September 11, 2014

Saving Sullivan--1st Chapter Preview

I thought I would post the first chapter of Saving Sullivan as a teaser. I think you're going to love Sullivan and Abby. They're as similar as they are different, but the question is, can two damaged people overcome their fears and learn to find trust and love in one another? 

So here we go...

Chapter One

Standing by the national departures entrance at Halifax International Airport, I take a deep breath. A skylight lets the sun shine down on my father and three older brothers—my family, my heart. 
My oldest brother, Clay, runs a hand through his cropped blond hair. He gives me a quick hug and then takes a step back. He looks so sad that I have to pull him in for another hug. 
“Shit,” he says. “I suck at goodbyes.” He kisses the top of my head and turns away, strolling to the exit doors without looking back. Of all my brothers, Clay is the softest, and he’s the one I get along with best. He doesn’t live with us anymore but we often talk on the phone and he always comes by for supper. My other brothers, Dylan and Michael, try to make light of the situation, teasing me, ruffling my hair. Their personalities are as identical as their twin faces: narrow noses, big brown eyes and full, wide toothy smiles. 
My father looks down at his feet. He’ll be lost without me like I’ll be lost without him. I worry he’ll fall apart without his baby because we have a special bond that I know he doesn’t share with my brothers. I’m his little girl, his only daughter. And I look just like my mother did when she was my age.
I drop my carry-on and all but jog to my dad. As I wrap my arms around him he lifts me up, burying his head into my shoulder. 
“I’ll miss you, kid,” he says.
“Me too. Love you, dad.”
“Keep your chin up. You can do this.”
I sigh. “But…what if you need me?”
“Sweetheart, we’ll be fine. Count on it.”
“But—”
“We’ll be fine. You always take such good care of us. This is your chance to worry about you and only you, for once. Let yourself have some fun. Makes some friends.”
“Not too much fun,” Michael says. “If you know what I mean.”
My brothers have always been protective of me, and most of the time it frustrates me, but now I know I’ll miss it when they’re not there to constantly look over my shoulder and offer their two cents' worth on every single choice I make. 
I frown at Michael before Dad and I let go of one another. Dad slaps Michael on the back of the head. “Leave your sister be. She’s got more sense than the two of you put together.” 
“Ow,” Michael says, rubbing his head. 
I swallow a hard lump in my throat. I’ve always been the woman of the house, the one to make the meals and clean up after my dad and my brothers. And I’ve always been the one to look after my dad, especially after my mom died. I thought leaving home for two months would be hard on my family, but I think I underestimated how hard this will be on me. I’ve never had to live without them before and I’m not sure that I can. My family is my rock. Without them…I just won’t know what to do with myself. 
I pull my dad in for one more hug. His thick sweater smells of fresh cut grass and cigar smoke. I inhale it one more time, feeling all the comfort and safety that goes along with it. 
“That’s enough of that,” Dylan says, patting dad on his back. “She’s going to miss her plane.”
Slowly, Dad lets me go and I grab my bag and hurry into the departure zone. I can’t look back because I’ll lose my nerve if I see the look on my dad’s face, or if I have to watch another second of Clay running away with his head bowed. So I forge ahead. A woman on a mission. 
I hand my ticket to security. Alberta. Half way across the country. 
How did this happen? 
I was never supposed to leave for the summer. I had my entire summer mapped out up until a few days ago when my nursing school instructor called days before I was supposed to begin my final clinical placement. I’d secured one in my hometown, on a surgical floor in the hospital. I couldn’t have been happier. Four years of commuting to the city for school were finally over. I had the highest hopes for this placement, namely that the hospital would offer to hire me once I graduated. Then I would have been set. I could stay in Muskrat, Nova Scotia and live near my family.
But that’s not what happened. 
My instructor, Mary Powers, called me one night while my family and I sat down for supper. I cooked, as usual. I think I made meatloaf and veggies, because that’s what I always make on Tuesdays. After an epic silence, Mary drew in a breath and sighed into the phone, preparing me for what she had to say: “I have some bad news.”
Bad news. My heart sank while I braced myself. Dylan, tossed peas at me from the other side of the room, but I couldn’t even muster the strength to give him a dirty look. I assumed Mary called about my placement because the rest of my coursework for my Bachelor of Science in Nursing was done. So why else would she call me at home at night? Instructors don’t usually call their students; at least they’d never called me. What she told me made me pull up a chair and take a seat while my family exchanged worried glances. 
“An outbreak of scabies among the nurses?” My voice was so quiet it barely registered as a whisper. This had to be a joke. 
“I’m so sorry. The floor has rescinded it offer to you for this term. Management decided to restrict the floors to patients and essential personnel until they have the situation under control.”
“But…what am I going to do? I’m supposed to start my placement in three days! Is there somewhere I can go in the city?” Commuting for another ten weeks wasn’t ideal, but I was willing to do what I had to do to ensure I finished my placement and graduated on time. Ever since my mom passed the only thing I’ve ever wanted is to become a nurse, to help those who suffer, maybe help others make better choices…
