Saturday, September 5, 2020

Beautifully Scarred - Chapter 1

 


CHAPTER ONE

JULIETTE

 

As I laid in my bed, a loud crash echoed from the living room, waking me up. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and listened to see if I heard it again. I knew I couldn’t go downstairs. I wasn’t allowed. My daddy’s number one rule once he put me to bed was I had to stay in my room. “Stay up here, Squirt, don’t come down those steps. Do you understand me?” I gave my daddy the same response every time he told me that. “Okay.”

I didn’t understand why it was a rule. Why did I have to stay there? What if I had to pee? What if I got thirsty? He seemed to have a party every night when I went to bed. Sometimes there were loud voices downstairs, voices I didn’t know.

I went downstairs once after my dad put me to bed, and a lady with long red hair sat on my daddy’s lap on the couch, rocking back and forth. When she noticed me, she didn’t stop, the lady kept doing it, but she closed her eyes and made a funny noise. I never saw the lady before, so I asked, “Who are you?”

My dad turned his head and saw me. “What did I tell you, Jules? Get back to bed. You know the rule, do not come back down once I put you to sleep,” he yelled.

My daddy never yelled at me. But why was that lady here? What was she doing to him?

The next day, my dad told me if I didn’t follow the rules, I was going to get spanked. I never went downstairs again.

My hands shook as I clutched my fuzzy pink blankie to my chest. I didn’t know what to do. If I went down, my dad would be really mad. But I was scared.

People yelled at each other, then I heard our front door slam shut. I tiptoed over and eased my door open as slowly and quietly as I could to make sure I didn’t make any noise. I leaned my ear against the cold wood. The house was quiet. 

I walked softly down the steps, so no one heard me, and my eyes bounced around the room. It was all dark, and no one was there.

Someone laid on the floor, and there was a lot of red stuff around them. My eyes widened when I saw it was my dad.

“Daddy, wake up!” I screamed and pushed against his arm. Blood came from his belly—so much blood.

“Daddy, wake up, please,” I begged, but he didn’t move. I pushed my hands against his belly and tried to stop the blood. I jumped up, ran to the bathroom, and grabbed a box of band-aids. That should help. Daddy always put band-aids on my boo-boos.

When I got back, I lifted his shirt and wiped his belly with my blankey. I put the band-aids over his cut, hoping they would make him feel better. Maybe he needed some rest. Maybe when he woke up, he would be all better. When I didn’t feel good, daddy would tell me to take a nap, and when I woke up, I’d be as good as new. That’s what he needed. He needed to sleep.

The sun was shining through the windows when I lifted my head off my daddy’s chest. He was still sleeping.

“It’s time to get up,” I said as I pushed his shoulder. He didn’t move.

I jumped to my feet and ran through the living room to the front door. I pulled it open and ran down the steps, across the lawn to the house next door. I banged on the door. “Mrs. Keller. Mrs. Keller,” I yelled.

 The old lady who lived next door gasped and grabbed her chest when she opened the door. “Oh my goodness, are you hurt, Juliette? Honey, what happened?”

“My daddy won’t wake up!” I cried.

She bent down and lifted me into her arms and rushed into her kitchen. She pulled out a chair from the table. “Sit here, Jules. I’m going to call for help, okay?”

I nodded as I twisted my hands in my lap.

Gentle hands lightly shake my body side to side. “Hey, wake up,” a groggy voice next to me says.

I struggle to emerge from the dream. My eyes finally open to find myself in a dark room.

Gripping the sheets wrapped around my body, I tremble. My chest aches as I think about that horrible night. The night my entire life changed.

A hand touches my shoulder, startling me. “Are you okay?”

“Get out,” my voice breaks as I pull the sheet tighter.

“What?” His hoarse whisper breaks the silence in the room.

“I said, get out. Get dressed and get the fuck out of my apartment,” I growl as I snatch the sheet off my bed. I stand to reach for my robe on the chair, and once it's secured around my naked body, I reach for his clothes and throw them at him.

“What part did you not understand? Get the fuck out. Now!” I yell.

Whatever his name is moves quickly off the bed, dressing as fast as he can. “What the hell is your problem?” he snarls at me. “You were screaming in your sleep. You were having a nightmare, so I woke you up.” He turns toward me with palms in the air. “I swear, I didn’t do anything.”

“Shut up.” I run my hands over my face. “Please stop talking. Just leave,” I plead, letting out a few long breaths.

