Release Day: December 13, 2013
Dani refuses to lose another parent due to her absence from their life. After pulling herself back together following the death of her father, she moves back to her childhood town to live with her mom. She’s slowly pulled back into the lifestyle she worked so hard to get away from ten years ago. She accepts that this is the life she has always been destined to live. Getting a job at the store down the road and hooking back up with her first love Gage, seems to be the logical way to go…that is until Holden Reynolds shows up in town. Now that Holden is finally back home from the Navy he plans on following in his father’s footsteps. Still trying to move on from the one woman who had his heart, he busies himself in work and returning to the country boy lifestyle he’s always loved. The best way to get over someone is to get under someone, right? That’s his mindset as he travels town to town with his job perfectly content with being a rambling man…that is until he meets Danielle Brooks. When Dani isn’t leaving and Holden isn’t staying will they be able to keep themselves from getting too attached? Or will they be just what each other needs to cut all the strings that have them bound?
“You can’t save me from me, Holden.” –Dani.”
♥ COMING DECEMBER 13, 2013♥
Being born an “Army Brat”, Erika Ashby has been residing in Oklahoma the last 10 years finally putting an end to the nomad tendencies she had grown accustomed to. She’s a happily married woman who has 5 kids between her and her husband. She has an insane passion for music and embraces her Inner Groupie any chance she has. It wasn’t until the age of 29 that she realized she also had a hidden passion for reading; before then she claimed to have hated it. Six months after unlocking that deep desire she never knew she held, she turned the key to another chapter of her life which has become the desire to write. And the rest is still history in the making.
Who would have thought at twenty-nine years of age this is where I’d be in life? I sure as shit didn’t. I didn’t expect to lose my dad six months ago and in return lose everything I had going for me. I was a daddy’s girl. The moment he died a piece of me went with him. I was left to pick up the life he had left behind — what little pieces there was left of it. I used that excuse right there to cease what life I had going before to a halt. I left everything to move back into the house my dad left me and my brother TJ — it was a couple towns over from where we grew up; a town he moved to once him and my mom got divorced. Maybe I thought I’d feel closer to him somehow by being surrounded by his stuff. Hell, that’s exactly what I thought. But it had the reverse effect. Not only did I feel furthest away from him living in his empty house surrounded by everything him, I felt furthest away from myself. Not only did I lose my dad, I was starting to lose me.
I knew my dad would be pissed that I was drowning in sorrow. If he was here he’d say, “Dani Jo, what the hell baby girl. Don’t you dare sit around this house letting your life fall to shit. I damn well raised you better than that! Now get the hell up and go get your life back.”
Knowing that my dad would want me to let go of the pieces I lost of him and pick up mine instead, I moved back to the small town I graduated from. The town I love to hate. The town with stupid drama filled bitches and home to some of my bestest friends. The town with guys you’d love to hate and ones you will always love….and hate. The town where lots of hoes hated me because I didn’t put up with their shit. I was the girl that could put a tramp in her place in no time. Not trying to say I was a badass, but I was a badass. Hell, I’m still a badass if I do say so myself. Growing up around my rowdy older brothers and sister, I had no choice but to be tough. I was definitely thankful for my Chuck Norris like skills in high school. Being in Oklahoma, we had some tough as shit Indian chicks that all the bitches were scared of. Everyone except me.
Having no job, no money, or a place to stay my only option was going back and living with my mom. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Wrong, maybe if my mom didn’t let my tweaking ass half-siblings reside there whenever they damn well pleased, then it wouldn’t be a bad set up. Billy and Brandy have always been mooches; must be something they inherited from their own father — maybe the drug habit runs in the blood too. I don’t know if mom is flat out stupid and doesn’t see that they’re doped up, or just turns a blind eye at them afraid to confront the truth. As if hiding the reality of the situation makes it okay. Maybe overlooking that there is an existing problem that needs tending to is much easier than dealing with the repercussion of bringing it up. I hate how they use her, and she just fucking lets them.