If only I could have done that for my mom. 
“I’m sorry,” Mary says. “I’ve called everywhere. All of the other placements have already been secured. The city hospital has overcommitted to LPNs, RNs and military nurses. They can’t offer you a placement right now.”
“What am I supposed to do? There must be something. Anything?”
And there was. 
Banff, Alberta. 
Sigh. Don’t get me wrong. I like Alberta. It’s a great province. Beautiful. Especially the area around the Rockies, but it’s exactly 4,893 kilometres away from home—I know, Google told me—and that just doesn’t sit well with me. Not one bit. But I’m going because I have to and here I am, about to board my plane.  I swear I’m going to throw up. 
The plane is cramped and I’m sandwiched between an extra large woman eating Doritos and a bald man snoring and drooling in his sleep. Couple this with my fear of heights and my intense need to vomit and I’m in for a very uncomfortable flight. Fortunately, the nausea settles when the plane stops climbing and I can finally take a few deep breaths and relax. But then when the turbulence comes, I’m sure we’re going to crash. 
Dorito lady must sense my apprehension because she pulls a travel-sized bottle of whiskey out of her enormous purse. “It’ll fix you right up.” When she smiles at me I spy orange cheese on her front tooth. 
I look down at the whiskey, not at all tempted. Alcohol fixes nothing. I’ve witnessed this first had. “No, thank you.”
“Suit yourself.” She tips the bottle up and down the hatch it goes until the small bottle is drained. She lets out a breath and taps her chest before smiling at me, her left upper eyelid twitching like she’s trying to send me a message using Morse Code. 
Sigh.  
My plane arrives in Toronto twenty minutes late, and I have a mere twenty minutes to make my connecting flight. I’m already sweating, and when I check the departure board I find my plane is on the other side of the airport. I break into a run, slowing only to shuck my shoes so I can run ahead with my shoes in hand. I’m barefoot and I don’t care; it's better than trying to run in new shoes. Why I ever bought the damn things is beyond me. Trying to impress, I suppose, but then I won’t impress anyone at the resort in Alberta when I arrive with slick hair and crazy body odour.  
When I get to the terminal, the door is closed. The lady at the counter smiles at me and tells me this terminal won’t be open again for another half hour. For another flight. 
No, no, no, I think, shaking my head like a mad woman. “Half hour? But my plane…I was supposed to get on a plane. Here. Now.”
I hold out my hand and she reaches out hers to take my ticket. She frowns after a moment. “I’m so sorry. But the plane door just closed. We can’t open it once it’s closed.” She shakes her head before handing me back my ticket. 
I tip my head back and close my eyes and count to five so I won’t scream out loud. This can’t be happening to me. How the hell am I supposed to get from Toronto to Banff? I certainly can’t afford to pay for a replacement ticket and I highly doubt the hotel will offer to buy me one. They’ve already invested so much money in me as it is. And I’m just a student. 
“Can I see your ticket again?” she asks.  
I hand it back to her and she taps like crazy on her keyboard. After several moments, I crane my neck over the monitor to see what she’s up to. 
“If you want to wait for a few hours, there’s another plane to Banff,” she says in a soft voice. 
I open my eyes and meet her gaze. This still doesn’t address my money issue. “I can’t pay for that.”
She laughs. “No, silly. Your flight was late so we can comp you the ticket. She lowers her voice. “And since we’re out of economy seats, I can put you in first class.”
I lower my voice, too, like we’re co-conspirators. “Really?” Does she have the power to do this? Should I ask and risk her changing her mind?
She nods. A piece of paper slides out from the printer at the right of her computer. “For you, madam.”
“Oh my gosh! I could kiss you right now!”
“You’re going to be at the terminal across the hall.” She points to the array of blue seats by a gate that reads 14C. 
I practically dive over the desk and wrap my arms around her. She laughs and pats my back. I’m probably being really inappropriate right now but where I come from, if someone does you a solid then you should at least show some gratitude. For me, that gratitude is in the form of me squeezing the air from her lungs. 
Now that I have some time to spare, I take a moment and put my shoes back on. A woman sitting in the row of seats to my left crinkles her nose as she stares down at my feet. Don’t judge me, lady. You try running in new shoes. I would have had blisters for weeks. 
I stroll across the hallway, stopping for a moment to browse the products in Bath and Beauty. I sample some of the creams, massaging lavender and mint cream into my dry, chapped hands. Then I reach up on my tiptoes and grab an Orange Lily candle. It smells divine and it’s on sale. Score. That’s a sign. So I buy it. Besides, I need a souvenir from Toronto. God knows when I’ll come back here again. After I’m done, I head to the waiting area at my terminal. There are only a few dozen people sitting around: some parents with kids, some businessmen and women, some people my age with shorts and t-shirts. I wonder if they’re doing what I’m doing. Are they headed to Banff for work or for pleasure?
My phone rings, pulling me from my thoughts and I scramble to get it before the person hangs up. It’s Clay. I smile at the sight of his number.
“Hey Clay, what’s up?”
“Just wanted to make sure you got to Toronto okay.”
I chuckle. “Yes, big brother. My flight was late, but they put me on the next one and they put me in first class.”
“Well, look at you.” There's a smile evident in his voice. “World traveller.”
“I’m still in Canada, you fool.”
