unless you looked closer.

“To see what she sees, you just have to look at the reflection in her eyes,” I told him.

He leaned closer. “It’s too dark.” He turned to me and smiled. “What’s in there?”

“You’ll have to see in the light of day. I don’t know if you could handle it here in the dark,” I teased, only half kidding.

He laughed. “You’re an intriguing girl, Hazel.”

“So they say,” I hedged.

“Okay, are there any other hidden gems in this masterpiece?”

“Masterpiece, shmasterpiece.”

“It’s an incredible painting, Hazel. You do know that, right?”

I cleared my throat, uncomfortable with the praise, and ignored his question. “There are twenty-two hidden pieces in there. I painted them for me. Not even Etta knows them.”

“Is the reflection in the girl’s eyes one of them?”

I swallowed and nodded, afraid to speak.

“I’m honored you told me one then.”

He sat back and studied every inch of the painting. I didn’t bother looking, I knew the thing by heart, by tears, by sweat. I would be able to recall it even on my deathbed. Instead, I watched him.

“What’s your favorite part?” I asked.

He smiled at me, but it felt shy. “I’m afraid to tell you.”

I laughed. “Why?”

“Because the part I love the most, that I’ve always loved the most, it’s so obviously you now that I look at her.”

I knew exactly what part he was referring to and looked directly at the girl hanging in the center of the painting.

“So you know what part I’m talking about,” he stated.

“What do you like about it?” I asked him.

“The way she precariously hangs from the floor above her but doesn’t seem to care at all she might fall. I love the way she looks over her shoulder directly at you, the way her eyes haunt you, the shape of her body.” I swallowed. “She looks exposed, laid bare, like she’s begging for you to catch her but she refuses to ask.” Atticus turned to me. “Are you falling, Hazel?”

“Maybe, I don’t know.”

“Would you like to be caught up?”

I stared at him. “I’m not sure.”

He nodded. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-one. How old are you?” I asked.

“Twenty-six. Did you grow up here?”

“No, I moved here for college with Etta and we never left. Her aunt followed us up three years ago. She’s the only family of hers nearby.”

“Are you finished with school?” he asked.

“No, but this is my last semester.”

“And your family?” he asked.

“I’ve only my grandma, and she’s back home in Austin.”

“What’s her name?” he asked.

“Hazel.”

“Makes sense,” he said with a smile.

“Are you from here?” I asked him.

“Yes, born and raised. I’ve done a fair bit of traveling, though, so I don’t feel stuck or anything. I like it here.”

“What about your family?”

“I’ve got five siblings.”

“Six kids then! Wow, that’s cool. Christmases must be fun there.”

“They’re awesome. Lots of fighting, lots of food, lots of laughs, lots of lots.”

The thought made me grin. “How many brothers and how many sisters?”

“All brothers.”

“Oh my God, your poor mother.”

This made him laugh, really laugh. “Please, she can throw down with the best of us.”

“What does she think of your tattoos?”

“She calls them my ‘devil marks.’”

I couldn’t help the laugh that came bursting out of me. “That’s frank.”

He smiled. “To say the least.”

“Are you the only one with them?”

“No, all of us boys are covered in them, much to her dismay.”

“That is hilarious. So what are their ages?”

He looked up into the sky as if the numbers were written there. “Let’s see, the oldest is thirty-one and it trickles down every year to me.”

“You’re the youngest then.”

“They never let me forget it,” he stated, but there was nothing playful in the admission.

It felt bitter.

I decided I wouldn’t ask.

“Your dad’s a pretty fertile guy,” I teased.

He laughed. ”We all are, apparently.” He stretched out his lean, muscled legs and bounced the heel of one boot off the sidewalk. “This city is crawling with Kellys.”

“Atticus Kelly,” I repeated.

“That’s me,” he teased with a smile.

“So, Atticus Kelly, do you have any of these supposed little Kellys running around?”

He snorted. “You know the benefit of having five older idiot brothers all tied down to early families because they couldn’t keep their shit in their pants?”

“What?” I asked.

“You have the advantage of learning from their mistakes.”

I sighed in relief. “Ah, that’s good.”

“Very good.”

Atticus plucked the sheet of paper with the list of my paintings on it and read the next address on Commerce out loud. “Should we?”

“I don’t know,” I told him.

“Text Etta.”

I slid my phone from my bag and unlocked it. My thumb hesitated over Etta’s and my last text conversation. Atticus gently removed my phone from my hand and wrote something to her, hitting send before I could approve. He handed it back to me.

Etta, this is Atticus. Is it okay if I take Hazel to her painting off Commerce?

Have fun, was all she replied.

“Etta thinks it’s okay.”

I rolled my eyes at him. “Fine, let’s go.”

We both stood and began walking the two blocks to my next painting.

“You live close?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’ve got a little studio about seven blocks that way,” I said, pointing down Malcolm X. “You?”

“I share an apartment with my brother Aidan uptown.”

“Fancy, dude.”

He laughed. “Not really. It’s his apartment. I just rent. I also help him out from time to time when he has his daughter.”

“That’s cool.”

“My parents live in OC, though.”

“Also cool.”

“Not really.” He laughed. “It’s not in one of the new hipster neighborhoods or anything. It’s in one of the patchy, watch-your-back, everybody’s-packing-a-piece neighborhoods.

“Is it the house you grew up in?”

“Yeah, it was a little rough sometimes. I learned how to fight pretty early on.”

“Have you been in a lot of fights?”

He cleared his throat. “A few, yeah.”

“Atticus Kelly, are you a little bit dangerous?” I teased.

