A Chapter One Sneak Peek!
We are a little more than on week to launch Always You (Release day is March 3rd, but Preorder is available now). Always You is a new Christian Romance Novel that is a part of The Potter’s House Books (Two), as well as the start to my new family series called The Murphy Brothers. (Have no fear! I’m working on the Big Prairie Romance books too! The next book in that series is scheduled to release in June!)
Back to Always You... Once again, I thought it’d be fun to offer a sneak peek at Chapter One. Sooo….
Here you go!
Chapter One, in it’s entirety, of Always You.
Always You (a Christian Romance Novel)
(in which Lauren meets a man at the airport)
She was gonna throw up.
Lauren squeezed her eyes tight, trying desperately to focus on the audible version of a story the talented Tamara Leigh had penned. But alas, even the commanding distraction of the Wulfriths would not take her mind away from the facts.
She was going to puke.
Somebody please just let me off this plane. I’m really going to throw up!
Another arctic gale rocked the cabin as the aircraft sat like a lame duck on the tarmac. The strong winter storm had snuck onto the Pacific West Coast like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, only this visitor was not leaving any gifts of kindness.
Served her right, she guessed, leaving her home, her family, and all the expectations she was certain she could never meet. If she worked harder to conform, tried to be a bit more like Ashley, maybe then…
Who was she kidding? Lauren knew full well she was not politician material. Economics confused her. Politics, frankly, made her angry, and she made an effort to avoid them as much as she could. Hard to do when your father was a senator. Her studies in history, while intriguing, did not make her buzz with anticipation. And just like her mother, Lauren hated arguing. Hated it. So while her younger sister, Ashley, became the new shining star of the Matlock family, following closely in their father’s astutely successful footsteps, Lauren found a job on the other side of the country, doing something entirely different than anyone in her family had ever done. Something that, she hoped and prayed, would never have anything to do with politics, ever.
As she thought about the rise of mountains that she’d seen in the pamphlet, the shimmering waters of Lake Tahoe that she had stared at for an inordinate amount of time on her computer screen, and the delicious idea of embarking on grand adventures in the middle of God’s creation, her heart lightened—even with the swirl of encroaching sickness that refused to abate. The glory and splendor of all of it would be right at her fingertips. Just outside her door, her everyday life right in the midst of it, as she took on a new role at a small resort in North Lake Tahoe.
Her stomach lurched.
That was, if she survived the flight. At the moment it didn’t seem likely. The wind battered against the fuselage, causing the cabin to shudder again. Lauren pushed Pause on the medieval tale she’d been trying to listen to and gripped the armrest at her side.
“You’re okay, sweetie.” The gentle voice came from her left, from Cindy, the older woman who shared the row and had kindly offered to sit next to the window when they’d discussed how Lauren didn’t always handle air travel well.
Lauren wanted to say she’d be fine, but all that escaped her lips was a pathetic moan.
“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.” Cindy patted her back. “Surely they’ll let us off this plane soon.”
“Hope so.” Lauren whimpered. Her head lolled as a wave of nausea had her rocking forward, jamming her elbows onto her knees and gripping the back of her head.
“Here’s a bag here, sweetie.”
A waxy paper sack was pushed into her palm
Awesome. It’d been a completely full flight from her connection in Denver, no seats available, and she was going to vomit right there in a bag while they were all trapped on a plane in the middle of a blizzard with no end in sight. This was the epitome of a nightmare. The evening could not get worse.
The overhead cabin dinged, alerting passengers of an important message, and the voice of her salvation came over the speakers. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry for the delay. We have clearance to go to an alternative gate. Sit tight a few more minutes, folks. We will be deplaning shortly.”
As tears burned against her eyelids, Lauren breathed multiple pleas and thank-yous to heaven above. Please let me off this plane. Please don’t let me puke next to this nice lady. And thank You that we made it here safely.
Now to get her feet on the ground. Maybe then the vertigo would stop. Maybe then she could go back to looking forward to the new life she was flying into—airsickness and all.
The plane lurched forward as they taxied toward the newly opened gate.
Just hold on, she thought repeatedly. Hold on just a little longer.
Clutching her carry-on and the wax-paper puke bag that she was supposed to use if she couldn’t hold on, she stood when the captain announced their arrival and that they could leave the plane and thank you very much for flying with them. Lauren wobbled to her feet. The dizzying nausea claimed her again, and she shut her eyes against the world and the sensation and the fear that no, she was not going to make it. She was going to vomit right there in the middle of everyone.
Cindy squeezed Lauren’s elbow. “It’s okay, sweetie, if you need to throw up. You just go ahead and do it. I have kids. It’s not as if I’ve never dealt with puke before.”
Lauren tried to open her eyes and give the kind woman a weak smile. She was quite certain it came out like a squint and a grimace. Hardly mattered. She’d never see her again. She hoped so at least, for the sake of her quickly failing dignity. Finally the people in front of them began to move forward, and the woman at her side allowed Lauren to pass in front of her. Cindy’s steady hand remained on her back while she guided her down the aisle, out the Jetway, and into the airport terminal.
Oh goodness. She was off the plane. She should be getting better now. Any moment. The nausea should stop. Her head should clear. Her stomach should stop rioting.
No. That was not going to happen.
Still clutching the drag handle to her carry-on, Lauren whipped a panicked gaze around, desperately searching for a restroom. That would be better at least. She wouldn’t have to puke in front of everyone. She’d be by herself, safely in a stall, with some of her dignity still intact.