“Yeah, I suppose you are. What are you doing now?”
“Just watching people.”
“You’ve always done that. Maybe you should forget about nursing, be a cop like me and Dad.”
I laugh out loud. “Because you, Dad, Dylan and Michael would be supportive of my carrying a gun and chasing down criminals.”
“Good point.” 
I never considered law enforcement. Basically for this reason. But also because of my mother…which is a different story. Still, I have a guilty obsession with watching people. I like thinking about who they are and what they’re all about. Are they married? Single? Do they have kids? Are they happy? In love? 
Today, watching people causes me to see him for the first time. 
I immediately name him Smoulder because of his hooded deep blue eyes and pouty full lips. He walks out of the handicapped washroom, following a leggy blonde who is adjusting her skirt. Her cheeks are flushed and so are his. His wavy black hair, just long enough to curl around his ears, is messed up, like a woman just grabbed a hold of it. The blonde turns right, and he turns left toward my terminal. Were they strangers? Did they have a perfect moment or a quick sweaty one? 
I almost drop my phone, my mouth hanging agape. “You’ll never guess what I just saw.” I don’t wait for a response. “Some guy just totally hooked up with a girl in the bathroom.”
“What?”
“I know, right? In the middle of the day.”
“Abby, I don’t need to hear about stuff like that. It irritates me enough that you have to witness it.”
“Oh, come on. I’m not a kid anymore.” I roll my eyes.
“I know, but…do me a favour while you’re in Banff, okay?”
I clear my throat and sigh. “Okay…”
“Stay away from guys like that.”
“Of course,” I say without thinking. If I start dating, I want a relationship, not just sex. I haven’t had time for it while in nursing school and now I’m done, I kind of want to get back in the saddle, so to speak, though I don’t especially want to pursue this in Banff. I don’t need a reason to stay. At the end of the summer, I’m headed back to Nova Scotia and my family, no matter what. 
Making this promise to Clay is probably one of the easiest promises I’ll ever make.
Smoulder drops into the seat adjacent to mine. Immediately I smell a hint of his musk, along with a mix of floral perfume and some earthy cologne. I glance at him from my peripheral and shake my head. To each his own, I guess. Not a minute later, the attendant comes on the PA system to announce my plane is boarding. 
“Got to go, Clay. I’ll call you later.”
“Be safe,” he says quietly.
My cheek lifts as I smile against the phone. “You know I will.”
I hang up and approach the ticket agent. I’m one of the first people on the plane because I sit up front, which doesn’t really make sense to me because everyone has to scoot by me to get to their seats. It would make more sense for people in economy to go first, but I guess that’s part of the perks of first class. People like to be first. I suppose I get that, sort of. 
There's one seat in first class by each of the windows, and two seats in the centre—I’m in one of the centre seats. The seats are plush and the legroom is unbelievable, especially after having to squeeze myself into a coach seat on the flight to Toronto. I’m short and I still found the legroom in economy non-existent. I’m massaging the arms of the leather seat and taking in my large screen TV when my center seat neighbour joins me. Well, if it isn’t Mr. Freshly Fucked from the Handicapped Stall himself. This should make for an interesting trip. 
Maybe he’ll try to get some action at five thousand feet, too. I chuckle to myself and attract his attention, his ocean blue eyes resting square on my face. 
“Something funny?” He raises an eyebrow, but my eyes drop to his crooked smile and I feel the heat he exudes. 
Well, damn. He’s sexy.  
In an effort to collect myself, I stop laughing and clear my throat. “No. Sorry.”
The rest of the passengers file in, bumping me with their luggage and following up with apologies, which I respond to with a sweet, ‘no problem.’
Smoulder and I don’t say a word to each other until long after we’re in the air and I’ve calmed down about the altitude. As long as I don’t look out the window, I can pretend we’re still on the ground. I have my ear buds in and I’m watching a movie about ninjas. Secretly, I want to be a ninja. How freaking cool would that be? I could do it. And make those crazy noises too. Yeah, I’d rock that samurai sword. 
Smoulder is chatting with the stewardess. I’m trying my best not to notice but curiosity gets the better of me. She’s smiling and laughing, hanging on his every word—which thankfully, I can’t hear because of the movie. I’m sure he’s full of lines. Meanwhile, he’s calm, cool and collected. It’s not long before he gets up and heads for the bathroom, and she follows, glancing once over her shoulder to see if anyone is watching. 
Yes, lady, I am. 
He emerges eleven minutes later. Not bad. Hero. Not ninja style or anything, but I suppose eleven minutes would be forever to a lot of women. I roll my eyes as he stops to tuck his polo shirt in before sitting down. 
I snatch my ear buds and pull them out. I can’t help myself; I have to say something now. “Really?”
He turns to meet my smirk. “I’m sorry? Did you say something?” His lips curl into a smile, the same cheeky smile I’m sure he’s turned on many unsuspecting females—only I’m prepared for it. It would take a lot more than his smile and his chiselled cheekbones and abs to make me lose my panties for him.
“The flight attendant? Could you be anymore cliché?”
He grins. His parents must've spent a fortune of those beautiful white teeth when he was growing up. He leans in when he speaks, his voice quiet and his speech calm and thoughtful. “Well, I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“And the lady in the airport? Was she a flight attendant too, or do you even know?”