He snatches his jacket off the chair, opening my bedroom door with such force it slams against the wall. “You’re some crazy bitch, I’ll tell you that.”

Following this prick out of my bedroom, I scream, “You haven’t seen crazy yet.” I pick up the closest thing I can get my hands on and throw it at his head. My black combat boot hits him with such force, he stumbles forward, losing his footing. He turns toward me, chest heaving up and down.
             “You’re one fucked up bitch,” his blue eyes meet my gray ones.

I close my eyes and inhale a deep breath, taking an abrupt step toward him. “You have no idea how right you are. Now get out!”

He turns on his heel and strides to the door. Yanking the door open, he slams it shut behind him. I flinch.

A laugh echoes through the apartment. “Jules, you are crazy,” my roommate and best friend, Quinn, says.

I met Quinn when I was ten years old. It was my first day in a new school in Philadelphia. I remember the day vividly. The teacher, Mrs. Lee, introduced me to the class, and Quinn stood and said I could sit next to her. When I sat down, she leaned over, introduced herself, and told me she’d be my first friend in the school.

I hadn’t spoken a single word to anyone in weeks. I wanted to be left alone. I wanted to continue to feel numb. I wanted to be unseen to the world. She had pointed to my arm and wanted to know what happened. When I didn’t answer, Quinn never pushed. She invited me to sit with her friends at lunch, and we’ve been inseparable since. New friends, new beginnings.

I didn’t even notice her lying on the couch. I didn’t know I had an audience to this shit show. I don’t have the strength or patience to deal with her right now.

“So, what’s this one’s name?” she asks as she sits up, patting the cushion next to her.

Sitting next to her, I pull a corner of the gray throw blanket she’s using over my bare legs and shrug my shoulders.

Quinn’s eyebrows raise. “You don’t know it, do you?” Her mouth quirks with humor. “Did you bother to ask before you left the bar with him?”

“I think it was Dave, but I’m not sure.”

Quinn reaches for the bowl of popcorn on the coffee table, popping a piece in her mouth. “He was cute. After the way things just ended, I don’t suppose he’ll be back.”

My expression holds a note of mockery. “They never come back. I don’t do repeats.”

“I thought maybe this one would be different.” She pastes on a smile of nonchalance.

My fingers curl into my palms as I get the urge to get up and walk away. “You know how I am.”

“I know, but I was hoping one of the men you parade through here would make you happy, and you’d want to change your way of thinking.”

My eyes widen. “My way of thinking?” I raise a challenging brow. “What’s wrong with what I do? I fuck. I have orgasms and move on. I don’t ask for anything from them, and I sure as hell don’t promise to give them more than one night.”

A small chuckle escapes Quinn as she stares at me for a long moment. “You know, you sound like a prostitute.”

“A prostitute gets paid. I don’t get paid. I have one goal, a good time. Let me ask you something, how come a man can screw as many women as he wants, yet when a woman has sex without being in a relationship, she’s a whore? Can you explain that to me?” I reach over and grab a handful of popcorn from the bowl.

I know Quinn doesn’t approve of my lifestyle. She thinks I should be in a committed relationship, and I mask the pain from my past with the pleasure of sex. Maybe I do, but it’s my decision to make. Not hers.

I don’t promise these men anything, and I don’t ask for anything in return. Am I uncertain what the guy’s name is who I tossed out tonight? Yes. Does it make me a bad person? Absolutely not. My lifestyle might not be for everyone, but it works for me.

“First of all,” Quinn turns toward me. “I don’t think you’re a whore. I think you fuck all these men to try to hide the pain you feel.” Quinn throws some more popcorn into her mouth. When she’s finished chewing, she raises a brow. “I don’t think it’s purely for the pleasure you receive from an orgasm, as you politely just said. You have an entire drawer of toys that can give you an orgasm. So stop bullshitting yourself.”

I tilt my head and look at her. The muscle in my jaw ticks. I don’t want to have this conversation with her, not with my nightmare still fresh in my mind.

Quinn stretches her arms out to me. “Come here.”

Scooting across the cushions, I settle my head in her lap as she plays with my hair. The calming strokes of her fingers suddenly have me feeling less angry.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. You know I’m not judging you. I never would, Jules.”

I stay quiet for a long time. When I finally speak, my voice is low. “I know.”

“Why the sudden exit of tonight’s conquest? Another nightmare?” Her voice is laced with concern.

I nod.

Quinn continues to run her fingers through my hair, soothing my panic from the nightmare. “Do you want to talk about it?”

