Monday, October 16, 2017

#FAA3 #FosterAnAuthor3 Melody Winter





Once back on the sand with my belongings, I turned to face the sea. The moon was closer to the earth than usual tonight—its size dominating the horizon.
I wrapped the shell in one of my clean art cloths and placed it in my bag before undressing. The wet denim fabric of my jeans clung to my legs, and I struggled to remove it. I groaned at my lack of foresight. Why hadn’t I rolled the ankles up before paddling in the water? As I undressed, baring my skin to the night, anticipation about entering the water charged through me. It was a good thing there wasn’t anyone around. They’d think I was performing a strip tease. I grinned at the ludicrous idea as I dropped my paint-splattered t-shirt on the sand.
It was time.
Turning to face the water again, I stood up straight.
My father’s voice filled my head. “Promise me, Estelle, promise me you’ll always do this.”
I nodded to his words, recognizing the seriousness of his tone, so clear, even after all these years. I hugged myself, ignoring the overpowering sensation to cry—I missed him so much, even more so on these nights. Screwing my eyes shut, I forced the tears away. I took several deep breaths and concentrated on calming myself. The sound of the waves sang to me, melodic tones drifting forward on each gentle roll. The fresh, salty smell of the ocean surrounded me. I breathed deeply before strolling toward the water’s edge. My feet seemed to move of their own accord, as if my body was impatient to transport me forward. But I didn’t rush. I wanted to take my time tonight.
When my toes met the swell of a receding wave, I smiled, relaxing at the familiar contact. A beckoning path was lit before me on the water, the brightness of the moon reflected clearly on the surface. The ocean was calm this evening. Many times, when I needed to complete the ritual, it was anything but. On those nights, I stayed in the shallows, completing the submergence ritual in an angry few feet of water. I never dared to venture far into the waves when the sea was violent and forceful. I had an affinity with the ocean, but I wasn’t foolish.
My father had told me never to fear the ocean; it was something magical, and it would never, ever, harm me.
I believed him . . . until the night it took his life.
I missed holding his hand as I walked into the sea, often questioning why I still kept doing this when he wasn’t here. The night he’d drowned was the last time we completed the ritual together. But whatever else happened in my life, I’d always kept my promise to him. Every time I followed his crazy ritual, I somehow felt calmer and closer to him. Had he known what would happen to him that evening? I refused to believe he wanted to end his own life; he’d had too much to live for. He loved my mother and me so much.
Pausing in the water as it rippled at my waist, I rested my hands, palm down, on the surface, speaking the mantra my father taught me:
“I claim the truth of my existence under the full lunar phase, and submerge within these jeweled waters to keep me safe from harm.”
Bending my knees, I sank under the water, ensuring my head was submerged, and paused for a few seconds before straightening back up. Not bothering to wipe the hair from my face, I repeated the phrase.
“I claim the truth of my existence under the full lunar phase, and submerge within these jeweled waters to keep me safe from harm.”
Once again, I dipped below the surface of the water.
I kept my eyes open as I completed the submergences. I never shut out the underwater world that greeted me. It was as if the ocean was a long-lost friend, welcoming me back with open arms every month. The waves were my family, protecting me, caressing my body with their underwater currents.
Repeating the whole routine seven times, I spoke my words to the moon before offering myself to the ocean. After the final submergence, I steadied myself before lifting my arms into the air.
It was done. My promise to my father was complete for this month. I would be back to repeat it at the next full moon.
As I always did on these nights, I executed a perfect dive into the waiting water. The gentle, swirling currents attempted to control me in their evening dance, but it didn’t affect me at all. I was too strong for them to sway me in any one direction. The ritual had renewed my strength and agility in the water. I loved this sensation. It was one of freedom, of complete relaxation, and a primitive force I’d never understood.
I swam further from the beach, not needing to surface as I traveled. Twisting to change directions, I headed deeper, wanting my feet to touch the sandy bottom of the seabed. I swam fast, and the sand was beneath me within seconds. I curled my legs under me, tumbling until I was upright in the water, poised to stop my fast descent. My feet stomped on the ocean floor, and a haze of cloudy sand rose upward, mimicking a dust storm in the desert. I’d performed the equivalent of an emergency stop. Trying to suppress a giggle, my father’s face appeared in my head. He’d never have approved of my risqué behavior.
Bubbles of air ballooned from my mouth as I pushed off from the seabed, gliding upward to the moonlight filtering through the surface.
For the second time this evening, I was distracted by the sight of something glistening. This time, though, it was in the waters below. I stopped my peaceful journey, suspended in the water as I stared at where I had come from. The sparkling, tiny ball of light moved rapidly in a circle. I frowned, unable to comprehend how something could travel so quickly, and how any form of light could move so precisely. I watched, transfixed with the light’s journey as it moved closer.
My heart raced when I became aware that the glow wasn’t in fact a light. It was the reflection of the moon on a necklace; a necklace that someone was wearing. As the person began to swim toward me at an impossible speed, I momentarily froze with shock. Panic crashed through me. I wasn’t safe—I was alone, swimming in the sea in the middle of the night. Tearing my gaze away from the glinting necklace, I propelled myself toward the surface. I needed to get to land. Determined to outswim whoever this person was, I swam the fastest I ever had. Yet, it wasn’t fast enough. Sneaking a look behind me, I could see the head of the person following. They were getting closer—too close.
With a racing heart and aching limbs, I pushed myself to go faster, but it was pointless.
A hand grabbed my ankle.