You try telling her to kick their asses out and she just says,
“Now Dani, they have nowhere to go. Just like you.” Rub that salt a little deeper. Just like I need another fucking reminder of how my life has gone to shit. But damn, it’s not like I’m trying to suck the life out of my mom by using her. Seeing the way they run all over her, I realize I’m the only one who truly has her back. I wasn’t there for my dad when he needed me most. Not that he would have admitted he needed me, but damn maybe if I wouldn’t have run off. I could have been around more to make sure he kept his health in check at least. Maybe he would have made some appointments to get the slight pains he was having in his chest checked out. But no, I wasn’t around as much as I should have been, and all his damn “friends” just played it off to stress or muscle spasms. Isn’t your heart a fucking muscle? Yah, that’s what I thought.
So, here I am now, living with my mom back in my old room taking a vow to never drop the ball with her as I feel I did with my dad. I’ve accepted the fate that I’m destined to live out — my life in this shitty town. I got to live a good ten years away, and like a vacuum I was sucked back in. I don’t even think about the what if’s anymore. All they do is set you up for failure. They have you always wanting and wishing for more out of life. If you’re always wanting more, you can never be content with what you have. I gave up the good life when my father lost his. This is what my life is now. I’d like to say that I’m just temporarily putting my desires on the back burner until I get my shit together or I know for a fact that my mom will be fine without me around, but that’s not true. Hell, she’s been fine the whole time I’ve been gone, and while I had my breakdown after dad died, but now that I get a firsthand experience to the shit she deals with on a daily basis I’ll be damned if I leave her to deal with it alone. She won’t speak her mind, so I’ll do it for her even if it means more countless fights with my dope whore of a sister. The sister who runs off for days at a time leaving her kids with us to take care of. I’ve been so close to calling Department of Human Services on her nappy ass, but every time I do, my mom begs me not to. Why the fuck does she care what happens to her, the bitch needs to go to jail before I end up going for beating some sense into her ass. As if that is actually possible; it would have happened already. We literally fight at least once a week. She’s losing her touch I have to say. I’m sure it’s the drugs. All they’re good at is making her run her mouth faster than normal, but her reflexes are sloppy these days.
She’s up to no good tonight bitching at my mom and I can already tell it’s not going to end well. The bitch doesn’t know how to watch her damn mouth. It’s called respect. There was a song about it. She’s yelling, “Why the hell won’t you let me borrow your damn car? I need to go to the store, it’s not like you need it,” to our mother at the top of her lungs.
Nobody yells at my momma…nobody. “You better watch how you talk to mom Brandy. I’m only gonna warn your ass once.”
She walks up to me acting like she’s going to bow up to me, “Oh yah Dani? Whatcha gonna do to me lil sis.” She laughs the words out like she actually thinks I won’t keep my word. Oh boy I’m about to get in a fight I can feel it. When she is like this the only way to shut her up is to put her in her place and the only way to put her in her place is with my fist.
I sigh, “Do you really want to find out? It always ends the same with your bloody ass on the floor crying. Is that the look you’re going for tonight?” I turn to walk away hoping I had made my point which apparently I didn’t because the trick actually pulls me back by my fucking ponytail. When the hell did she become a coward? Oh wait, it’s nothing new. I can’t help but fall to the ground with the sudden yankage of my hair and she is instantly hovering over me yelling and trying to punch me through my arms that I’m using to protect my face.
“Who the hell is on the ground now bitch? It’s not a fucking good look on you either. I don’t know who the fuck you think you are just showing back up here out of the blue thinking you can take over. We’ve been fucking handling shit just fine without your too good ass here.”
That was all the motivation I needed. If she would have been smart she would have sat down on me, but since she didn’t I’m able to hike my leg back as much as possible between us and with all my might I kick the shit out of my evil sister. I can’t help the laugh that escapes my bloody lip as I watch her sail across the living room. “Ha! You didn’t expect that did you bitch? If you ever lay a fucking finger on my again I’ll make sure you die with your trusty needle in your arm. Same goes with the way you talk to our mom. You will treat her with nothing but respect. You know how easy it’d be for me to call up DHS on you? I got that shit on speed dial just for special occasions such as this.”
She grabs her wrist and whines at me, “You broke my damn wrist. I’m calling the cops.”