He tilts his heads to the side. “My name is Sullivan. And you are?” With a wave of his hand, he motions back and forth between us. “Because I figure if we’re going to start talking about my sex life then we should at least be introduced.”
I attempt to put my ear buds back in. None of my business. My prying should annoy him, but instead he seems genuinely amused. Have to give him credit for being consistent, I suppose.
He reaches out and gently clutches my ear buds, pulling them free, his fingers lightly brushing by my ears and forcing the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end. “I thought we were getting personal?”
I snatch my ear buds back and study his face: the tiny dimple in his left cheek, the slightly crooked cheeky smile and the mischievous eyes that promise to break hearts…but not mine. I have his number and no flash of his pearly whites will break me down. I just find him funny; maybe a little sad. As far as I’m concerned, guys like this are compensating for something—or a lack of something. Maybe his mother didn’t hug him as a child. 
“Okay. Let’s get personal,” I say. 
“Why were you watching me in the airport?”
I shrug. “I like to watch people. It passes the time.”
“Watch people do what?” He slowly enunciates each word. 
I groan. “Easy, tiger. No innuendo intended.” 
Crinkles form around the corners of his eyes. “I don’t know what the woman from the airport does for a living. I didn’t catch her name while she was calling out mine."  
My jaw drops and he renders me speechless. When I snap my mouth shut and clear my throat, I have to count to three to work through my thoughts. He meant to silence me, to shock me, and he effectively accomplished his mission. It irritates me that I gave him exactly what he wanted. 
“I…I knew you didn’t know her name,” I say, mostly because I don’t know what else to say, and I feel the need to say something.  
He looks at me, feigning confusion, because he and I both know he’s in the driver’s seat of this conversation.  “You seem awfully interested in my business, Miss…Wait, you haven’t even told me your name?”
“You don’t seem particularly concerned with getting names. Maybe I should remain anonymous.”
He licks his lips and leans in, whispering, “Does that mean you’re going to accompany me to the bathroom?”
I lean back, sighing. “Not in this lifetime, Romeo. I’m sure your charm works pretty consistently, but in my case, you’re barking up the wrong tree.”
“You prefer women?”
“What? No. I’m just not into…” I wave my hands up and down in front of him, “guys like you.”
 “Oh. I see. Well. I love a challenge.”
“You wouldn’t even make it to first base.”
“Challenge accepted.”
Although I try to stop myself for fear of encouraging him, I burst out laughing. “You’re awful, you know that?”
“That’s what people tell me.”
“At any rate, I highly doubt our paths will cross. So I think I’m safe from your charm.”
He lays his hand over mine and I pull it away, not ready for the heat or ache between my thighs that accompanies it. 
“You think I’m charming?” he asks, although I’m certain he’s well aware of the affect he has on the opposite sex. 
I suppress a groan and train my eyes forward. 
“How do you know our paths won’t cross? Banff’s not that big. Which hotel are you staying at?”
“Stone Cliff Resort.”
He rubs his chin and chuckles. I can hear the scratch of his stubble against his fingers. His grin grows from barely there to all consuming. “What a coincidence. I just happen to be going to the same resort. Must be fate.”
I swallow the uncomfortable lump in my throat. I can handle his smoulder. Besides, he’s only flirting with me right now because he's exhausted the other options; he already screwed the only attractive female attendant, and the woman on the other side of him is at least twice his age. I hope, at least for his sake, he has limits on who he’ll screw. But then again, maybe he likes grandmothers. Sometimes guys just need a hole and a sign that says, insert dick here.
“How long are you in Banff for?” he asks, licking his annoyingly kissable lips. 
“Ten weeks.” 
“I’m there for three months.  If I was a betting man—and I am—I'd bet by the end of the summer, you’ll be begging me to taste you.”
I stare him and take a deep breath. I don’t even try to argue with him. He knows who he is and what he’s capable of; I’ve only just met him, and I can't deny the charisma he oozes. Only problem is I don’t like him being so cocky about it. I’ll prove him wrong. He’ll see. I’m leaving in ten weeks, my almost-virginity intact. 
“How about we be friends instead?” I offer. 
He pretends to stab himself in the heart. “No! She put me in the friend zone.”
“Oh, come on. You and me are never going to happen, and I don’t know a single person in Banff. I mean, I don’t know you either, but you’ll be a familiar face, at least.”
“But I don’t even know your name…” He grins. 
Tricky, tricky. He’s fishing. “Abby. Abby Claire.”
We’re about to shake hands, but I frown as I look at his tanned fingers.
“Don’t worry. I washed after.” He flashes me a wink. 
“Ugh.” I debate taking his hand, but he laughs as he snatches mine, gripping it tightly. His hands are soft but strong; much bigger than my own, but then I’m barely five two and he’s pushing six feet. I can’t help but notice the fat veins along his arms, the cords of muscle. He’s not a beefcake or anything, not like he crazy works out, but maybe he’s an athlete? All the same, Mr. Smoulder is a ten. Or an eleven. How perfectly annoying. 
He scrutinizes me, rubbing his thumb along his chin. “I don’t do friends well—especially when it comes to women.”
“There’s always a first. And I’m actually really good at friends. Maybe I could teach you.”
He shakes his head, his eyes a touch amused.
“You said you like a challenge,” I say, throwing his words back in his face. 
He chuckles. “I guess I did, didn’t I?”
“There you go. I'll be your biggest challenge yet.”