I shake my head, and my hand rubs mindlessly against my left arm over the intricate artwork decorating my body.

“Are you sure? Maybe talking about it will help.”

“You’re one of the few who knows everything. The good, the bad, and the gruesome. I don’t want to rehash it.”

Quinn doesn’t push any further. It’s one of the many qualities I love about her.

We are an odd couple, and our friendship was one I least expected. Quinn is all prim and proper with manicured nails, the perfect amount of makeup, azure eyes, and long, beautiful blonde hair. She’s about five foot six with a runner’s body, all toned and fit. I am the complete opposite, sticking out like a sore thumb with my head buzzed short on the sides, leaving my hair longer on top to blow out and style with piecey definition and texture. My hair color changes frequently, usually depending on my mood. The guys at the shop never know what color I will walk through the doors with. It could be peach one day, bleached out to be silver the next.

Quinn and I came into each other’s lives when we both needed a friend the most. She is my person.

I was dealt shitty cards in life. I wouldn’t wish my childhood on my worst enemy. But things changed for the better when I was ten. I was no longer a prisoner in the hell I had been living in.

Maureen and Charles swooped in, taking this broken girl into their home, showing nothing but unconditional love, and finally adopting me. But it was bittersweet. They may have saved me, but by doing so, I lost another person I loved. I lost my best friend, who I’d met when I was five years old. I lost him like I lost my father. Both snatched without warning from my shitty life.

One thing I've learned on this journey of life is when you find a best friend, you better hang on to them. Dig your heels in the dirt and hang on for dear life. I thought Brennan was my best friend, but he ended up stabbing me in the back. He couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He betrayed me. Or at least in the mind of a ten-year-old, he betrayed me, when in reality, he saved me.

After losing two important people in my life at such a young age, I’ve never allowed myself to get attached to people. I choose not to let people in. It’s easier that way. Less chance of being hurt. Focusing on my family and friends works for me. My motto is to keep my inner circle small. And by small, I mean Maureen, Charles, and Quinn.

My already fractured heart can’t tolerate being broken again. Therefore, I don’t do relationships with men. If your heart isn’t involved, it’s one less scar to walk away with. Lord knows I have enough of those marking my body.

Another reason I don’t get attached to anyone.

 

 IF YOU'VE LIKED WHAT YOU READ SO FAR, BE SURE TO CLICK TO CONTINUE TO FOLLOW LEE AND JULES' JOURNEY TO FINDING LOVE.

 


Unspoken Words - Prologue, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2




Prologue

“Someone help me! Help me!” I scream, hoping someone will hear me. The reality is, no one can. The music in the club is so loud, the bass is bouncing off the walls. My chest tightens in the pitch black room as I plead with God to make him stop. Please no. Don’t let this happen.
“You bitch, this is going to be rough now,” he growls.
I struggle to get free. His body presses against my back, forcing me against the wall. All I feel is his breath against my neck before his tongue swipes up the left side of my face. “Why are you fighting me? You were begging me with your eyes to come dance with you out there, to touch you.”
What the hell is he talking about?     
            Gentle hands lightly shake my body side to side. “Wake up, Camryn. You’re safe now. He can’t hurt you.” Gripping the sheets wrapped around my body, I tremble.
My mom pulls me into her arms. “You’re safe, sweetheart. Wake up. Look at me. You’re home, no one can hurt you. You’re having another nightmare, baby.” My mom repeatedly whispers in my ear, as her hand rubs up and down my back. She wraps me in the comfort of her arms and my rapid breathing slows down.
“Mom, when will this stop? When will the nightmares stop?” I plead.
“I don’t know, sweetie. I wish I knew, I just don’t,” she whispers.