I screamed.

#FAA3 #FosterAnAuthor3 Michelle Pace



Good Wood
"It’s the sign of a true artisan when he can create beauty from what others consider trash. It takes heart to use a twisted bit of scrap and make something from it as if it were good wood.”

Somehow Joe survived the unlivable, and now he's just going through the motions. An endless string of one night stands does little to dull the ache from all he's lost. Even though he distracts himself daily with back-breaking work, his violent rage still simmers just under the surface.

Then along comes Molly, the feisty baby sister of his two best friends. Joe hasn’t seen her in years, and he's unprepared for his reaction to her when she falls out of the food truck and into his arms. Molly is still as mouthy as ever, and now she's as delicious as the food she's serving up. It's totally against "The Bro Code", but he just can't seem to keep his hands off of her.

Molly has come back home to Austin to mend fences and feed a whole new crowd. Dealing with Joe's demons don't figure into her business model. Something is very different about him and she craves the ‘Old Joe’ she used to have a crush on. 

Still, the broody carpenter's swagger is damn near irresistible. And all work and no play make Molly a cranky girl.



Amazon: amzn.to/1n6naDA
Amazon UK: amzn.to/1Dk3Mo2
iTunes: bit.ly/16LbBdL
Smashwords: bit.ly/1vORLcc


Mollywood

"A good chef can throw seemingly random ingredients into a pot and create something delicious. On rare occasions, fate does the same thing with hearts. With the right combination of elements at just the right time, a couple can fall head over heels in love. That being said, blending two lives can get messier than any kitchen and also a hell of a lot harder to clean up."


Molly's food truck took Austin by storm, and she's got more prospects than she knows what to do with. Her crazy ex is out of the picture, and she's moved in with her gorgeous boyfriend, Joe. She and Joe rarely see one another, and when they do, their time is squandered arguing. Molly's anxious to break this cycle because the tension between them is literally making her sick.

After years alone and shattered, Molly has reawakened a part of Joe that he was sure couldn't be revived. He's terrified of losing her, but their combined baggage makes every step forward seem littered with landmines. Molly's more than worth the fight, but she shouldn't be the one he's constantly battling. A master carpenter by trade, Joe has restored countless treasures which seemed beyond repair. He's determined that he and Molly won't be the exception.


Fate kicks in the door and rocks them to their very foundation. Boundaries are tested, tears shed, and Molly and Joe will question everything they think they know about themselves and each other.

Amazon: amzn.to/1nxsP5I
Amazon UK: amzn.to/1HEk3u8
iTunes: bit.ly/1A6i9RF
Smashwords: bit.ly/11vnNwu




Michelle Pace grew up in small-town Iowa jamming out with the local band of misfits. She studied theater and vocal music in college, directing and performing in numerous productions. Eventually, she chose to settle down, earning more practical degrees in both liberal arts and nursing. 

On an enthusiastic quest to avoid shoveling snow, she relocated to the Lonestar state with her husband, author L. G. Pace III. A master of the Irish goodbye and hardcore lover of Texan beer, Michelle enjoys live music and obsessive people-watching. She has two daughters and a son, who provide her endless hours of amusement. Still most at home, while entertaining an audience, Michelle feels passionate about writing fiction, not fairytales.