He nods, a hint of a smile on his full lips. “You might just be right about that.”

End of Chapter One

Leave a comment and let me know what you think! Below you can find the links for purchase. Thanks so much for reading!

B&N  |  Amazon  |  Kobo  | ARe/Omnilit  |  iTunes  |  Google Play

September 02, 2014

Goodreads Giveaways

I'm excited to tell you that you can win copies of Crashing Down, Losing It and Saving Sullivan on Goodreads. Just follow the links below to enter. Good luck! As always, I am willing to give out electronic copies of Saving Sullivan to reviewers in exchange for an honest review--just send me an email! (Please include your blog site and link in the email). Saving Sullivan releases September 15th with the print edition releasing shortly after on October 12th. Thank you!




Goodreads Book Giveaway

Saving Sullivan by Sara Hubbard

Saving Sullivan

by Sara Hubbard

Giveaway ends October 15, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win



Goodreads Book Giveaway

Crashing Down by Cathryn Fox

Crashing Down

by Cathryn Fox

Giveaway ends September 29, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Losing It by Audra North

Losing It

by Audra North

Giveaway ends September 24, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

August 03, 2014

Upcoming Release- Saving Sullivan (A Summer Lovin' Novel)

Hello, readers! I haven't blogged in a while and I'm so sorry about that. Life sometimes gets in the way. Between working and writing and family I have had little chance to do anything other than focus on those three things. But now, I'm excited to be finishing up Saving Sullivan, the fifth book in the Summer Lovin' series. I was very happy to be asked to join a wonderful collection of authors for this series. All of the books are written by different authors with a few commonalities: they take place in Banff at a resort during the same summer. Some characters will overlap but each book will have its own storyline and thus can be read as a standalone novel if desired, although I would recommend them all!
For my book, I've struggled over the last two months to write Saving Sullivan. I kept alternating between my heroines' point of view and her hero's, but the story just wasn't flowing well so I've decided to write it all from Abby's. What this means is there are a lot of extras from this novel that won't be published. So...I'm going to give you a taste of our hero. This would have been chapter one. Please read and share, tweet, like, whatever! And let me know what you think. Sullivan is a great angsty character with a trouble past, but hopefully a bright future :-) Here is your peek... Please keep in mind this is the pure, original draft. It has not been edited and is merely for you to have a glimpse into his mind and his character. Oh, there is language! Sorry if this is offensive :-)

SULLIVAN: “Academic suspension,” I whisper to myself. Well, fuck me. Sitting at the desk in my room, I lean back and rub my hands up and down my face. I pick the letter back up read it over and over, the reality of my situation hitting me harder with each pass. I’m wound up so tight I feel like I’m about to explode. I scrunch up the already wrinkled letter and toss it at the wall of my apartment bedroom, narrowly missing the garbage bin. My father isn’t going to make life easy for me when he finds out. If he doesn’t know already. Being a large charitable donator to my university he has connections and spies everywhere. 

My roommate, Ames Henderson the third appears in my doorway and leans against the frame before bitting into a big red apple. He catches the falling juice on his chin with the back of his hand. He eyes me for a moment as he tries to read me. Not many people can, but Ames and I have been friends forever so he can read me better than most. “You look like someone just crashed your Porsche.”

I nod, not saying a word.

“Can’t be that bad.”

I shake my head before raising my hands and reaching back to cradle the back of my head with my interlocked fingers. “Couldn’t get worse. I’m fucking suspended.”

“For how long?”

“Indefinitely.”

“You hated your program,” Ames says, as he takes a break from chewing.

I eye him. “Yeah, but I didn’t want to get kicked out of school and labelled a dropout. I only had a year left.”

“Well, nothing left to do but get fucked up then is there?” A sly grin creeps up along his lips.

How can I argue with that logic?

Ames and I round up some guys from school and head to Old Irish Pub, it’s a whole in the wall place in downtown LA but they attract some of the biggest bands in the world so it’s crazy hard to get into. And it’s a place that’s constantly being stalked by paparazzi, given the number of celebrities that tend to frequent it. I’m not a celebrity, but my friend Dean’s father is the lead singer for Chemical Meltdown and one phone call from him usually gets us in whatever restaurant or club in town we feel like hitting. It’s amazing what a little name-dropping or the slip of a few hundred dollar bills can do in this city.

I’m on my fourth whiskey on ice when my phone vibrates in my back pocket. I ignore it at first, pretending not to hear it over the quiet rock music and dull roar of the crown in the background. But once the ringing stops, it rings again…and again. I can’t ignore it forever. Mostly because my dad holds my trust fund in his hands, and without it I’m penniless…homeless, even.