He smiled and it reached his eyes. “I don’t think so. I will admit that trouble likes to find me a little bit, though. Does that count?”

“Oh, it counts.”

“What’s your last name?” he asked.

“Stone.”

“Hazel Stone.” He studied me. “It fits you.”

I felt my cheeks heat up. “Thank you.”

“Am I changing your mind at all about musicians?” he asked.

I almost choked on the laugh that bubbled from my throat. “Uh, no, Atticus, you’re only confirming everything I already thought.”

“Just need more time then,” he promised.

“More time my ass.”

He smiled wide at me then bit at his bottom lip to control its eagerness, I thought. I became fascinated with the ring near his teeth. “When did you get that?” I asked him, pointing at his incredible mouth.

His fingers went to the piercing before falling back down. “I forget it’s even there. I think it was about three years ago.”

“I like it,” I told him.

“Do you?” he asked, coming to a stop. I stopped as well and he leaned in close.

The proximity made my stomach flip over and over. “It’s sexy, Atticus, as you are well aware.”

The crinkle of his smile met his eyes. “I didn’t think so at the time, though, Hazel. I only thought it was cool.”

I nodded. “It is, Atticus.” The wind picked up around us and blew his scent my way. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. It was something natural, something woody and aquatic, a hint of patchouli and warm fruits. “Oh my God,” I whispered, my eyes popping open. “If I could, I would lick your skin. What is that?” I asked him.

“Some cologne I smelled at a store once and bought on a whim.”

Not bothering with how embarrassed I might find it later, I leaned forward and took a deeper breath.

He bent his neck back but kept his soulful eyes on me. “Go on then,” he taunted. I looked at him and he straightened his head. “Chicken?”

I gulped. That’s exactly what I am. A big fat, yellow chicken with a side of fraidy cat. “No,” I bit back, lying through my teeth. “No touching, remember?”

“Ah, yes,” he breathed, “that’s why.” My heart hammered in my chest. “Hazel?”

“Yes?” I whispered.

“We’re here.”

I turned toward my second painting, surprised we’d already arrived. We stood side by side; the adrenaline from the rush he’d given me still pumped through my veins.

“Um,” my voice broke. I cleared my throat. “This is Evensong.”

We stared at it under the low glow of the streetlamp. I looked on him then at the painting, trying to experience what he was seeing for the first time. It was an androgynous child, allowing them to be whomever you wanted them to be, a metallic crown set on their head, their face an explosive set of colors dripping down their gorgeous face, down their chin, their throat, down their shoulders, over their clothing and pooling onto the concrete parking lot below. I kept the child’s eyes closed. It was a metaphor for life, really. All of us, well, most of us, are living with our eyes closed, sightless to the ironically blinding bright colors of the world around us. Our noses to the grindstone, to our feet, to our hands, to our tasks.

“So busy building a life, we forget to live one,” Atticus spoke.

“What?” I asked him, my chest panting from the statement.

“She’s blind, isn’t she?” he asked.

She. To him the child was a she. “Yes.

“She doesn’t live the colors you’ve painted on her. She merely wears them.”

All the breath rushed from my lungs. “Yes, Atticus.”

“What’s her name?” he asked me.

I looked at him. “Her name’s whatever you want it to be.”

“What would you name her if you wanted to name her?” he asked me.

“It doesn’t matter. That’s the point of any painting, though. It belongs to the admirer and only the admirer in the moment they’re absorbing it.”

He nodded. “Her name is Juniper. I’ll call her Juniper then.”

“Juniper is a beautiful name for her, Atticus.

He smiled at me. “She’s a beautiful child. She deserves a beautiful name.”

Atticus looked across the street at a popular pizza place in Deep Ellum. It was packed. It was always packed, though.

“Want to grab a slice?” He glanced at his phone. “It’s only midnight.”

I didn’t know how to answer. I wanted to grab a simple slice of pizza with him more than I had ever wanted to do anything in my entire life but I also knew if I did that, I’d fall fully under his spell. I was already beginning to fall, plummet, more like.

“I don’t know, Atticus.”

“It’s just a slice, Hazel,” he said, raising a shoulder.

My heart beat in my throat. “Just a slice, just a look, just a smell, just a mouth, just a throat, just a pair of incredible hands.”

Atticus’s teasing face dropped. “Just hair begging to be touched, just a pair of haunting eyes, just provocative lips, just a beautiful face, just two talented hands.”

“Just.” I swallowed.

“Just,” he repeated.

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Exclusive Excerpt: Get In The Car, Jupiter by Fisher Amelie

get-in-the-car-jupiter-banner-2

Fisher Amelie has a brand-new book out today and I’ve got a special sneak peek to give you a delightful taste of what you can expect! Get in the Car, Jupiter is a lighthearted, fast-paced standalone novel and I’m thrilled to share this with you today!

AmazoniTunes | Kobo ✦

Synopsis

get-in-the-car-jupiterWANTED FOR ARSON. CATFISHED AT SANTA’S. ROBBED AT THE FALLS. SHAKESPEARE OR DIE. DRIVER PICKS TUNES.

I’m weird. This isn’t news to me or anything. I have lived in a UFO my entire life. This wasn’t a coincidence. My parents believe in extraterrestrial life. You know, phone home and all that crap, and they dragged my sister Mercury
and I into their mess when they named us what they named us. So it wasn’t a surprise, when after getting accepted to UW and expressing my desire to
actually attend, they lamented that college is “just another ploy for the
government to keep tabs on you, man.” In other words, we won’t be helping you out, Jupiter. That’s fine, though, because my best friend Frankie and I can be pretty clever chicks when we want to be. We found a way up there and it was in the form of a longtime crush, his equally cute cousin, and a kickin’ set of wheels.