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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Love Around the Table Cover Revea

Title: Love Around the Table
Genre: Literature, Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Cover Design: EJR Digital Art
Editor: Cheryl Walt
Publication Date: Nov. 1st, 2017
Blurb:
Second chance at love, second chance at life.
Six Southern authors share six great short stories of friendship, family, and romance, and six special recipes of love.
A life-threatening diagnosis triggers forgiveness and healing between two estranged sisters.
A Sister’s Quandary by Rachel Jones
Life shoves an award-winning pastry chef into a big career change where she discovers the depths of true friendship and love.
Layers of Love by Linda Joyce
In rural Mississippi, a ten-year-old black girl and white boy bond over fishing as they navigate the racial waters of the 1930s.
Mississippi Catfish by Constance Gillam
A caregiver son and an activities director at a senior living facility discover the magic powers of love.
No More Lonely Hearts by Marilyn Baron
A harried widower with four young mischievous daughters proves to a wounded woman there’s always room for one more around the table.
Table for Six by Melissa Klein
An unexpected Lazy Susan disaster splatters the news of a famous baseball player reuniting with his small-town sweetheart.
Turning the Table on Love by Ciara Knight
Rachel Jones—Labor & Delivery RN by night and writer by day—is an award-winning author who began her first novel at age fifty-seven. She composes stories of strong heroines, heroes with heart, and sweet romance. Her writing reflects her passion for performing arts, and a twenty-eight-year career in healthcare has influenced the threads of medical drama woven into her storylines.
Amazon Best-Selling author and multiple RONE Award Finalist Linda Joyce writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction featuring assertive females and the men who can’t resist them. She lives with her very patient husband in a house in metro Atlanta run by a fifteen-year-old canine named General Beauregard who believes they are his pets. Linda’s a closet artist who paints with a brush, yet longs to finger paint…but hates getting her hands messy. She’s addicted to Cajun food and sushi. Linda will deny she only leaves the house once a week and only then to get criticism from two other authors.
Learn more about Linda at her website: www.linda-joyce.com.
Constance Gillam—Books and music have always been my life. Some of my earliest memories were of walking to the library on my own at age seven or eight. (Those were the days when children weren't snatched off the streets.) I read every chance I got.
In a quest to find myself, I've worked as genetic counselor, health underwriter, bank proof operator, phlebotomist, real estate agent, and medical technologist. In the end, I've come back to the profession I've revisited most often, being a writer.
I write contemporary thrillers, historical fiction, and dabble in young adult.
My husband and I live in the Atlanta area with our three children and grandchildren.
Marilyn Baron writes in a variety of genres, from humorous coming-of-middle-age women’s fiction to historical romantic thrillers and romantic suspense to paranormal/fantasy. THE VAMPIRE NEXT DOOR is her twelfth novel published with The Wild Rose Press. Her novel, THE ALIBI, will be released later this year. She’s received writing awards in Single Title, Suspense Romance, Novel With Strong Romantic Elements, and Paranormal/Fantasy Romance, and was a Finalist for the 2017 Georgia Author of the Year Awards in the Romance category for her book, Stumble Stones: A Novel. A public relations consultant in Atlanta, she graduated with a BS in Journalism and a minor in Creative Writing from the University of Florida. She loves to travel and sets many of her books in places she’s visited.
Read more about Marilyn’s books at www.marilynbaron.com.
Melissa Klein writes contemporary romance about everyday heroes fighting extraordinary battles. Whether facing the demands of caring for a child with special needs or the struggles of a soldier returning home, her characters take on the challenges life throws at them with perseverance, courage, and humor. She won Georgia Romance Writers Unpublished Maggie award in 2013 and Rose City Romance Writers Golden Rose award in 2012. When she’s not writing, she enjoys gardening, travel, and spending time with her family. She lives with her incredibly supportive husband outside of Atlanta.
You can find Melissa at www.MelissaKleinRomance.com.
Ciara Knight is a USA Today and Amazon Bestselling author who ‘Fights for Love One Book at a Time' that spans the heat scales. Her popular sweet romance stories take readers into small-town romance full of family trials, friendly competition, and community love.
For more about Ciara, please visit her website at www.ciaraknight.com.