“You might want to get that, friend,” Dean says, winking at me before shoving some meatball nachos into his mouth. Dean is probably my best friend. We’ve known each other since my twelfth birthday and all the shit we’ve gone through in our lives, we’ve gone through as friends. He knows what’s up with me, and he also knows how much trouble it will cause me.

Sighing, I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone. Four missed calls, all from the same number: Hope Media, Inc. And he’s left a message. He never leaves messages—probably because he knows I won’t bother to call him back. He already knows. There’s no other explanation.

“Excuse me for a second,” I tell the boys.

“Don’t do it!” Ames yells. “Don’t do it!”

I chuckle as I walk away, but I’m anything but amused. He’s probably right; I shouldn’t answer the phone, but I’m so full of apprehension right now and I need to just get this over with. Just how much trouble am I in, anyway? As much trouble as I was in when I got kicked off the rugby team last year for testing positive for cocaine? And subsequently getting arrested for possession? Knowing my dad’s priorities, yeah, probably just as much, if not more. He made the charges go away when he put me in rehab over the Christmas holidays, but this? Can he get a suspension overturned? He just might be able to, but as I debate this in my mind, all I can think about is, without rugby, I’m not entirely sure I want to go back. I have no idea what I want to do with my life, but I know that whatever I’m meant to do does not involve a business degree or working at my father’s media empire. And playing rugby professionally is a pipe dream, especially after getting kicked off the varsity team. I’m essentially fucked.

I walk into the back hallway that leads to the bathrooms. The lights are low and apart from the music I can hear the steady rush of the stone waterfall standing against the far wall. I plug one ear to drown out the sounds around me and press one for play on my voice mail waiting for the one and only voice I dread to hear: my father’s. Everything about him puts me on edge and well off my game. We’ve always had a rocky relationship since I discovered he’s my father and it’s steadily declined over the years—I didn’t think that was possible, but he proved me wrong. But the voice on the other end of the phone isn’t my father’s: it’s his secretary’s. Fucking trust my father to get his secretary to do his dirty work.

“Sullivan, it’s Eva. Your father would you like you to come to the office the day after tomorrow. I’ve booked you a flight out of LAX for two thirty pm tomorrow. And in case you decide not to come,” her voice quiets, “I suggest you change your mind. He knows about you flunking out of school. And he’s been talking to the banks about your trust fund.” She clears her throat and her volume is restored, as if she worried my father might hear her warning. “I’ve forwarded your itinerary to your email. Call me if you have any questions. Clark will pick you up at the airport. Looking forward to seeing you. Bye for now.” Click.

Fucking Fantastic. Gritting my teeth, I pinch the bridge of my nose and sigh. So, I knew my father would lose his mind when he found out about this. I knew he’d make threats. Usually, they’re idle…but this time, I just don’t know. Talking to the bank? To my knowledge he’s never gone this far before and I can’t risk him taking away my trust fund. If he cuts me off I’m literally fucked. And he knows it.

It’s a long flight from California to New York but, after a quickie with the flight attendant in the storage compartment at the back of the plane, I manage to sleep for most of it. I toss the attendant’s number in the trash as I head to baggage claim. The girl was pretty enough, but calling a girl after sex tends to give a girl ideas, and girls don’t need any ideas as far as I’m concerned. I’m as good for women as my father is, and that’s not saying a hell of a lot. My father has destroyed more woman’s lives than I’ve scored goals in rugby. And I was the top scorer at LAU for the two and a half years I played there.

My father’s driver, Clark, picks me up at the airport with a great big sign that reads, “Mr. Hope.” I can’t fight the grin that claims my face when I see him. He was the only adult in my life as a kid, other than dad’s wife number three, that gave me the time of day. He taught me how to play pool, which I’m actually quite good at now. Some would even call me a shark.

“Hey, Clark!” I jog up to him and he pulls me into a hug. Now, I’m not into hugging men or anything but I love this man. More than anyone else who’s come in and out of my life over the years. He’s been my only constant. The only person or employee that can take my father and my fucked up family for longer than a few years at a time.

“Good to see you,” he says as he lets me go and taps me on my shoulder with one of his massive hands. I’m a pretty big guy, six feet two last time I checked, but Clark is huge both in height and width. Everything about him is massive, including his smile.

“So what am I in for?” I ask as we walk to the car.

He shrugs. “Couldn’t say. I suppose it has something to do with school.” He meets my eyes but only briefly as his gaze returns to the street ahead of us.

“You heard?”

He clears his throat and when his words come out, they’re choked, like I’ve managed to disappoint him. It almost crushes me. Now if my dad gave me this same look I’d roll my eyes and quietly tell him to go fuck himself, but on Clark…I feel like I’m two centimetres tall and shrinking, and I don’t like it. Not one bit. In fact there’s hard lump in my throat that forms from the drive from the airport to Hope Media Inc. Clark hasn’t said another word to me since I got in the car and I’ve been sitting in the backseat trying to pretend like I don’t care. When he slows to a stop, he glances at me in the rearview mirror, his forehead creased with worry. I feel like I should say something but I have no words. I focus instead on what’s coming next and let go of a long sign.