CHAPTER ONE
CAMRYN

Beginning of October

After making my way through security, I grab a Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks. As I take my first sip, I savor the intense espresso flavor that hits my taste buds. The creamy vanilla-flavor with a topping of velvety-rich foam, finished with a buttery caramel drizzle, these are my guilty pleasures. This is one of the many reasons why I run every day.
I approach the gate, and notice my flight is going to be packed from the lack of unoccupied chairs. I plop down my laptop bag and carry-on and lean against the window to wait for the attendant to announce my flight. I’m praying the seat next to me is vacant so I can catch up on sleep after my late night checking out a local band for a piece I’m working on.
 My internship while attending Stanford was at one of the most prestigious music magazines, Key Notes. It paid off and I was offered a permanent position with the magazine after graduation.
I love living in LA, but my favorite perk of the job is the fact my company flies me to New York often. Key Notes has an office in New York City, so when there are bands on the East Coast that my boss wants me to see, they send me out there. Although Key Notes provides me with an expense account, I’d rather not stay at a hotel. Especially when my family lives there. So, I usually crash at my parents’ house, with my twin brother, Christian, or with the only other man in my life—my best friend, Jamieson.
Just thinking of Jamieson—or as everyone calls him, Jamie—puts a smile on my face. Being home for a few months means I will get to spend a lot of time with him, just like old times. Knowing we are both single, the possibility of us getting together has crossed my mind a few times but the timing has never been right, and I always fear he doesn’t feel the same.
I’ve wanted to say something to him for quite some time. But I don’t know if I could handle the rejection if he didn’t feel the same way I do. Once I cross that line, there is no going back to what we used to be. I never wanted to risk our friendship. With me living in Los Angeles now, I savor the time I get with my family and friends when I am on the East Coast. I love having quality time with my girls, whether it’s a day at the spa or even taking a run in Central Park.
The sudden movement of the crowd of people at the gate shakes me out of my daze. People start to line up and wait for their rows to be called. One of the perks of traveling for business is first-class. Key Notes treats me well. Once they announce first-class is boarding, I grab my laptop bag, carry-on and head toward the attendant.
After my ticket is scanned, I proceed down the jet bridge. Making my way to my seat, I notice the seat next to me is vacant. Saying a silent prayer, I hope it remains that way for the entire flight. The last thing I need is a chatterbox sitting next to me. On my last trip an older woman talked to me the entire flight. I don’t think she came up for air. I swear, she was sucking the oxygen out of the cabin and my ears were bleeding by the time we landed.
I shove my overly-stuffed carry-on in the overhead compartment and grab my iPod to prepare for the possibility of a chatty seatmate. Sliding into my seat by the window, I instantly begin to feel my body relax. With my busy schedule these past months, I didn’t realize how much I missed my family and friends.
When I received my itinerary for this trip, I was shocked to see how many events were on my schedule. My boss, Shelby, made sure she packed my schedule with events I need to attend. My Key Notes’ column, “Pulsations” focuses on emerging artists and bands. Shelby loves for me to find the hidden gems and make them shine in the spotlight.
She’s not only booked me in New York for the next few months, but Boston, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC, are on the list as well.
I pop my earbuds in, hoping to drown out the conversation coming from the two people sitting behind me. I am just about to close my eyes, when a guy takes the empty seat next to me and another in the seat across the row. Trying not to be too obvious, I glance over and find two total hotties. One has a baseball hat pulled down low to his face, and the other has brown hair that is cut short around the ears, yet longer on top, which seems to stick out as if he just ran his fingers through it. I can’t really see the one across the aisle, but the one next to me has eyes that are a piercing deep blue, and from what I can see, he definitely looks like he spends some time at the gym. His black shirt hugs him in all the right places as it stretches across his shoulders and biceps. I take a deep breath to appreciate the alluring cologne he is wearing. It’s not too strong, a clean smell that has me deeply inhaling without being too obvious. It smells familiar though, and I know I’ve smelled it before, which makes me do a double take. I don’t remember his name, but I’ve seen him before. Where though?
I turn my head away as he catches me gawking. He clears his throat, so I look out of the corner of my eye, and notice he is staring at me. I drop my chin, my cheeks flushing red. Just as I am about to turn my music on, I feel a tap on my left forearm. Glancing over, a huge grin is splashed across his face. His smile is beautiful and by the smug look on his face, he knows it, too. The guy next to him sits quietly looking at something on his phone.
“Excuse me, you look very familiar. My name is Chad Murphy. Have we met before?”
I’ve been told my face tells the whole story, I can only imagine what it looks like right now. I simply say, “Nope,” slightly popping the ‘p’ as I speak, “I don’t think we’ve met.” 
“Are you sure we’ve never met, you look really familiar?”
While trying to figure out where I recognize him from, I say, “Maybe we’ve seen each other out or something. I spend a lot of time in nightclubs, bars, and music venues. Not that I’m a bar rat or a huge partier, but it comes with my job.”
At that very moment, his eyes widen as if a light bulb turned on in his head. “I know where I know you from. You interviewed my band last fall and wrote an article about us for Key Notes. It just took a little time for the rolodex of beautiful faces catalogued in my brain to find you.”
Chad has this smile that lights up the room, but at the same time, it’s a little devilish. He knows he is good looking and I am sure he uses it to his advantage. I remember how he flirted with me. I brushed it off. I never mix business with pleasure. That is a line I will never cross.