Uncuffed (The Vault) Cover Reveal with Michelle Dare

Title: Uncuffed (The Vault)
Author: Michelle Dare
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Cover Design: Designs by Dana
Photographer: Darren Birks, Inc.
Models: Darren Birks and Khandace Charest
Publication Date: Oct. 17th, 2017
Blurb:
What started out as a necessity, soon turned into an addiction. Hope craved the high stealing gave her. She put her childhood dreams aside and embraced her life as a thief. Target after target, she took their money before moving on to the next unsuspecting victim. Then she met a man in a bar who flipped her world upside down.
The blood in Rowe’s family ran blue. Following in his father’s footsteps, he became a detective, vowing to protect and serve his community. By day, Rowe went after criminals and by night his only pursuit was women. He had no time for dating; his only commitment was to his job. But Hope stole something of his that was worth more than money.
The last person a detective should desire was a career criminal. Although, something about her made Rowe need to keep Hope uncuffed. All she wanted was to protect a good man from going down with her when the inevitable happened. Following their hearts led them down a dangerous road, especially since they lived on opposite sides of the law.
Michelle Dare is a romance author. Her stories range from sweet to sinful and from new adult to fantasy. There aren’t enough hours in the day for her to write all of the story ideas in her head. When not writing or reading, she’s a wife and mom living in eastern Pennsylvania. One day she hopes to be writing from a beach where she will never have to see snow or be cold again.
Author Links:
Newsletter Sign-Up: http://eepurl.com/bt14zX
Buy Links:

Chapter Reveal for Erin Noelle

















Exp1re

Coming October 26th



Numbers.
They haunt me.
I can't look into a person's eyes without seeing the six-digit date of their death.
I’m helpless to change it, no matter how hard I try.
I’ve trained myself to look down. Away. Anywhere but at their eyes.
My camera is my escape. My salvation. Through its lens, I see only beauty and life—not death and despair.
Disconnected from all those around me, I’m content being alone, simply existing.
Until I meet him.
Tavian.
The man beyond the numbers.
How can I stay away, when everything about him draws me in?
But how can I fall in love, knowing exactly when it will expire?