Hope Media.

I didn’t miss this place. The tall building with wall to wall tinted glass feels ominous to me. A trap. I worked here once as a kid, under my grandfather’s supervision. But he’s gone now. And with him went the only buffer between my father and me.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Hope. Everything will work out as it’s meant to.”

“As it’s meant to,” I whisper. “What if I don’t like the way things are meant to be?”

“When one door slams in your face, another one opens. You’ll just have to trust me on that.”

Trust him. Yeah, I do, but it’s hard to feel hopeful right now. Not with my father and his holier than though attitude about to punch me square between the shoulders. All my life I’ve done everything my father wanted. He shipped me off to boarding school when I was ten years old. I saw him when he wanted and where he wanted. I applied to the right universities and though I didn’t get in, my father picked the school that agreed to take me. He had a plan for me without ever asking me what I wanted. And no amount of fucking up in my teens and early twenties could railroad his plans. Whatever shit I threw at him he cleaned up and made new plans, all of them directing me back to New York, to this gleaming, glass building that reaches for the clouds.

Although my father summoned me here, he doesn’t see me right away. No. Of course not. So I sit outside and spend some time chatting it up with his secretary. For whatever reason, she’s always been nice to me.

An hour and a half later my father decides I’ve waited long enough. He stands in the doorway to his office in his Italian suit and polished leather shoes. He’s lost some weight and his blonde hair is thinning on top. He waves me forward and I saunter toward him, my back up and my nerves on edge. Everything about him pisses me off. But mostly, the way he looks at me like an employee he’s marching in to fire. He’s been this way to me my whole life. I’m like a fucking bug he’s never been able to scrape off his perfect shoes. Even sending me away couldn’t remove the burden I placed on him.

“Sir.”

He nods. “Sullivan. Good to have you home.”

I’ll bet. He holds out his hand and I shake it firmly. I enter his office and walk around the space. His furniture is all leather or oak and his view from the top floor gives him an eye view of the city, particularly central park. God knows how much this building alone is worth, let alone his company.

“Have a seat,” he says as he takes a seat in his chair. He leans back, his hands folded in his lap.

“I’ll stand.”

“I said sit, Sullivan.”

I smile and lean back against the bookcase. I can’t let him think he owns me. I need to hold my ground. Whatever he’s planning on saying, he needs to know that I’m not going to let him push me around. I will have a say in my life whether he likes it or not, even with the threat of poverty. I have my pride; it’s a consequence of being a Hope man.

He groans and rolls his eyes. “Suit yourself. Stand. Sit. I really don’t care. That’s not the battle I’m set to fight today.”

I scoff at him and, closing my eyes, I pinch the bridge of my nose, readying myself for what’s to come. “Then what is the battle?”

“Your future.”

I take a deep breath and move to the leather chair in front of his desk. I sit because I want to. There’s no other reason. And I have a feeling this conversation might take some time.

“I’m listening.”

“I thought after what happened last Christmas you’d smarten up. Maybe rehab would help you get your act together and focus on what matters.”

“What matters to me? Or to you?”

My father focusses his stern glare on me before swivelling in his chair to face the windows. A bird flies by, flapping it’s wings wildly. In the adjacent building a window washer lowers his mechanical unit to start working on a new window. I wonder how much you get paid for something like that. I could do that. Sure, I could.

“It’s time to grow up, Sullivan. School is over and I’m not sure I could get you back in even if I wanted to, which I don’t. So I guess you need to decide what you’re going to do with your life now you failed to get a degree. You’ve lost any chance you had a playing rugby professionally. What are you going to do with your life?”

I chuckle and tap my fingers on one of the wooden arms of the chair. “I don’t know. I’ll think of something.”

He laughs without humour and moves to stand, pacing the room while rubbing one hand along his smooth chin. He loosens his tie and clears his throat. “The way I see it you have only one option. You will come and work here. Start at the bottom and work your way up. It’s what your grandfather would have wanted. Your salary will be double what I would pay someone in your position but then again, you’re my son and I don’t want you to struggle.”

“Don’t want me to struggle? Are you fucking kidding me? Where was that attitude ten years ago.”

He licks his lips and replaces his poker face with a focussed glare. “The past is the past, Sullivan. I have no intention of rehashing old wounds with you right now.”

Of course. Let’s push our demons away. Pretend like he didn’t wreck me or turn me into the fucked up man that I am. But yeah, I’m not going to push the issue. Because having a heart to heart with him is never going to happen. It’s just not something he’s capable of and if I were being honest with myself, I don’t know if I am either.

“So what do you want, Dad? You want me to come work here in the mail room?”

“Is there something wrong with that? You think a college dropout deserves better? That’s what I did when I started working for your grandfather and I graduated from Yale with honours. It made me appreciate what I have and you need to learn a little appreciation.”

“As wonderful as this opportunity sounds I think I’ll try to find a job on my own.”