I laugh as I come out of the bathroom from cleaning my bloodied lip. I grab my purse and keys sitting on the ground next to the couch. “Okay well good luck with that. Go ahead and let them know that you’re coming down and we got into a fight because you didn’t have a ride to go get your next fix. I’m sure they’ll love to hear all about it.” I walk into the kitchen to where mom is making herself a new pot of coffee. She does this at night because being a mother to a bunch of heathens, she likes to make sure she’s up and around if any of them need her in the late hours. Her back is towards me as she just stands there watching the coffee drip into the pot. It smells so good I debate on having a cup with her, but I know I need to get away from this house, from my siblings.
“Mom,” I lightly say as I reach for her shoulder. She jumps. Great, I scared my mom. “Sorry about that. I hate how she treats you. I hate how they both treat you. I can’t just sit around and say nothing.”
She turns around fully to face me, grabbing both of my shoulders, “I know Dani Jo, but you can’t protect me. I understand that losing your dad has made you feel like you have to protect your loved ones, but no matter how hard you try, things happen that you have no control over. I just want you to be happy and get your life back honey.” She raises up to kiss me since I’m a good four inches taller than her.
“I’m gonna go stay the night with TJ.” I give her a weak smile and she just nods. I pay no mind to my crazy ass sister yelling at me on my way out the door. If I let her get to me I’ll end up finishing what she started, and might really end up in jail. Sometimes it’s better to just shut people off even when it’s so damn hard. I jump into my truck that my dad left for me and crank the engine. It’s loud and rumbles to life beneath me. My dad had a lift kit installed knowing that I have always wanted a jacked up truck. I feel so delicate in it; the way I sit so high above everyone else is a feeling that I love.
I pull out my phone and call TJ. Unlike my other two siblings, he’s got his shit together. Hell, unlike me as well. TJ is my go to man whenever I’m down. The only man I can count on now since our dad died. Anytime I need him, he’s by my side no questions asked…and tonight I’m desperate for his company.
“Dannnnnniiiii Jo,” He drags out my name, “What’s happening sister?” I hear the loud music in the background and have a pretty good clue where he is.
“Depending on if you’re back home, I’m heading your way.” He’s got a really good job these days working out of state. I miss having him closer to me, but unlike me, the way he deals with things is by getting away. And since he lives in our dad’s old house, it’s easier for him to travel around. Everyone deals with pain differently. I’m still trying to figure out the best way for me.
“Yeah I’m home. Go ahead and meet us at the bar.”
“Be there in forty-five.” I put my truck in drive and head for tonight’s distraction from reality.
All I’ve ever wanted is a fucking break. A fucking break from life and all the mundane shit it entails. I’d like to say I’ve been living life for me the last ten years, but I’m the only one who knows that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Maybe I was until my cousin ended up with my best friend who I was secretly in love with. The cousin who pushed me away after graduation because he obviously felt I was a threat. Call it what you will, but that’s when I started pushing my wants to a place of inexistence. What I wanted didn’t matter anymore. Did I want to join the Navy soon after graduation…was that ever a life goal or plan I had had? No flipping way. I was strongly encouraged to book it out of town and I gladly did since I wasn’t too sure how my heart would handle being rubbed in to the joyful couple’s happiness. I had doubts that my cousin would be good enough for Jesika. I had thought no one would be good enough for her…except me that is.
Ten years ago I scrammed and got lost just like I was told to and two years ago I returned. I returned knowing my cousin wasn’t around to keep me from the one woman I had ever loved. It was pretty fucking wrong on my part to think I could come swooping back in after he died and pick up where me and her left off and tell her my feelings, but she had already moved on anyways. Lucky bastard. But honestly I couldn’t be happier with her choice because through all the bull shit, Jesika will always be one of my closest friends and I want what’s best for her even if it isn’t me. But whatever, I’m done living in the past. I’d like to say I’m living for me now, but that’s not the fullest truth either. Working for my dad has never been a dream of mine. It was a dream of his and like a genie his wish was finally granted. Yeah the money’s good and the work is hard, but it’s not me. An oilfield worker/pipeliner or whatever job title I have for the day is not what I want for the rest of my life, even if it’s what my dad wants to leave for me one day. No, this is temporary. This is what I do for now, until I find something else. Until something comes to me that I can’t shake. When that day comes I’ll be screaming Hallelujah and hopefully booking it with the whole father/son relationship still fully intact. Later, Pops.