Buckle up, Buttercup, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Excerpt

A big thanks to Vilma for hosting me today! I hope you all enjoy the excerpt!

I was asleep. No, I was awake, but recently asleep, and I was in Ezra’s car. I was awake, but recently asleep, and in Ezra’s car, but I was in the backseat? I was awake, but recently asleep, in Ezra’s car, in the backseat, and snuggled up against something hard and warm, Ezra’s blanket around my shoulders. It smelled exactly like him, so I took a deep breath.

“Peter, you let me in? Even after that one thing?” I asked heaven.

“What one thing?”

“Gah!” I yelled, bolting upright, hitting the top of my head on the car’s ceiling. I rubbed my newly forming bump. “Heh, heh. Uh, thanks for letting me sleep on that,” I said, gesturing to his chest with wild hand movements.

Ezra smiled at me and my heart fell into my stomach.

“So, are you guys, like, together or something?” we heard from the front seat.

We both turned to find a girl, maybe twenty-one, long brown hair, prettiest skin you’d ever seen on a person. A beautiful smile as wide as the Nile. I liked her immediately.

“What? No,” Ezra answered quickly, his words punching me in the gut.

“Cool,” she said, eyeing Ezra as I would a cheeseburger.

An odd feeling struck me in the chest and gut and inexplicably I discovered that, in fact, I didn’t like her at all. She seemed perfectly lovely, yet I didn’t want her in the car with us. I wanted her as far away from us as possible. She with her mature face. She with that chic, iron-straight hair. She with that flawless skin. Ugh. I was suddenly aware of my intense jealousy. I’d been jealous before. I’m not an idiot. I knew the feeling, but this time it was so intense, it felt almost foreign to me.

I shook my head to clear it. “Excuse me, but who are you?”

She smiled and stuck out a sun-kissed, manicured hand. “Hi, I’m Ruby.”

Reluctantly, I took it. “Jupiter.”

Ezra leaned forward. “How—” he began, but she anticipated his question and threw a shoulder toward Kai. “I was thumbing it up north. Kai let me tag along.”

Kai turned toward me, smiled and winked.

“You’re a drifter!” I turned toward Ezra, my eyes wide. In a move I could only explain away as a temporary loss of insanity due to the stress of the situation, I channeled my apparent inner Oscar Wilde. “Dare I say, she could be a vagabond, Ezra!” I whisper-yelled.

“A vagabond, say you?” he teased with a grin that sank me back into my seat, a little hurt he was making fun of me. I know I sounded ridiculous. I didn’t need the reminder, though.

“You seem cool,” Ezra began, my heart racing, “but what Kai may not have told you is this is my car and I’m not comfortable with hitchhikers.”

I sighed in relief and Ruby noticed. Her eyes narrowed at me so quickly I wasn’t sure if she’d actually done it. She leaned toward Ezra. “I get it. I don’t want to be that girl.” She smiled a disarming grin, one made to devastate boys, and she knew it. “Just drop me off at the next exit?”

The boys lost their sanity for a moment as they ogled her face like morons.

“I’ve been driving with her for two hours while you slept,” Kai explained, “she’s fine.”

Ezra sighed. “I guess.”

You guess?

I frantically looked around me.

“What are you doing?” Ezra asked.

“Looking for the cameras.” I patted my body. “Let’s see, I’m the virgin in this scenario, that’s painfully obvious. Kai’s the moron that ruins any plot progress.”

“Come on,” Kai yelled, offended.

I turned to Ezra, his brow raised, suggesting a “bring it.” “And you’re the hot douche who sleeps with the killer and doesn’t find out until you’re in the throes of passion and she whips out a hatchet.”

Ezra burst out laughing then shook his head. “You’re an idiot.”

I’m the idiot?” I whispered.

“Who’s the killer?” Ruby asked.

“Uh, you, obviously.” I looked each passenger in the eye. “Everyone clear on their roles? Good. Break!” I said, clapping my hands.

For twenty minutes the femme stranger charmed the boys by recounting borderline inappropriate, if you ask me, stories of her getting stuck in compromising situations. And surprise! She somehow lost an integral piece of clothing in each story! Ugh! Gag me with a spoon.

When we pulled into a gas station, I launched myself over the bench and pushed Kai out of the driver’s seat so I could get out of the car. I wasn’t gonna be the last person in there with her. The virgin is always the first to go. I barreled my way around two vacationing families and their gargantuan vans and bolted for the convenience store door. I was a woman on a mission.

I picked up a few things. “Funyuns, check. Twizzlers, check. Kit Kat, check.” I jogged over to the refrigerators and grabbed a Mountain Dew, ’cause I’m classy like that, then headed toward the register. Just as I set my stuff on the counter, the door opened and in walked Ruby, followed by Ezra. He’d held the door for her. My stomach fell to the floor. I was the idiot.

“Be right back,” the clerk told me and ran off to do something.

I listened as Ruby and Ezra, joined by Kai, meandered around the store. By the time the clerk returned to the front, they stood in line behind me.

“Oh my God, Jupiter!” Kai said, pointing at a trucker hat.

It read Beam me up, Scotty.

I rolled my eyes. “Hilarious.”

“Is that funny?” Ruby asked him.

“Yeah, ’cause Jupiter’s family are conspiracy theorists. They believe,” Kai explained.