He laughs. “Where will you find a job? You think any respectable company will hire you?” He tips his head to the side and regards me from under raised eyebrows. I almost think he’s enjoying putting me in my place right now. Because he’s right. Who would hire me? They’d have to be an idiot. I don’t even have a single job to add to my resume, unless you can include drinking and travelling and fucking everything that walks. Check, check and check in those departments. “You’re faith in me is overwhelming,” I say, refusing to admit he’s right.

My father comes to his feet quickly and stands, pacing the room with his hands behind his back. “The only reason you don’t want to work here is to spite me. And I can’t help but think you got kicked out of school for the same reason.”

“You give me too much credit. I didn’t put any effort into getting kicked out.”

“This isn’t a game! This is your life and my reputation!”

I shake my head at him. What would a normal father say right now? Would he be angry? Maybe? Would he ask me what I’m gong to do with my life? Probably? But then, wouldn’t he also ask me how I’m feeling? If I’m okay. Failure sucks and even though I hated business school, I sure as hell don’t want to be labelled as a dropout.

“You want to know the real reason I don’t want to work here? Fine. I don’t want to work here because I fucking hate it here.” I fucking hate you is what I should have said but instead I hold my tongue.

“Then try and find another job. You have my blessing. But just know this, your trust fund is done.”

“Whatever. Grandfather left that money to me. You have no claim on that money.”

He laughs, more out of frustration than humour. “Your grandfather left a clause in his will that allows me to withhold any or all of the funds in your trust fund if you don’t choose to follow in the family business.”

“Bullshit.”

“No bullshit, son. This is a family business and that meant more to him than it does to me, but I’ll admit, part of me wants to see you succeed, and I want to see you succeed here.”

“You can’t do that.”

“I can and I will. I’m meeting with the bank tomorrow.”

Unreal. I can’t believe my father is blackmailing me to work here. Why the fuck does he even care? He doesn’t even know me? He sure as fuck doesn’t like me or he would have tried to have more of a role in my life. Instead he pawned me off to his father and as soon as he died: boarding school.

I stand and turn on my heel, heading for the doors.

“What is it about this place that you hate so much?” he says, the volume of his voice rising to almost a yell.

“Other than having to see you every single day of my life, for the rest of my life?”

He rolls his eyes. “And what plans did you have for this summer, let me guess, partying and whores?”

“I don’t pay for sex.”

“That’s hardly my point.”

“I was planning on heading up to the cabin in Banff for a few weeks. Some of my buddies from school will be there.

“Right. Spending more money that you didn’t earn.”

“Hey, fuck you. You inherited this company from your father.” I move to the edge of my seat, heat boiling deep within my core.

A flash of crimson streaks across my father’s face and for a moment I think he might just run across the room and punch me. But then I remember my father prides himself on control. He’d never give me the satisfaction of seeing him lose it.

After a few deep breaths he says, to my surprise, “Fine. Head to Banff.”

Okay. I narrow my eyes at him, unsure. He’s trying to trick me, and I quietly wait for the other shoe to drop.

“Work there for the summer.”

“The plan was to enjoy my summer, not work there.”

“Then I propose a deal.”

I feel like he’s baited his hook and he’s reeling me in because the sad thing about all this is that I don’t know how to live without money. I’ve never had to. If he cuts me off I’m fucked with a capital F. Everything I own has his name on it. Even my car is in his name. And where would I live? The apartment I had in California while I went to school my father owned. I have nothing, save some expensive watches and how long with a few thousand last me. My trust fund is fifteen thousand a month.

“Have you summer. Enjoy yourself but work while you’re there. Keep your job for the entire summer and you can do whatever you want come September. I won’t fight to have your trust fund withdrawn. Prove to me that you’re more than a ambition-less loser.”

I want to call him a prick. Because that’s exactly what he is.

“I need your answer, Sullivan.”

God. Give me a minute. “And if I don’t keep the job?”

“You’re on your own. Trust fund will revert to me. A job in the mailroom is yours if you want it, but otherwise you’re on your own. You can finally see what it’s like to live without a parachute. Maybe you’ll actually grow up, become a productive citizen instead of the spoiled fucked up mess sitting in front of me that I’m ashamed to admit I’m related to. But then, you’ve always taken after your mother, haven’t you?”

I curl my fingers into fists and press them into the upholstery of the chair. It takes all the energy I have not to launch myself across the room and pound my fists into his smug face. How dare he talk about my mother that way?

“So what’s it going to be, son?”

“There is hardly a choice in what you’re offering.”

“That’s a matter of perspective.”

Either way I lose. It’s just a case of how much. Because he and I both know the likelihood of my committing to a job and keeping it are low. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Plus, people telling me what to do all the time will just set me off. But just to prove him wrong…

“What kind of job are we talking about?”

“The owner’s a friend. I’ll talk to him and see what we can do, but regardless you have to keep the job. If you don’t and you break your agreement with me I’ll wash my hands with you. I’m serious.”

How many time had I heard that before, but then, I’m a betting man and I’m betting on me. The prospect of my dad releasing his hooks on me is too tempting a deal to refuse. I stand and head for the doors to his office. Over my shoulder, I say,” “You have yourself a deal,” before leaving the same way I came.

Translate