Today is the last day to PREORDER For The Love of Ash. But even bigger news? It's RELEASED TOMORROW! Here's a quick catch-up.
1. All of my novels are FREE tomorrow ONLY. Including, A Reliant Love and A Curse Books series. Yep. I rule.
2. I've already teased Chapter One and Chapter Two of For The Love of Ash. So go read them before you continue on this post.
3. Here's the Pre-order LINK.
4. If you know nothing about For The Love of Ash, go to the page here and check out blurb and goodreads page.
5. Tomorrow I'll be giving away free gear, free books, fun stuff, and more! Check in first thing in the morning and enter all of the giveaways :)
AND NOW.... I'm HAPPY to give you all CHAPTER THREE!
I got to Western College earlier than I expected. The new car smell wafted through the air, and as I drove down Route 15, I blasted the music and sang my heart out. I didn’t want to smoke in my car mostly because of the smell, so after I parked in the empty main lot, I sat down on a bench outside of the college and lit up.
I hadn’t been able to kick my nicotine habit yet. Although I had been trying. I found it was therapeutic when I was alone with a cigarette. Asher sucked his thumb; I sucked on smoke. I couldn’t help it. I refused to smoke in front of Asher, so I had turned into a closet-smoker, only outside when he wasn’t around or late at night after he had been put to bed.
When I took over custody of Asher, I quit school and figured I should take time to adjust as just the two of us. This was my first semester back at college, the first at this school. Luckily, it was a four year college with the price of a community college. I was lucky that they accepted my transferred credits.
It was different than my last school. There wasn’t as much concrete, most of the grounds covered in bright green grass and shaded by giant oak trees. The school split on two sides of a one lane road.
East campus was smaller, housing mostly art classes. There was only one parking lot, surrounded by concrete circles with grass in the middle. A few people sat on the islands of green, open books on their laps.
My class today was on West Campus, the larger of the two. It looked to be brand new, with a full wall of glass windows that reflected the high sun.
I finished my cigarette and dragged myself through the double glass doors to a large open foyer. A security guard sat behind a small desk with a monitor on it that showed video surveillance. I nodded at him as I passed his desk and ran up the stairs to where I guessed my classroom was at.
I looked for W213.
After walking up and down the halls twice, I was convinced that it was invisible. Inhaling a long breath, I curled my fingers around the strap of my bag and spun around. I took one semester off, but as I searched for this stupid, invisible room, I swore that I must’ve lost all my brain cells in my time off.
I looked down at my cellphone and saw that I just had a few minutes to spare before class started. I suddenly felt faint, my palms sweaty. I shouldn’t have smoked. A janitor walked by with a large neon-yellow cart, and I chased after him, nearly tripping over my own feet.
“Do you know where W213 is?” I asked him. He didn’t say anything, but stopped and pointed over his shoulder with his thumb.
I looked in that direction, thinking he’d told me to get lost, but then it clicked, and I ran towards where his finger directed. I found the room the next second. It was fucking two doors down the hall. I shook my head, smiling as I laughed at myself.
The first day in a new classroom was always the worst. I hated school, hated the format and classroom style. But I knew that I needed to have a degree and a real job to support myself and Asher. My dream was to leave this town full of ghosts behind and move on with our lives somewhere that is safe and feels right.
When I went to college before, it was just to pass the time and get the hell out from under my parents. I loved college for the experience and lifestyle, not for the classes. I barely even could make it to class, let alone pass. I had no career goals or life aspirations.
But now that I had full custody of Asher and he depended solely on me, I knew I needed to do something. I figured teaching would give me great hours and I’d have every holiday off. You just couldn’t beat it. Plus, it would mean all my down time could be spent with Ash.
I walked into the room and beelined for the back row. I sat down in the farthest seat. There were only a few kids in the class, two in the row by the windows and one girl sitting in the center of the room. They ignored me, so I ignored them.
Every time someone entered the room, I glanced up. Since Western was in Norwalk, I knew there was a chance someone I knew would walk in. I grabbed my knee to stop my leg from bouncing. A chubby girl waltzed in, pulling me from my thoughts. I looked up, like usual. But this time, she glared at me, giving me a don’t-fuck-with-me vibe. I frowned as I took in her appearance quickly before I was victim again to her glare.
She had really amazing tunnels of black hair. It was short, only hitting the bottom of her chin. The under part of her hair was lavender, making her look like a bad-ass. An angular set of bangs cut across her forehead, which made her face stand out.
I wished I could pull off some crazy hair-do. I remembered during my junior year of high school, my friends and I decided to play with some hair dye that we had bought from Walgreens.
My mother would have had a breakdown had she seen me doing it, but since she and my dad were out at some social gathering, the house was all mine. Asher was only two and had an on-call babysitter.
Karina was an expert at all things bizarre and punk. Her hair had been chopped into a short pixie cut with a little wave near her hairline in the front. The fluff in the front was aqua, the under parts maroon. She pulled it off like her hair naturally came in neon shades, and I was jealous.
I had my head down in the sink, and I began second-guessing myself. I acted as if I didn’t care what my parents thought, but deep down, I really did. I pretended to be strong all the time when all I really wanted was their acceptance, their love.