“Oh,” Ruby commented, sarcastically, “that explains the name.”

My face flamed hot, but I held my head high as if it didn’t bother me. Fake it ’til you make it, baby.

“That’ll be seven thirty-seven,” the clerk said.

“I don’t know how you can eat all that,” Ruby said, artificial saccharine oozing from every syllable. “I’d be as big as a house in no time at all.” She laughed.

My face grew even hotter. When I get embarrassed, I get a little brazen. It’s a flaw. I know, can you believe it? I have flaws. “You know what,” I told the clerk, “throw this in there,” I said, tossing a pack of Twinkies on the counter with the rest. “And this too,” I said, picking up the trucker hat.

I paid for my crap and turned around, reached into my bag, and grabbed the Twinkies and the cap. I tossed the hat on my head as confidently as possible, fitting it snugly, and while staring at them from underneath the brim, unwrapped a Twinkie and took a gulping bite out of it.

“Mmm, good,” I mumbled around a full mouth.

I took a deep, cavalier breath, overconfident in my badassery, but I guess my bite was too big. I began to choke. Coughing, I grabbed the countertop to steady myself, but the blockage wouldn’t clear. I was starting to panic. I couldn’t breathe! All three stared at me with wide, concerned eyes. I slapped my hands on the countertop several times, attempting to gain control over the situation.

“Jupiter?” Ezra asked, stepping forward.

Coughing like an idiot, I held up a finger for him to stay where he was. He obeyed. Eventually I caught a breath, swallowed whatever I had left of my bite, and with ragged pants, stood upright.

I looked down at Ruby’s hands. Kale chips, a banana, and a bottle of water.

“Oh for Pete’s sake!” I yelled. I sound like James Earl Jones. Great. A hand went to Ezra’s mouth to keep from laughing. “See you in the car,” I crooned.

Dejected, I stood by the car door because I didn’t have the keys, and I refused to go back inside to get them.

I tested out my new rough voice. “Uh.” I cleared my throat. “Uh, hello. Hello, hello. Jeez, I sound like a radio DJ or something.” Two fingers went to an ear. “Jessie J comin’ at ya! You’re listening to ninety-seven-seven, all the hits from the seventies, eighties, and nineties! This segment brought to you by Preparation H. ‘Relax. Your relief is waiting.’”

“Uh, Jupiter?”

I jumped and a hand flew to my chest. I turned around, tried to act cool and casual, leaning an arm against the car. “Oh, hey, Ezra! What’s up, bro?”

He stuck his keys in his door and swung it wide for me. I climbed in and sat in the back, tucking my hat as far over my face as possible. Ezra got in and sat beside me, which surprised me.

“What was all that in there?” he asked.

“What was what?” I asked.

“What prompted chokageddon?”

“I don’t like her.”

Ezra pretended to act shocked. “No!”

I fought a smile.

“You just don’t know her,” he said.

“Neither do you, jackass. We literally woke up three hours ago with her in the car. And Ezra, how come every single one of her stories somehow ended with her without her shirt, or bra, or panties? I mean, come on, man!” I sat up and stuck out my chest, looping the end of my hair over and over. “Like, oh my gosh! Like, I don’t know how, but my shirt was just gone! My panties were just gone! Can you believe it?” I fake giggled. “And Twinkies? How do you eat those? Me? Why only kale chips for me, of course. I’m not a lard ass like you, Jupiter.”

Ezra smiled at me in obvious pity.

“Don’t look at me like that.”

He laughed. “Like what?”

“Like I’m just some silly female who has jealousy issues!”

Ezra shrugged his shoulders. “Well?

Oh! Oh my gosh. My gosh, Ezra.”

“What, Jupiter?” he teased. “She seems fine. I think it’s just you.”

“Have you lost your mind? She’s a stranger! Didn’t your folks ever warn you of stranger danger?”

“I’m not ten anymore,” Ezra explained.

I took in his broad shoulders and hands. No, that you are not, I thought.

“Fine. Whatever. It’s your car. I’m just along for the ride,” I huffed, crossing my arms and burying myself deeper into my seat. “I’ll just be over here with common sense, my only friend, it seems.”

I rested my knees on the back of the bench and pulled the bill of my ridiculous trucker hat down, but then remembered what it said and ripped it off, tossing it at my feet. Ezra leaned over and picked it up, dusting off little pieces of grass from the floorboard that had attached itself to the top.

Ezra placed the hat on his head and turned toward the window, mumbling something.

“What?” I asked, pissed.

He turned toward me but didn’t say anything. Eventually the heat of his gaze ate through my resolve and I looked into his eyes.

“You’re not just along for the ride, Jupiter, and you know it,” he said, pinning me with his stare and making my heart pound.

Wisely I said nothing, and not just because all the moisture had left my mouth. There wasn’t a response I could think of that would have thrown me out of the buffoon stage in which I was so deeply entrenched. I felt suddenly immature. I knew I was jealous. I’d always thought I was above such impulses, but I wasn’t. I really wasn’t. Must change that. Grow as a person, Jupiter. Grow.

“Sorry,” I whispered.

“Don’t ever be sorry for being you, Jupiter.”

“I’m not. I’m just sorry for not giving her a proper chance. You’re right. I’ll just chill.”

He smiled, removed the cap from his head, and stuck it back on mine.

Kai and Ruby started walking back toward the car. Kai stuck his head through the open driver’s window. “You okay there, Mama Cass?”

I laughed. “Shut up and drive.”

They both got in and buckled up.

We set out on the road, and I was on a mission to be cool to Ruby.