PROLOGUE
Lyra

10.18.02
The intercom crackles loudly throughout the classroom, interrupting Ms. Sherman’s rather uninspiring Friday afternoon lesson on the life cycle of a star. Even though most of the students around me are furiously jotting down notes about nebulas, red giants, and supernovas, I’m half listening while I doodle caricatures of me and my friends in the margin of my notebook. It’s not that I’m not interested in the material she’s talking about. No, that’s not the case at all. It’s quite the opposite actually; science is my favorite subject, especially anything that deals with astronomy and the unknowns in our universe.
But with a dad who is a super-smart astronomer at Johnson Space Center—or NASA, as most people here in Houston call it—I learned about this stuff she’s teaching before I ever started kindergarten. Heck, just this past summer before fifth grade, Mama and I went to visit him at a planetarium in Hawaii, where he was part of a team that discovered eleven new moons orbiting Jupiter! If I don’t ace this test next week, I better not even go home. I definitely wouldn’t be able to be an astronaut then.  
“Ms. Sherman, can you please have Lyra Jennings gather her things and come down to the office? She’s leaving for the day,” the office lady who reminds me of Paula Deen—Mama’s favorite chef—announces through the ancient intercom system.
At the sound of my name, my chin jerks upward from my pencil sketches to the standard black-and-white classroom clock mounted above the projection screen. The hands read 12:45 p.m., nearly three hours before the end of the school day, when my parents are supposed to pick me up as we head out to Dallas for the weekend to celebrate my eleventh birthday. Ooh, maybe getting out of school early was my surprise they mentioned!
I’ve been looking forward to this day since we came home from this same trip last year, and I know my parents planned something special for this year. Every birthday, instead of having one of those silly kids’ parties with pointy hats and piñatas, they take me to the Texas State Fair. There, we spend the weekend riding as many rides as possible, stuffing our mouths with sausage-on-a-stick and fried Twinkies, playing games until we win the biggest of the stuffed animals, and laughing until our faces hurt and happy tears stream down our cheeks. Hands down, it’s my favorite three days of the year, even better than Christmas. And I really, really like Christmas.
Excitement jets through me as I stand up from my desk and hurriedly cram my spiral notebook and textbook into my purple paisley backpack. If we make it there early, I’ll be able to go swimming at the fancy hotel’s indoor pool before dinner.
“Sure thing,” my teacher calls out in response. “She’ll be right down.”
Hoisting the strap of the bag up on my shoulder, I turn to leave the room and my gaze meets Ms. Sherman’s. Her warmth shines in her bright amber-colored eyes, highlighting the numbers 051123 that I see imprinted in her pupils. The same six white numbers I see every time we make eye contact. The numbers I’m not allowed to talk about. The ones everyone thinks are all a part of my healthy imagination.
But they’re wrong. They’re all wrong.
The numbers are real, and they never change or go away. I only wish I knew what they meant. Mama and Daddy—who, by the way, are the only two people I know that have the same numbers—call it my special superpower, but I know they just pretend to believe me. I see the looks they share when they think I’m not watching. They don’t want me to think about all those things the doctors say about me. I may only be ten years old, but I’m 100% sure I’m not crazy, nor do I lie for attention. I’m an only child, for Pete’s sake; my parents are overly interested in my life. Though I do appreciate their support, even if they don’t understand.
“Have a nice weekend, Lyra. Don’t forget we have a test over CHAPTERs six through eight on Monday. Make sure you’ve read all the material,” she reminds me.
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll be ready,” I reply modestly, not sharing with her or the rest of the class I’ve already read through CHAPTER thirteen in the text, including answering the study guide questions at the end of each section. I may be an overachiever, but I’m not a brown-noser.
Luckily, school just comes easy for me, and my parents get over-Jupiter’s-moons proud when I bring home straight A’s on my report card. It reassures them that I’m normal and well adjusted. At least that’s what I heard Mama whispering to Daddy on the phone one night when she thought I wasn’t listening.
I mouth a quick goodbye to my best friend, Beth, who I pass by as I scuttle toward the exit. With her last name being Blackmon and mine being Jennings, we rarely get to sit near each other, as most of our teachers put us in alphabetical order. Beth’s numbers are 022754, and like Ms. Sherman’s, they light up vibrantly when she looks up at me and mouths the words Have fun before I slip out the door.
I never want to break the rules or get in trouble, so I somehow fight the urge to sprint down the deserted hallway and force myself to walk as fast as my long, skinny legs will let me. The swishing sound from my denim shorts rubbing together fills my ears, creating a soundtrack for my excitement. My cheeks ache from smiling so big while I drop off my folders and books in my locker then make a beeline to the front of the school, where my parents are waiting for me. This is going to be the best of the best weekends ever, one that none of us will ever forget. I just know it.
Only, when I swing open the glass door to the main office, expecting to see my favorite two people in the world, I’m surprised to find my Aunt Kathy standing there, her face puffy and pink, the corners of her mouth pointing due south. Our eyes meet, and I can barely see her numbers—123148—because of how swollen the lids are around them.