So here I am now driving me and my new buddy to our next destination…our new home for a while since this is a big job we’re headed to. He’s definitely not the best driving companion to have. He won’t stay up for shit and on top of that he snores. I can’t even drown him out with the damn radio and I sure as hell can’t get much thinking done with the croaking noises coming out of his mouth. It seriously sounds like he inhaled a frog and it’s lodged in his throat. I pull into some dinky Motel 6 and throw the truck in park. It’s not like hotel options are grand in the towns we end up working in and it’s not like our weekly per diem pays us enough to live like rock stars either.
I smack Rusty’s arm startling him awake before I open my door to get out. “Wake up you snorin’ bastard. You’re damn lucky I didn’t have a pillow or anything else to suffocate your ass with.”
“Quit trying to play tough, Holden. You like me too much to kill me.”
“More like I like freedom too much.” I tease.
“Ha! And you call this freedom?” He’s got me there.
“Close enough. Plus, I don’t have to worry about dropping the soap with you around.” I joke.
“You are damn fucking straight about that brother. Your asshole is safe around me.” You see my buddy here is a bit on the homophobic side. I don’t know why and I don’t really care to know. It’s not like he gets hit on by guys. Hell, I’m better looking than him and I don’t either. The truth is gay guys aren’t just going to walk up to you and try to get you naked. Sometimes small town mentalities make people think all crazy — damn bible-belter’s. But just like I don’t judge gays, I’m not judging my new buddy. It’s much easier to just be easy going. I’m not one to run towards conflict and in fact I usually try to re-direct it. It’s not because I’m a pussy and can’t deal, it’s just because I’ve always tried to be the peacemaker. Which is mostly why I’m even here today.
We make our way into our room and I throw my bag on the floor next to my bed and fall back first onto my bed. It’s stiff as a three day old carcass. What I’d give for a soft damn bed and a non-scratchy comforter. I swear these things feel like a mixture between wool and a brillo pad.
“You’d think these places could at least afford mattresses that don’t feel like they are filled with center blocks and blankets that won’t exfoliate you while you sleep.”
“What I wonder is how do you even know what exfoliate is?” Rusty laughs. “I mean, I have three sisters and had no choice but to learn about all the foo foo shit they do, but you, you’re an only child, right?” He asks.
“Dude, you don’t have to be a fucking chick to know about stuff chicks do. I’m sure plenty of guys actually do exfoliate.”
“Yeah and I’m sure they tan and get pedicures as well while totally defiling their man card.”
“There are plenty of straight guys that care that much about their appearances too, you know?”
“Yeah, I’m starting to think you’re one of those guys.” He teases as he throws his pillow at me.
“Fuck you man.” I toss it back nailing him in the face.
“Nice arm, bro. And you said you never played any sports.”
“Besides in my backyard with my cousin, I never did.” I remember playing catch with Jake when he’d come over. He was desperate for the companionship since he never got it at home. We both got to experience different aspects at each other’s houses growing up. It was kind of like living the best of both worlds. I’d go over to his house and be in video game heaven, and he’d come to mine and be in outdoor country boy heaven. “Anyways, what are we doing tonight?” I ask.
“I guess we can drive around and look for a bar. I wouldn’t mind getting fucking laid tonight.” I really wouldn’t mind either. It’s been a good minute. When I first took off on the road I went a little crazy with it. Trying to get Jesika and the past years outta my mind. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. I’m slowly realizing sleazing around doesn’t help you get over people or circumstances, it’s time that does. Does that mean I don’t still sleep around and get any when the getting is good? No. I’m a fucking man. And usually a horny one at that. I’m not fucking stupid though and I always play it safe, but it doesn’t’ mean I can’t have fun.
“Okay, get ready and we’ll grab something to eat first and then see what this town has to offer.”
“Now that’s what I’m talking about. Let’s see what kind of pussy this town has to offer.” He waggles his brows at me.
“Dude, I was talking about food and drinks. But you’re a crazy fuck, so pussy probably fits under that category for you.”
“Damn straight. It’s a fucking meal and beverage all in itself.”