“So, Ruby, where did you grow up?” I asked.

“In Cincinnati,” she replied without turning around.

“That’s cool,” Ezra said. “I’ve never been to Cincinnati.”

She turned around with a large, bright smile on her face. “You should! You and Kai should come visit me when you’re on break, you know, when I get back that way. I’ll take you all around. Show you the sights,” she offered.

I bit my lip. You should come too, Jupiter! I would love to show you around as well!

“That’d be nice,” Kai replied, smiling at Ruby as if she hung the moon.

Thank the Lord, Ezra didn’t say anything.

Ruby looked ahead of her at a passing sign.

“You know what might be fun?” she asked.

Ritual sacrifice? I thought.

“There’s this little swimming hole with a ten-foot waterfall about half an hour east of here. Not a whole lot of people know about it. If you’re game, we could make a little detour and check it out?”

I began to panic a little. I was eager to get to Chicago, to settle in somewhere, even if it was only for a few days. And, to be honest, to get rid of Ruby and her mysteriously disappearing clothes.

“I’m down if you are,” Kai said, looking back at Ezra.

“Sounds fun,” Ezra chimed in, disappointing me. He turned my way. “What about you?” he asked.

I took a deep breath to control my anxiety. “Uh, yeah, that’s fine,” I answered, trying for breezy, but failing miserably if Ezra’s furrowed brow was any indication.

“It’s only a few exits up, Kai,” Ruby told him.

We drove half an hour away from the interstate toward this supposed waterfall then turned onto a winding, admittedly gorgeous, pebbled drive past a sign that read Muscatatuck Park. Our tires crunched against the rock. The trees still held their summer leaves, green and rich and utterly different from Florida. They canopied over the drive, protecting us from the sun and the elements.

“Pretty,” I said absently. “How do you know about it?” I asked her.

“Oh, it’s a funny story,” she squawked before falling into yet another story about her losing her clothes on some random skinny-dipping trip with a bunch of random friends. She mentioned these friends’ first names so casually, as if to imply we should know them, or to lend them some believability, I wasn’t sure. Her intentions were strange. I knew it. I knew girls. I knew something was desperate about her, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was.

She led us to some random little offshoot of road and we followed the somewhat rocky terrain until our car could go no farther. Eventually, and much to my relief, we were forced to exit the car.

“It’s this way.” Ruby indicated with a hand.

“Just a minute,” Ezra said, heading back to the trunk. He popped the hatch and disappeared through its open frame, rummaging for something. His head emerged and he closed the trunk then locked it, bright yellow plastic ribbons hanging from his hands.

“I’ll just mark the trees,” he said.

“Oh, that’s not necessary,” she said. “I know this place like the back of my hand.”

Ezra smiled. “I don’t doubt you do, but if it’s all the same, I’d feel better.”

“Whatever you like,” she said, but her forced smile held a tinge of pissed-off girl. She’s up to something, I thought.

Ruby set off at a brisk pace, easy for her tall frame, and Kai followed along like a lost puppy. Ezra fell behind them to stay with me.

“You can go on,” I said, as he tied a ribbon around a tree trunk. “My legs are short.” I giggled. “I’ll just follow the ribbons.”

“Uh, no,” Ezra said. I waited but he offered nothing else.

We walked for at least ten minutes in silence before I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Bets on what piece of clothing Ruby loses first?”

“Stop,” Ezra said, but laughed anyway. He opened his mouth, then shut it, only to open it again. “Cash? Or favors?”

I smiled. “I was gonna say cash, but a favor seems a much more fascinating prospect now.“

“All right, Corey, spill. What do you want from me?” he asked.

My face flamed a bright red. Oooh, lawd, boy, if you only knew! I cleared my throat to regain some sort of composure. “Well, uh, let’s see how about, if I win, you let me see what’s in that bag of yours.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, wrapping another ribbon around a tree.

“I think you do.”

He switched tactics. “There’s nothing to show.”

“Ha! You’re lying, Ezra! You shut that case with a finality that told me you were hiding something and I, being the curious kitty that I am, really, really, really want to know what it is!”

“Haven’t you heard? Curiosity killed the cat.”

I wagged my brows. “What are you saying? You’d kill me if I found out?”

“No,” he said, “but I would die of embarrassment. That counts.”

“Oh my gato! Now I have to know!”

He laughed nervously. “Pick something else,” he said.

“No.”

“Come on, Jupiter, pick something else.”

“Fine,” I huffed, scaling over a collection of boulders.

Ezra stuck out his hand to help me down. “Thank you,” I told him, sliding my hand into his.

When I did this, when his warm palm met mine, I forgot what we were talking about. We stood, both of us silent, staring down at our connected hands. Eventually Ezra let mine go and continued walking, but not before squeezing my fingers so slightly I barely registered it, but it was there. I knew it. Because I was aware of even the minutest cells in my body when I was around him. It was an awareness of myself I’d never felt around anyone else but Ezra Brandon.

He cleared his throat while tying yet another ribbon. “And the favor?”

“I want you to read something, Brandon.”

“Um, just read something?”

“Well, read something out loud.” I followed his lead and cleared my throat, cleared the hesitation. “To me. Without questions after.”

He laughed. “Okay, I guess.”

“Can you do a British accent?” I asked.

“Huh?”

“Nothing.”