The fluffy white cloud of elation I floated in on disappears instantly as a dark fog of dread takes its place. Engulfing me. Swallowing me whole. She doesn’t have to say a word—I already know. Not how or when or where it happened, but deep in my bones, I know.
I was right. This will definitely be a weekend I’ll never forget, only it will be for reasons I’ll never want to remember.
“I’m so sorry, Lyra baby girl,” she cries. “I’m so sorry. They’re… they’re gone.”
gone.
        Gone.
                   GONE.
The word bounces around between my ears, getting louder each time it echoes. The first time, it freezes my movements. The second steals all the air from my lungs. By the third time, I’m pretty sure I have no pulse. I want to go, too.
Go.
       Going.
                     GONE.
With my feet stuck to the floor and my body stiff as a statue, Aunt Kathy rushes over to me and wraps her arms around my shoulders. Pulling me up against her chest as uncontainable sobs shake her body, she breaks down in front of the receptionist and attendance clerk, neither of who bother to hide their open staring. Numb, I stand completely still while she wails for several minutes, and I never once make a single sound or try to break free from the death grip she has on me. My thoughts race so fast they’re standing still.
I’m just… here. And my parents just… aren’t. And they won’t ever be again.
They’re… gone.
Climbing into the passenger seat of Aunt Kathy’s fancy sports car—a car I usually beg to ride in because there’s no backseat—I fasten my safety belt and then close my eyes as I lean my head back on the black leather, warm from the hot southern Texas sun. Even though it’s mid-October, I’m still wearing shorts and sandals, and just last weekend I went swimming at Beth’s house. But as I sit here and wait for my aunt to start the car, my teeth chatter loudly and my entire body trembles uncontrollably. My heart is frozen solid, but I’ve yet to shed a tear.
The phone rings and I jump, automatically looking at the caller ID on the screen, thinking… hoping… praying it’s someone calling to let us know this has all been a big mistake, that my parents are really okay.
“Hey, Mom,” Aunt Kathy answers after just one ring. We still haven’t pulled out of the parking space. “Yeah, I have her now. She’s safe and sound.”
My heart plummets even lower into my stomach than it was before as she pauses to listen to Granny Gina on the other end. Granny Gina is my dad and Kathy’s mom who lives in New Orleans, where she moved about five years ago after my grandpa passed away from lung cancer. Since my mom’s parents both died before I was born, she’s the only living grandparent I have, and luckily for me, she’s a pretty awesome one. But today, nothing is awesome. Not even close.
“I don’t know. She hasn’t said a word. I’m sure she’s in shock.” My aunt talks about me like I’m not sitting right here, as I finally feel the car jerk back in reverse.
Another pause. The car lurches forward into drive then we bounce hard as Aunt Kathy flies over a speed bump. I think I’m going to throw up.
“Okay, I’ll take her home so she can pack a suitcase of whatever she wants to bring, and then we’ll go to my place until you get here. You should be in about 5:00?”
Pack a suitcase of what I want to bring where? Where am I going? Why is this happening to me? I’m a good kid. I make good grades and I’m nice to people, even those people who everyone else makes fun of, and I listen to my parents and my teachers. What did I do to deserve this? Why me?
“Yeah, Mom, I know,” Aunt Kathy hiccups. She’s crying hard again. “I’ll take good care of her, and we’ll see you later. I love you.”
I keep my eyes screwed shut as she disconnects the call, scared she’ll want to talk if I open them. I don’t want to talk to her or Granny Gina or anyone but my parents. I want my mom and dad!
Thankfully, Aunt Kathy doesn’t try to talk to me as we drive, but when I feel the car come to a stop and hear the engine turn off, she gently taps my arm. “Lyra, sweetheart, we’re at your house. We’re going to go inside, and I need you to pack up a suitcase or two of the clothes and things you want to take to New Orleans. Whatever you need.”
“New Orleans?” My lids snap open and I whip my chin in her direction. I don’t even recognize my harsh, scratchy voice. “I’m going to New Orleans?”
“Yeah”—she nods sadly as she swipes at the black mascara streaks on her face with her thumbs—“with Granny Gina. After we take care of, uh, of everything here, you’ll go live with her there.”
Scowling, I cross my arms over my chest and grunt. “I don’t want to leave Houston, or my friends, or my school. Why can’t I stay here with you?”
“You know I travel with my job, Lyra. Sometimes I’m gone a week or two at a time, and there won’t be anybody here to stay with you. Granny Gina’s house has an extra bedroom, and since she doesn’t work, she’ll be able to better give you everything you need.”
What I need and will be better for me is my mom and dad. And my perfect birthday weekend at the fair.
She reaches out to attempt to soothe me with her touch, but I wrench away, banging my elbow on the car door in the process. The whack is loud, and the place I hit immediately turns red, but my brain doesn’t register the pain. I feel nothing. I’m broken.
I glance over at my aunt, and the tears spilling down her cheeks make me feel bad for acting the way I just did to her. What happened to my parents isn’t her fault, but I’m angry and this is all moving too fast. How am I supposed to pack up what I need in a couple of bags? I want to stay in my room, in my house, living with my parents.