My cheeks get hotter from embarrassment. Quickly trying to remember what band he’s part of, I come up empty. Not surprisingly, I meet a new band each week when I work in the field. After a while it’s hard to remember them all.
“Thank you for the compliment, you seem to be quite the charmer. Yes, I do work for Key Notes. My name is Camryn, but most people call me Cami. What’s the name of your band?”
“Troubled Pasts,” he says in that deep voice of his. “This here,” he points to the guy who hasn’t spoken a word since they sat down, “is Buffer. He’s the guitarist in the band.” There’s something sexy about this man. I don’t usually get frazzled easily, but something about him unnerves me.
Buffer leans forward so I can see him. His boldly handsome face smiles warmly at me. He lifts his chin, “Hey. Nice to meet you.”
His profile was rugged and somber. It didn’t do him justice until he gave me a full view of his face. Damn, he is good looking. He is attractive and unscrupulous enough to take any woman. Women must find him deliciously appealing. Those eyes. They are serenely compelling.
After boldly staring at Buffer, I direct my attention back to Chad. “Ah… I remember your band. You guys rocked the house that night at The Hollywood Bowl. The ambiance and sound there is amazing. It’s my favorite venue.”
“So, do all of the rockers hit on you while you’re checking their band out?” Chad asks.
I laugh. “Not hardly. I keep everything professional while I work. Every once in a while, I get hit on, as you say,” making quote marks with my fingers, “But, rockers are usually on their best behavior, not knowing what I’ll put in my review of their performance.”
 “So, I guess I’m in the minority then. Good thing you already wrote your piece on my band. I can flirt all I want with you now.” He raises his eyebrows at me, while he takes in my appearance. His eyes roam my body. They fixate on my chest. Feeling a little self-conscious at his blatant appraisal, I quickly pull the zipper up on my work-out jacket.
“Dude, are you going to bother that poor girl the entire flight?” Buffer asks.
“What? I’m not bothering her. I’m simply being friendly,” Chad says.
Buffer leans forward, giving me another look at him. His eyes are an emerald green. The shadow of his beard gives him an even more manly aura. He smiles wide, his teeth strikingly white against his tanned face. “If his friendliness begins to irritate you, I suggest you put your earbuds in now. Maybe he’ll get the hint.”
I laugh at his comment. “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Just ignore him, I usually do,” Chad says jokingly.
We make small talk while we taxi to the runway for takeoff. He tells me about some of the other venues his band has played, and I tell him some of the other bands that I’ve interviewed and promoted.
Once the plane is in the air, I search my iPod until I find the playlist labeled ‘Travel’. I created the playlist of relaxing ballads sprinkled with a little funk between every couple songs. Music is my passion, there isn’t a time in my life when music didn’t play a huge role.
With my head resting on the pillow and the blanket pulled up around me, my eyes focus out the window, as the plane climbs higher into the sky. This is going to be a long flight, six hours with no layover, which is great; but with Chad sitting next to me, I can only hope exhaustion takes over my body. I am not in the mood to talk the entire flight. I want to catch up on some much needed sleep.
The music floods my ears and eventually Boyce Avenue, one of my favorite bands, soothes me to sleep.
Jamie push me higher.” I yelled as he pushed me on the swing in our backyard. Morgan was on the swing next to me and Christian was pushing her. “Higher, Jamie, they can’t beat us. You can’t let Christian push Morgan higher than me.”
Laughter filled the air, as Morgan and I were shouting at the boys to push us higher. Christian was telling Morgan to use her legs to help get better momentum, I hollered at Jamie to underdog me. Jamie was pushing me and pushing me and then he pushed me so hard that he ran underneath me as I went above his head. I looked over at Morgan and Christian and screamed like every seven-year-old would. “WE WIN. I WENT HIGHER!”
Morgan shouted. “No fair, you cheated. You didn’t say Christian could do underdogs. That’s not fair.”
Jamie and I were laughing as my swing slowed down. “There were no rules, Morgan, you just said you wanted to see who could go higher,” Jamie taunted, as we high fived each other, claiming another win.
Jamie lived next door to us, so he was always over. Morgan had moved in across the street when we started kindergarten. Jamie and I were always partners when we played games, especially when we needed a teammate. I hated being partners with my brother. Yuck.
Morgan jumped off her swing when it stopped. “You and Jamie always cheat. Why can’t you ever let anyone else win? It’s always you two against everyone else. Why do I always have to have Christian as my partner? Why do you always get Jamie, Camryn?”
With my hands on my hips, I looked back at her. “Because he’s my best friend, that’s why.” I think I hurt Morgan’s feelings by saying that because she shouted in our back door and asked my mom to help her cross the street so she could go home. I wasn’t being mean by saying Jamie was my best friend. Morgan knew she was my best friend too. The four of us always played together. We were inseparable. But I always loved being Jamie’s partner. I couldn’t explain it, it just felt right.
My mom stood at the back door, “Is everything okay?”
Morgan put her hands on her hips. “Mrs. Townsend, Jamie and Camryn don’t play fair. Can you please help me across the street, so I can go home?”
My mom came over, squatted down, and looked me in the eyes. She took her finger and placed it under my chin, “Camryn, why is Morgan saying you and Jamie don’t play fair?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know.”
“I told you before, the four of you need to get along. You need to play nice with each other. It’s not always about being the winner, Camryn. Sometimes you need to just play and have fun.”
My mom went over to Morgan. “Are you sure you want to go home?” 
Morgan looked over at me with unshed tears in her eyes.
I went over to where she was standing with my mom and I threw my arms around her neck. “I’m sorry. Please don’t go home. We can go play Barbies.” 
Morgan smiled and hugged me back and we ran off toward the tree house together, holding each other’s hands.