I have to fess up to something. In eleventh grade, after reading Sense and Sensibility, when I remembered that Ezra’s last name was Brandon, I almost swooned with giddiness. Why, you ask? Because I was a fan of the incomparable Jane Austen, and Austen, of course, conjured the enigmatic yet strangely steady Colonel Brandon. In other words, Ezra Brandon’s personality doppelgänger, and that astounded me. It was like this blinding moment of profound perception, like Austen knew a previous version of Ezra personally or something. Both are quiet, constant, gallant, and unapologetically masculine. They are both remarkable yet unassuming representatives of their gender. Colonel Brandon is the sort of character most readers find underwhelming at first glance, but when Austen peels back his layers, she reveals the most extraordinary person, much like Ezra.

I sighed like an idiot.

“So, um, I know what favor I’d like,” Ezra said quietly, as if he were afraid of his own voice.

I sidled next to him as we continued walking. “Oh yeah? What’s that then?”

“When we get to Seattle, you have to remain my friend.”

I didn’t know what to think of his “favor.” It was confusing because I didn’t think he would have cared one way or another if we stayed friends. Ezra wasn’t in the habit of being active socially, as you well know.

“Define friend,” I begged, sort of desperate to know what his definition was.

“You are strange,” he commented, but continued. “You know, someone to hang with, someone to study with, watch films occasionally, maybe grab a bite to eat?” He ran the palm of his hand over the back of his neck. “I don’t know.”

“Is this because I’ll be the only one you’ll know in Seattle?”

He laughed, but I didn’t think he found it funny. “You overanalyze the shit out of things sometimes, Jupiter.”

“Well?” I asked.

“No, okay? Damn. I just thought it would be cool if we stayed friends with one another is all.”

I felt stupid. I don’t know why I questioned everyone’s motives all the time. I mean, I kind of knew why, but  since I was aware of it, I hoped to outgrow that part of myself, but obviously it bubbled up, and usually at the most inopportune times. My family was weird, I was weird, everything about me was weird, and I was constantly called out on it. Naturally I became defensive, and usually by calling out motives aloud. Nothing made people more uncomfortable than having to answer for their behavior.

“Sorry,” I told him. “Of course I’d love to hang out with you in Seattle, but that can’t be your favor. I’m not letting the fact of whether we remain friends in Seattle hang upon the stripping abilities of a hitchhiker named Ruby.”

Ezra laughed and meant it this time. “Deal. Let me think of something else then.”

“What are the terms?”

“What do you mean?”

“I say she loses the bra first,” I said.

Ezra blushed, making me giggle. “I feel like an idiot, but her shoes?”

“Boring!”

“Listen, I’m trying to win, and logically, losing the shoes seems the most feasible option.”

“Fine. I’d say let’s shake on it, but I need to know what I’m risking.”

“Okay, let me read your texts to Frankie.” I didn’t respond, didn’t know how to really. “I know you’re talking to her about me, and it’s driving me crazy not knowing what’s being said.”

I felt my face sober, but my heart started to race at the mere thought of him reading those texts. “Have you lost your damn mind?” I finally asked.

“I take that as a no?”

“That’s a big hell to the no!”

“Come on, man.”

“Okay,” I said, and his face lit up. I was going to enjoy this next bit, “but only if you let me see what’s in the bag.”

“No way.”

“Exactly.”

“All right,” he said, tying another ribbon, “then karaoke. On a date of my choosing.”

I smiled. “Deal.”

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Review: Penny in London by Fisher Amelie

My Thoughts

A delightfully fun summer escape
the perfect sizzle and romance for poolside reading.

4 four stars

Synopsis

Penny in LondonYou know how everyone says when one door closes another one opens? At the time, you find this statement obnoxious as all get out because a) you don’t really know what the future holds, it certainly hasn’t been a cakewalk so far, and b) the thought of change is unbearable. You feel like your life is falling apart and everyone around is feeding you clichés like they’re made out of kale or quinoa or whatever the trend health food is right now. You don’t want kale clichés, you want double-chocolate fudge realisms, and you want them now.

You just want things the way they were, but then something happens, a moment, an instant that sets you out on a path toward happiness you never knew could exist, and suddenly you think, huh, I don’t think I want double-chocolate fudge anymore. I think I’m in the mood for this heaping serving of strawberry cheesecake sitting in front of me…with a side of kale. And a pair of split pants, but we won’t get into that right now. Graham Glenn may have tossed her in, but Oliver Finn made her feel again.

My Review

Fisher Amelie’s latest—Penny in London—is a wonderful, lighthearted romance. You’ll read it quick, smile on your face, falling hard and rooting loudly for Penny and Oliver. Sweet and sexy with a contemporary twist, this fast-paced love story about the girl that got away and the boy with more than meets the eye, will have you swooning page after page.

We meet Dallas-born Penelope, who fell in love and moved across an ocean to be with her boyfriend Graham. In London, their life seemed idyllic—more or less, anyway—until the day he broke her heart.

Distraught, the day gets only worse and before long, Penny finds herself turning to Graham’s friend Oliver for help.

Oliver is a playboy, always looking for the next girl to warm his bed. But without options and with only the tatters of her heart in tow, Oliver becomes her life raft.

Penny realizes just how much she’d changed of herself to accommodate Graham. So she begins to pick up the pieces, of her heart and of herself.

“I had changed for Graham. It was time for me to find myself again and hope I was still there.”

The more time she spends with Oliver, however, the more she uncovers, the more she realizes there is so much more to him than she gives him credit for. She also didn’t expect the chemistry that’s undeniably sparked between them.

“You were supposed to be mine. From the beginning, you were supposed to be with me.”