I remembered thinking that by having bright red hair they might notice me. That was when my schemes for attention began. I didn’t stop until they died, taking their love to the grave.
“What have you done to yourself, Margaret,” my mother said when she saw my awesome hair. I had to admit, it was pretty bad-ass .and I felt confident with fire-red hair down to my shoulders. It didn’t exactly go with my lighter skin tone, but it was fun.
It only lasted that one night. My mom dragged me to her personal hair stylist the next morning, making me skip school and miss a test. She said my father couldn’t see me like this or I’d be out on the street. I smiled because I had gotten what I wanted: her attention.
I got to spend the morning with her. Sort of. She sat beside me as a hairstylist fixed my “mistake,” sipping on her coffee and punching buttons on her blackberry. She did a lot of charity work, but it was more like a real job, because it was all she ever did. She loved being asked to chair things, loved organizing parties. I got my neat-freak ways from her, so for that, I was at least thankful.
I shook my head, and my eyes met with the girl in the seat next to me. I could’ve sworn I knew her from somewhere, but I just couldn’t place her. Her eyes were familiar in the strangest way—especially how she looked at me. I trained my eyes down on my desk but peeked up at her as she squirmed in her chair one aisle over from me. My heart beat rapidly for some reason, and I continued to face my tan desk, memorizing the stupid swirls in the wood-like plastic.
She began to hum to herself, something upbeat and happy. I looked over from the corner of my eye and saw her pull out a notebook and pen. I turned back to my desk fast, so I wouldn’t get caught, and watched the door. But she caught my attention when she gasped, her breath audible from beside me.
I knew the sound came from her since nobody else was that close to me. She tapped me on the shoulder with a pen, the point jabbing into my skin. I glanced towards her, again caught off guard by her familiar face.
“Hey, I know you,” she said, her voice low and raspy like a long-time smoker’s.
“Oh, um—” I stumbled over my words, not knowing how to get myself out of this awkward situation. I swore she was right, we did know each other, but like a moron, I just couldn’t remember how. I turned hot all the way from my chest to my forehead.
“It’s okay. I’m June.” She held out her hand, a cheeky smile on her face. I took it. “You might know me better as Pudge. At least that’s what you and your friends called me in high school.”
My eyes immediately widened, my cheeks heating even further. I hated my high school self, mostly because of the people I thought were my friends and how they shaped me into a selfish brat I never knew I had become. I pulled my hand back and rubbed the bottom of my shirt, rolling the fabric over my thumb. Suddenly, the remembrance flooded back.
High school could be summed up in one word: nightmare. Even thinking about it made me want to erase my face so I could hide for eternity. To say I was a royal bitch would be an understatement. I was the definition of angst. I didn’t give a fuck about anyone, giving off this brave, tough vibe that was just a cover for the lack-of-love I got from home.
I smoked and drank. I slept around with random boys so frequently that even now, I couldn’t count. But I knew why I did those things, thanks to Doctor Cohen, and I was a better person—or at least I tried to be.
“I’m so sorry. I’m not like that now,” I tried to explain, my words just stumbling over one another. My fingers were tingly, my skin still on fire.
“It’s all good. I’m over it. Nice to officially meet you, again,” she said, smiling through her pearly whites. I was a bit taken aback by her cavalier attitude. I would hate the people who bullied me in high school. Yet, she was cool about it.
“You can punch me if you want,” I said, attempting to lighten the mood. I laughed under my breath at how painfully strange this interaction was becoming. “Totally won’t blame you.”
“Nah. I’m a lover not a fighter—unless you really screw with me.” She shook her head and waved her hand in front of me. She sat back in her seat, laughing. Her laugh was light, like she didn’t have a single trouble in the world. I sucked in a breath through clenched teeth to quell my jealousy.
“Well, if it matters, I’m sorry, and it’s nice to meet you again, June.” I made a point to use her real name, not the one my asshole friends and I bestowed on her. “What have you been up to since high school?” The class was still filling up, not yet full, so I decided to create small talk with her.
I laughed at her joke, but when our eyes clashed, I could tell from the grim line her lips made that she was serious. I shut up real fast, swallowing my laugh.
“I’m sorry.” I didn’t mean for my words to sound like a question, but my stomach was flipping, my social skills not up to par with people my own age.
“It’s just my parents. They’re a tad non-existent. Nothing serious,” she brushed me off, quirking her upper lip to the side and winking.
“I know the feeling.”
“Your parents making you come here?” Without meaning to, June brought up something I wasn’t ready to talk about. I’m sure she heard anyway, but I didn’t like to talk about my past.
“No, they aren’t around.” I kept it as impersonal as possible, shaking my head from side to side. My nervous twitch surfaced as my fingers found the hem of my tee, and I longed for just a single drag of a cigarette. I looked towards the click above the door and saw that class was supposed to start five minutes ago. The teacher still hadn’t showed, but I knew I didn’t have time to run out.
“Relax. I won’t push,” June said sincerely, turning back to her desk. I was about to respond and thank her for letting it go when our teacher waltzed into the room, introducing himself as Mr. Manka as his arms overflowed with papers that fell to the floor.