I feel my body being pushed, and I slowly open my eyes. Chad is smiling at me. “Rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty.”
I wipe the sleepiness from my eyes and look around. I try to gather my unfamiliar surroundings. My brain finally decides to work and I remember I’m flying to New York. Please, Lord, don’t let there be drool on my face after sleeping for six hours.
The flight attendant’s voice crackles from the speakers. “We are approaching the landing, please make sure your seatbelts are buckled, all electronic devices are powered off, and your bags are placed under the seats in front of you or in the overhead compartments.” Butterflies take flight in my stomach. Not because we are landing, rather from knowing I’ll get to see Jamie on a regular basis for the next few months.
We land and begin to taxi toward the terminal. I look at Chad and Buffer. “It was nice meeting the two of you again. I hope your stay is great.”
“I’m hoping it is, we’re meeting up with the rest of our band. We have a few meetings set up and we’re keeping our fingers crossed everything works out.” Chad says in his deep, sexy voice. The more I listen to him speak, the more I remember how he excited the crowd at Hollywood Bowl. His tone is so sensual and inviting, it gives me goosebumps just being near him.
“Are you going to be in New York for a while?” Chad asks while Buffer stands there quietly, his eyes studying me with a curious intensity.
“According to my schedule I have events up and down the East Coast, so to answer your question, yes, I will be in New York for a while.”
That smile I saw earlier makes another appearance as Chad pulls out a business card from his wallet and hands it to me. “Here’s my card, my cell number is on it. Give me a call if you have a free night to meet up for drinks.”
Reaching out to take his card, my fingers touch his and a sudden tingle shoots up my arm. I quickly pull my hand back and look at him. That alluring grin spreads across his face again. “Thank you. I’ll give you a call when I get settled in. Maybe we can do drinks. I can bring a few of my friends, and you can bring a few of yours.” I suggest.
“I was hoping maybe the two of us could have drinks… without friends there to chaperone us. I don’t bite.” A sly grin crosses his face. “Unless I’m asked to,” he says with a mischievous smile.
My eyes go wide at his remark. Talk about being forward. “I’ll let you know about the drink. You never know, maybe I will take you up on it.”
A loud laugh pulls my attention away from Chad. “Nice line, dude, real nice. Camryn, please don’t think our entire band acts like this one.” He nods his head in Chad’s direction.
Chad shoots his bandmate a look then gets up and grabs his bag from the overhead
compartment, placing it at his feet. “Which bag is yours?”
“It’s the hot pink, leopard print one.”
 He hands me my carry-on, and when I bend over to grab my laptop bag I hear a whistle. I turn around and give Chad a dirty look. If looks could kill, he would have dropped dead right there in the aisle. He holds his hands up, as if surrendering. “I’m only joking, no need to shoot daggers at me.” He chuckles and Buffer and I walk ahead of him down the jet bridge.
When we exit the bridge, Chad extends his hand to me. “Well, it was nice seeing you again. Call me.”
“Or don’t,” Buffer interjects.
We go our separate ways at the terminal, since they both only had a carry-on. Following the signs toward baggage claim, I pray Christian and Jamie are here to pick me up. It has been three months since I’ve seen my friends and family and what a welcome home it will be to see them both in a few minutes.