Oliver and Penny’s story gets a lot more complicated before it gets better, however. Oliver hides a heartbreaking past while Penny struggles to process her emotions. She needs to decide the path she wants her life to take, whether she goes all in for the boy she’s fallen hard for, or whether she packs her bags and heads back to Dallas.

“I want you, Penelope. I can count the things I am desperate for on one hand, on a single finger. You. I want you. Only you.”

Their story is sweet and romantic with an edge of adventure and an irresistible twist of fate. Fisher Amelie delivers a great lighthearted love story that many readers (like me) are sure to enjoy!

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Exclusive Excerpt: Penny in London by Fisher Amelie

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Penny in London—Fisher Amelie’s newest novel about a girl who finds herself in a situation she never imagined, falling for a boy she never expected to love. The book is coming next week and I’m almost halfway through it and loving it! Full of wit, heartbreak and romance, you won’t want to put it down! Today, I’m thrilled to give you a never-before-seen sneak peek of Penny’s story!

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Synopsis

Penny in LondonYou know how everyone says when one door closes another one opens?

At the time, you find this statement obnoxious as all get out because a) you don’t really know what the future holds, it certainly hasn’t been a cakewalk so far, and b) the thought of change is unbearable.

You feel like your life is falling apart and everyone around is feeding you clichés like they’re made out of kale or quinoa or whatever the trend health food is right now. You don’t want kale clichés, you want double-chocolate fudge realisms, and you want them now. You just want things the way they were, but then something happens, a moment, an instant that sets you out on a path toward happiness you never knew could exist, and suddenly you think, huh, I don’t think I want double-chocolate fudge anymore. I think I’m in the mood for this heaping serving of strawberry cheesecake sitting in front of me…with a side of kale. And a pair of split pants, but we won’t get into that right now.

Graham Glenn may have tossed her in, but Oliver Finn made her feel again.

Excerpt

“Right. We have to do that,” Oli said, pointing at the dancers.

I laughed. “Oliver,” I said, holding up my arm cast.

“No worries,” he said, shifting out of his seat and stepping to my side of the booth.

Without preamble, he picked me up, tucking his arms under my knees and back as he always did. Surprised, I let out a little squeal and we both laughed. I wrapped my good hand around his neck and he held me a little tighter than usual. I could only assume the shot had given him a little bit of liquid courage and, goodness help me, I think the same made me let him do it.

Uh-oh.

When we reached the area with the other slow dancers, he let my body slide down his.

“Trust me?” he whispered.

“Of course,” I answered.

He wrapped his arms around my waist and pressed me close. My legs dangled beside his. We smiled at one another, but they dissipated. He swallowed and I followed the line of his throat.

Uh-oh.

“Penelope,” his deep voice grated.

My good arm was folded at the elbow and my hand rested on a broad shoulder. He stared at me, something desperate in the look, and I knew what he was about to do.

“Let’s not do this. Please, let’s not do this,” I begged.

“I have to. I need to,” his pained voice expressed.

“He’s your best friend,” I whispered.

“I know,” he agreed.

“I can’t be that girl.”

“What girl?” he asked, resting his cheek against mine and whispering in my ear. I felt his five o’clock shadow and tried to ignore how it made my heart speed up.

“That girl.”

“You wouldn’t be,” he said.

“I would be, though. Don’t you see?” I asked. I pushed at his shoulder a little and he let me slide down his lean, tall body once more until I gained some footing on my good leg. “I wouldn’t just be the girl who went from one friend to another. I’d also be the next girl. Another notch on Oliver Finn’s bedpost. You’d sleep with me once and grow tired of me just like all the others. I can’t be that girl, Oliver. I’m not that girl. And as much as I like you, respect you in so many other ways.” I swallowed and my eyes burned. “As much as I find you attractive, as much as you seem ideal, as much as I love calling you friend, I won’t be the girl who tumbles around your group. I’m better than that,” I told him.

I broke away from him and limped toward our table. I grabbed my canvas satchel and made my way toward the pub’s exit. I didn’t have a plan. I just needed space, needed air.

Oliver caught up with me, grabbing me by the elbow. “Penelope,” he said, out of breath. “Wait. Please, wait.”

“I think I’ve made a terrible mistake,” I told him.

“No,” he said. “No, you haven’t. You’re right. You are better than that. You’re better than me, better than Graham. If you just stay a moment, let me pay the tab and I’ll get us out of here. We’ll talk or not. Whatever you want.”

I nodded and stayed where I stood while he ran in and paid the tab. A few minutes later we walked silently to his car. He helped me inside and we drove back to his parents’ house. Trying to seem as casual as possible, we both gathered our things and said our goodbyes. Eleanor looked a little panicked, but I tried to appease her by being as warm as possible. I don’t think it fooled her one bit.

We left for London and drove the distance in silence. I hated the change in dynamics, detested it. I felt abandoned all over again. Justified or not, it was how I felt. The loneliness was overpowering.

“We never should have talked of it. If we’d kept silent, we’d be okay,” I told the passenger side window.

“A lie,” he said, cutting me deep. “I’ve been quiet for too long. My only regret is I did it too soon. You weren’t ready to hear what I had to say. You still aren’t, but now it’s too late.”

“I don’t believe in regrets,” I told him.

“You don’t, but you’re going to believe in mine, Pen, because you don’t have a choice.” He turned into his garage and parked, whipping his head my direction. “You were supposed to be mine. From the beginning, you were supposed to be with me,” he said, shocking me.

“After giving in to Graham, you were an immediate regret. I should have never let him near you. I should have fought him tooth and nail for you, stranger or not, and now I am paying for that in unspeakable ways.