“I know this is all unfair, baby,” she says through her sniffles, “and I can’t even to begin to understand what you’re thinking or feeling. I mean, I’m freaking the hell out and I’m a grownup who’s supposed to know how to handle these kinds of situations. All we can do is cling to each other as family and try to get through this together. Between me and Granny, we’ll do the best we can for you, and right now, we think the best thing is if you get your things and go stay with her.”
“How did they die?” I blurt out, completely off topic from what she’s talking about. My mind can’t stay focused on any one thing, but this is the question that keeps popping up. “I need to know how it happened.”
Swallowing hard, Aunt Kathy inhales a shaky breath through her nose and blows it out through her mouth, visibly trying to collect herself before she answers me. “It was a car accident,” she whispers after forever, barely loud enough for me to hear. “I don’t know why they were together in your mom’s car this morning or where they were going, but an eighteen-wheeler lost control and hit them. They were already gone by the time the first responders arrived.”
I nod, still unable to cry. I hear the words she’s saying, but they aren’t really registering. They make sense, but I don’t understand. It’s as if I’ve been swallowed up by one of the black holes Daddy taught me about and the darkness is sucking away my ability to think, to feel. All I hear is the word “gone” still replaying over and over and over.
“Okay. I’ll get my stuff,” I say flatly, finally opening the door and stepping out of the car.
My movements are robotic, and I can barely even feel the key in my hand as I unlock the front door to my house. Stepping inside, I’m overwhelmed by a combination of the sweet smell of my mom’s favorite vanilla cookie candle and the sight of my dad’s fuzzy slippers waiting by the coatrack—the slippers he puts on the minute he walks in the door from work every night. When I realize he’ll never wear those slippers again, nor will my mom ever be able to forget if she blew out the candle when we’re about to pull out of the driveway, an acute pain shoots through my chest and I stumble over to the staircase, grabbing the banister to keep my balance.
“I’m right here, Lyra,” Aunt Kathy murmurs from behind me as she slips her arm around my waist. “Let’s just get your things and head over to my place. Later, once we’ve had some time to deal with everything, we can come back to go through the house and all the stuff… if you want.”
Another nod and I let her guide me up the stairs to my room. I want to scream at her that there will never be enough time to deal with losing my parents, that I’ll never be able to go through their things, but I keep my lips pressed together and do as I’m told.
“Where do you guys keep your suitcases?” she asks, glancing around my room as if she’s doing an inventory of what I have. “I’ll go grab a couple while you start pulling out what you want to take. If you forget something, it’s no big deal, because you and Granny are going to be staying at my place for the next few days. I can just bring you back to get it, or I can even ship it to Louisiana if you remember once you’re there.”
“They’re in the storage cabinets in the garage,” I answer while walking over to my desk, my eyes locked in on a framed photo of me and my parents that sits next to my laptop.
“Okay, I’ll be right back.”
The thud of her heels on the hardwood floor grows quiet as she makes her way back down to the first floor, and just as I grab the picture and plop down on the chair, I hear her open the door to the garage. A few much-needed minutes by myself.
I gaze down at the photograph of the three of us from a day at the beach, me sandwiched between their cheerful, carefree expressions, and the first tear finally escapes. Once the dam breaks, I can’t stop the flow, and as I trace my finger over the outline of each of my parents’ faces, I cry for everything I’ll never have again. A supernova of tears.
Faces I’ll never see smile again.
Voices I’ll never hear say my name again.
Arms I’ll never be hugged by again.
A never-ending galaxy of love that I’ll never feel again.
It’s all just… gone.
After several minutes of vision-blurring bawling, I set the picture frame back upright on my desk. A hot pink heart drawn on my calendar with the words Birthday Weekend Begins written over today’s box catches my attention. I then notice the printed numbers next to my bubbly handwriting that read 10-18-02.
Snatching the picture up again, I stare directly into first my dad’s eyes, and then my mom’s. The numbers I see when I look people directly in the eyes only happens when I’m face-to-face with someone, never in photographs or through a screen or mirror. But even though I can’t actually see the numbers right now in the picture of my parents’ pupils, their numbers are forever etched in my brain from looking at them every day of my life. I used to think the reason they had the same numbers meant they were true soul mates, like God made them to match perfectly together, but now….
My gaze flicks over to today’s date of 10-18-02, then back to my parents’ faces, where I envision their numbers—101802.
My plummeting heart collides with my lurching stomach in an explosion of realization.
It’s my Big Bang Moment.




About Erin Noelle USA Today Bestselling Author

Erin Noelle is a Texas native, where she lives with her husband and two
young daughters. While earning her degree in History, she rediscovered her love for reading  that was first instilled by her grandmother when she was a young child. A lover of happily-ever-afters, both historical and current,Erin is an avid reader of all romance novels.

Most nights you can find her cuddled up in bed with her husband, her Kindle in hand and a sporting event of some sorts on television.