CHAPTER TWO
CAMRYN

Christian, leans against the wall in baggage claim looking up at the screens. As I start walking in his direction, I’m swept up into a set of strong arms. I don’t need to see the face to know who they belong to. I recognize the vibrant tattoos that cover his arms from his wrists all the way up to his shoulders and wrap around to his chest. These arms belong to Jamieson Banks…my Jamie.
Jamie squeezes me and snuggles his face into my neck. A loud squeal leaves my mouth, turning heads in our direction. Jamie places my feet back on the ground, just in time for me to turn around and throw my arms around his neck squeezing him tightly. After inhaling his scent, a smile spreads across my face. Home.
Jamie is beautiful. His features are perfect, so symmetrical, that any more delicacy would make him too beautiful to be a man. His skin pulled taut over the elegant ridge of his cheekbones. His brows and chocolate eyes are startling against his tan skin and dark hair.
In my eyes, he is literally a walking sex god. Granted, we’ve never had sex or anything, but with me being home for a while, I’m hoping to build up enough courage to tell Jamie how I feel about him.
Jamie whispers in my ear, “It’s been way too long, Tink. I’ve missed the hell out of you.” Just as I pull back to look at his face, Jamie leans in and plants a huge kiss on my cheek. Swatting Jamie in the chest, I mutter “Don’t call me that in public. You know how much I hate that name.”
Jamie raises his eyebrows and laughs, “Cami, I’ve been calling you Tink since you were little and dressed up as Tinkerbell five Halloweens in a row. You were obsessed with Tinkerbell, you even wore your costume in the yard to play. I can’t help it.”
“Oh, really, I also dressed up as a baseball player for Halloween a few times, and wore a uniform for years on the field, you could have at least called me ‘Slugger’ or ‘Power Pitcher’. Something a little catchier.”
Jamie lets out a hearty laugh, “Cami, you have no idea how much I missed our bantering back and forth.”
When Jamie and I break away from our hug, my brother comes over in our direction. “Hey, what am I? Chopped liver? Get over here and give your big brother a hug. I’ve missed you more than Jamie.”
“Big brother, really? You are not my big brother.”
“I beg to differ and my birth certificate will vouch for that. I am, indeed, your big brother.”
“Christian, you were born one minute before me. That does not constitute seniority. If you are playing the birth certificate card, I believe I am the big sister since I weighed more than you.”
“You weighed in more than me because you wouldn’t share the food Mom was consuming while she was pregnant. You were greedy then, and you’re still greedy now, when it comes to food.”
“Whatever, Christian, shut up and just hug me. It’s been three months since I’ve seen any of you.”
Christian pulls me into a bear hug and squeezes the air out of me.
“Alright, let me go. I said give me a hug, not break my ribs.”
Jamie clears his throat, “Hello, I’m over here. Did the two of you forget about me? You’re beginning to make me feel like a third wheel.”
Laughing at Jamie, I move away from Christian and wrap my arms around his waist and lean my head against his chest. Jamie has been my best friend for as long as I can remember. Yes, he is my brother’s best friend, too, but Jamie and I have a special bond. For years, Morgan and I tagged along with Christian and Jamie. The boys taught me how to play baseball, climb a tree, throw a football, drive a stick shift. The list of things is endless. They never treated me different because I was a girl. I was their equal.