“Do you know what it was like to see him hold you, touch you, and kiss you?” His hands went to his hair and he tugged. “It’s fucking torture! Every time I witnessed his hand graze your skin, his lips touch your lips.

Every time he’d run his hand down your hair, hair I’d only dreamt of touching, it was excruciating.

“When the nurse called me that day from the hospital? I had to pull over twice to vomit. I raced through London to get to you. I must have lost five years off my life. I imagined the worst. Seeing you lay there hurt, finding out what Graham had done, I knew I had been the one who’d made the mistake. I knew I should have revealed myself to you that first day, but loyalty won out and what did it get me? Eight months of torment. I waited for you to leave him, waited for you to see what a terrible person Graham was to women, but time went by and you fell in love with him and I watched it happen and it was pure anguish, because as you fell for him, I fell for you.

“I’ve wanted you for so long. And that’s the terrible part, Pen. For you, this is sudden. For you, this is but days. For me, though? For me, it’s been eight months of trying to forget you, trying to move on, trying not to dream, to think, to want you.”

His chest panted from the acknowledgment. He looked at me, expecting something, but I was struck speechless.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked, feeling incensed.

“It wasn’t my place to break you up!”

“You knew what he was and you let me make the mistake!”

“It was not my place!” he yelled.

“You let me fall in love with the wrong guy!”

“You were supposed to see him for what he was. You were never supposed to love him.”

The tears started streaming. “That’s an issue, Oliver, you know why? Because I did fall in love, but it was the version of him he wanted me to love. It’s the most damaging consequence associated with sociopaths. You love the person they want you to love, and then you’re left with the aftermath when they finally decide to show their true colors. You could have spared me that, but your gosh damn loyalty to that snake in the grass overpowered these so-called feelings you hold for me!”

“Are you questioning me?” He looked offended, but I didn’t have time for offended.

Because I was pissed, I didn’t respond. I let my answer hang in the air.

“You think I don’t want you?”

“Look at your patterns, Oliver. You sleep with every girl who will look at you. You claim that you’ve liked me from the beginning but let Graham have me,” I bit out. “I don’t really think you want me, not really. I think you want what you gave up. I think you want the closure, the triumph, the victory. Now I’m expected to believe that your yearning for me is sincere?”

“Bullshit!” he shouted. “That’s bullshit,” he said again, quieter. He grabbed my shoulder and brought me closer to him. “You know it is.” He searched my face for something. “You felt something these past few days. I didn’t imagine the searing chemistry between the two of us. You can lie to yourself, but you can’t lie to me.”

I refused to acknowledge how right his words were. “Answer for yourself, then,” I said instead.

“For what!”

“Have you struggled these last eight months because it’s actually me you want, or was it the missed opportunity for another conquest?”

“I want you,” he said without hesitation. The heated, searing declaration melted me to my seat.

“I-I don’t believe you,” I lied. I did believe him, but I couldn’t let it go. Things had gotten too complicated and I needed an out. Don’t hurt him like that, though.

His shoulders sagged, and I regretted my words immediately. He opened his door and climbed out. He came to my side and helped me from the car but wouldn’t look at me.

“Oli,” I said, hoping to apologize, my head swimming.

“Don’t,” he insisted. “Don’t, Penelope.”

In an instant he went from hot to cold.

“Listen to me,” I told him, hoping to talk further.

“Penelope!” he shouted, his voice echoing off the walls.

I clenched my jaw shut and scrambled up the stairs to the metal door. I waited for him to open it and moved aside when he entered first. He tried to help me over the slight hitch between the door and the floor, but I wouldn’t let him. I headed for my room and closed the door behind me.

I packed all my stuff as quickly as possible and sprinted as fast as my cast would allow toward the garage door and opened it, tossing everything I had down the steps, hobbling after it and booking it toward street level, waiting at the curb for a passing taxi.

“Please, please,” I whispered, praying for one to pass by.

“Penelope!” I heard from the garage.

“Shit,” I whispered toward the street.

“Pen! What are you doing?” Oliver asked.

“Just let me go, Oliver,” I pleaded as a taxi pulled around the corner. I shot my hand out for him and he pulled up beside me.

“You are not fucking leaving right now,” he said, hitting the top of the taxi, signaling for the driver to keep going.

The driver drove away, looking for another rider.

I stuck out my hand again. “What the hell, Oliver?”

“Come back inside,” he asked softly.

I shook my head. “It’s all a little too much to take, for me to take.”

“I understand,” he said, “but let’s not jump the gun here.”

“Graham ripped my heart to shreds.” He nodded. “I’m not healed enough to look at you the way my heart wants me to. And, to be honest, neither are you.” A look of disappointment flashed across his face. “You need to deal with the heartache Brooke caused that still lies at your feet.” He bit his bottom lip and looked away from me. Another taxi pulled next to me and the driver got out to put my bags inside. “I lied before,” I told him. “I know it’s me you want. Know it’s you I want too, but there’s a canyon between us neither of us are ready to vault over. Neither of us would survive it.”

Oliver’s jaw gritted. I reached for it and smoothed my thumb across his cheek. The muscle relaxed and he turned his face into my palm. I pulled him down and placed a firm, trembling kiss on his mouth. Altogether too soon, I forced myself to push away and sat in the taxi. We took off and I refused to look back because that brief brush of our lips did more for me than a thousand passionate kisses from his best friend. If I’d let my eyes meet his, I wouldn’t have left.

And I needed to leave, because Oliver had been right. I had changed for Graham. It was time for me to find myself again and hope I was still there.

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