It was our eighth birthday, Christian and I had a baseball-themed party. Our parents offered to have a separate party for each of us, but Christian and I agreed on one theme. Our parents decorated the backyard like a baseball field. Our dad made stands out of wood and placed signs on the front labeled snacks, souvenirs, hot dogs, etc. As you looked around the yard, concession stands appeared in the corners. Our mom had every goodie you could think of on the counter of the snack stand along with an array of chips. My mom had set up a hot dog stand and a pretend souvenir stand with party bags filled with a baseball and a New York Yankees t-shirt.
When we were able to open our presents, Jamie ran inside. When he returned, he walked over to me with his hands behind his back. He reached out his hands and I scrunched my nose at his gift wrapped in Christmas paper.
Jamie quickly says, “I wrapped it myself. I know your birthday is July 3rd but the paper had cute puppies on it and I know how much you love puppies.”
I threw my arms around his neck. “I love it.”
Jamie smiled. “Wait until you open it, you’re gonna love my present more than you love the paper.”
After tearing the paper off, I quickly tossed the lid to the side. My eyes immediately met Jamie’s because inside the box was the best gift ever. Jamie got me my very own baseball glove.
A huge smile spread across my face. Glancing around the yard, my eyes finally found my dad. When our eyes met, I held the glove up in the air.
“You finally got that glove you’ve been asking for,” my dad hollered over the other kids as they watched Christian open up his gifts.
Turning, my eyes met Jamie’s as he stood there staring at me. “I knew you wanted your own glove. Anytime you want to practice throwing, come get me,” he says with a huge smile on his face.
My eighth birthday was one of my favorites. That glove meant the world to me.  When the boys would let me play with them, they would loan me one of theirs. My love for baseball was born that day.

Christian played baseball all through high school, his dreams of going pro were shattered when he tore his ACL… resulting in surgery and then a shitload of physical therapy. Rather than going to college on an athletic scholarship, Christian went to NYU and focused on his academics. He double majored in business and music engineering production.
I, on the other hand, attended Stanford on a full athletic scholarship for softball. Obviously, I had the grades as well. My decision to attend Stanford wasn’t based solely upon my scholarship, Stanford has an incredible Journalism program.
Growing up with Christian and Jamie, sports was something I was always around. That is how my love for the game developed. The countless hours of training, whether I was at the gym, on the field, or at the batting cages, all paid off, playing softball at the collegiate level was a dream come true.
I never imagined I would have played the sport I fell in love with until I was twenty-two years old. But it was bittersweet, knowing that my brother’s dreams were taken from him on the same field that brought me such inner joy. The guilt bothered me at times, but Christian being the loving supportive brother he is, supported me the entire time I was in college. He and Jamie would try to attend my games if they were able to or they watched online when they couldn’t attend. I couldn’t have had a better support system than I did with my family and best friends.
 Jamie squeezes my shoulders, reminding me where I am. “What are you thinking about, Tink? You seem like you’re a million miles away.”
Shrugging my shoulders, I lean into him. “Just remembering my eighth birthday.”
Jamie tilts his head to the side and looks at me. “When I gave you your glove?” He smirks, quite proud of himself.
“You remember? I still have that glove even though I outgrew it a long time ago. It’s tucked away in a safe place in my closet at my parents’ house. I hope one day to pass it on to my little girl.”
Jamie’s face softens when I mention my glove. Of course, I still have it.
 “What's THAT look for, Jamie Banks? Have I shocked you?”
 “How could I forget that day, your yard was set up like a baseball field. Your parents went all out for that party. I think they just loved the fact Christian and you didn’t make them throw separate parties.” Jamie puts his arm around my shoulder, pulling me closer to him.
“Yeah, you may be right. With me not being high maintenance, my parents had it easy when it came to parties.” Christian pulls my bags off of the carousel and looks in my direction, “Camryn, do you only have two bags with you?”
“Yeah, I packed light. Key Notes allowed me to ship some boxes home with more of my stuff since my stay will be longer than usual.”
Both Christian and Jamie’s eyebrows raise at that statement. Christian asks, “What do you mean longer than usual? You’re not here for two weeks?”
Looking a little devious, I shrug my shoulders. “Oh, did I forget to tell you two that little bit of information?” Laughing, I say, “Boys, I am home ‘til after the New Year.”
Christian and Jamie both look at me with pure excitement written across their faces. Jamie grabs one of my bags from my brother and places his arms around my shoulders as we leave the airport. “This is going to be fun. Welcome home, Cami.”

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Friday, February 21, 2020

🎉BEAUTIFULLY SCARRED is LIVE + a GIVEAWAY 🎉




You guys, I can't wait for you to meet Juliette and Lee! Beautifully Scarred is LIVE + FREE in KINDLE UNLIMITED. It is on SALE for only $2.99 to celebrate the release, the price will be going up on Monday.


READ IT NOW:

Paperback US: https://amzn.to/37HTmVO


🎉 I'm giving away a KINDLE FIRE and a SIGNED PAPERBACK of Beautifully Scarred! For a chance at winning, head over to my Facebook Page for the details on how to enter. 


Beautifully Scarred - Chapter 1

  CHAPTER ONE JULIETTE   As I laid in my bed, a loud crash echoed from the living room, waking me up. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and li...