“I see a sign right down there. Women’s restroom.” Her kindhearted seat buddy patted Lauren’s back and pointed. “Would you like me to go with you?”
Oh good heavens, no. Please just let me be. Lauren shook her head, offered a rushed “Thank you anyway,” and took off for the women’s restroom, still unsure that she’d make it that far. She closed in on the doorway, the rolling in her stomach warning of the impending mess to come.
A few more steps. Almost there. Just a few—
A sign blocking the entry read closed, the passage webbed with yellow tape to emphasize the point. The bathroom was closed! How could it be closed? This was an airport—they needed a women’s restroom. An open women’s restroom!
It didn’t matter. This was happening. Lauren was going to throw up, and she was going to throw up now.
She charged into the open door next to the women’s restroom, which, of course, would be the men’s. She didn’t care. She needed a toilet and she needed her dignity and that was all. Rushing forward, she passed through the doorway only to smash flat into the crisp white shirtfront of a tuxedoed man.
“Whoa there.” The low voice wafted above her head. “I think your headed in the wrong—”
Caught in the arms of a faceless stranger… Faceless because she couldn’t muster the courage or the balance to look up.
Her stomach turned in one final lurch. And it happened. Right there on a stranger’s dress shirt and suitcoat. Lauren threw up, discovering as she lost her late lunch, which included picante sauce, that, actually, throwing up in a crowded airplane wasn’t the worst thing ever. Vomiting on a strange man in the doorway to the men’s restroom was infinitely more humiliating.
Please let this be a nightmare. And let it be over now.
The prayer had barely rolled through her mind before Lauren heaved against the man yet again.
What a way to start her brand-new, glorious, independent life.
Not every day a guy walked from the bathroom, tossing the paper towel he’d been using toward the garbage, only to be slammed into by a sick woman in desperate need of…
Well, that about summed up his day.
Matt stared down at the small brunette losing the contents of her stomach against his rented tux. As much as he’d wanted to howl in frustration the whole day through, a surge of compassion melted the anxious stiffness from his arms. As she heaved against him a second time, he cupped the back of her head.
“Guess we’ve both had a rough day, huh?” he said quietly, his other hand bracing her shoulder.
“I’m…” Dry heave. “So…” Another false alarm. “Sorry.”
Honestly, it could be worse. Had been worse, about three hours before. Given the choice between going back to stand with John, watching all his hopes and dreams change her name to his buddy’s, or being puked on in the airport by a stranger, he’d take the vomit. Every single day.
Oddly, the tension in his jaw and shoulders eased. He stood there, holding a woman he’d had yet to properly meet, while the squall of her stomach worked itself out. Evidently, having a cute brunette puke down the front of you made for a decent distraction from life’s massive disappointments.
When she went limp against him, her forehead pressed into his chest and warm nastiness oozing through both the dress shirt and his T-shirt, he trailed his hand down the waves of her hair and gave her a gentle squeeze. “Better?”
“Is there more?”
“I’m begging God right now that the answer is no. And also that Jesus would come right this second to take me home to some mansion in the sky. No more tears, no more sorrow. No more throwing up on men I’ve never met.”
Matt chuckled. “A spotless white wardrobe does sound good right now.”
Her groan quivered against his chest before she moved away. “I’m so terribly sorry. And embarrassed. Horrified, actually. I’ll pay for the cleaning. Or a new suit. Whichever you prefer.”
While she babbled, he caught the crimson staining her cheekbones, though she had yet to look up at him. Again, his heart pooled with sympathy.
He rubbed her shoulders and then squeezed. “This suit isn’t a keeper anyway.”
“What?” Finally she looked up at him. Big brown eyes, sheened with tears and exhaustion and humiliation, latched on to his. “Not a keep— Oh.” Her eyes squeezed shut. “It’s a rental, isn’t it?”
“Oh no. I’m so, so sorry. I’ll pay for it.”
He’d never have believed he’d find a reason to laugh that day. Yet this woman—still nameless to him—managed to pull another chuckle from his muddied day. For that reason alone, he liked her on the spot.
“You know what?” He stepped back, taking in the red putrid mess on his front. “Don’t worry about it.” Meeting her eyes again, he enjoyed the easy feel of a smile relieving the tension that had made his jaw and cheekbones ache.
He held up a hand. “No, I’m serious. After all, I got in your way. If I hadn’t, you might have made it to the garbage can.” He pointed to his right and behind him. “So it’s my fault, I think.”
“Oh my gosh.” Both hands covered her face.
Stepping forward again, Matt tipped her chin up with a crooked finger. This personal encounter was new to him—he wasn’t normally so…touchy. But. Well. But. He’d never been puked on, and he was pretty sure this miserably embarrassed soul hadn’t ever vomited on a stranger before. That put them squarely together in the same boat of awkward firsts. Might as well try for comfort.
“Listen, it’s not a thing, really,” he said. “I’m just gonna grab my bag there and do a quick change. No big deal. Okay?”
One giant, break-his-already-severed-heart tear leaked onto the side of her nose. If he wasn’t covered in vomit, he’d have pulled her into a full hug. Instead, he brushed the moisture trailing her face with the pad of his thumb. “Come on now. Don’t cry.”
“Okay.” Another drop seeped from the corner of her eye and onto his thumb.
He chuckled. Again. That was three times. And he was charmed.
“Let me change, and then you can tell me your name.”
Big brown eyes were watching him when he turned to retrieve the suitcase at his heels. As he rounded his way back into the bathroom, he hoped she’d still be around when he got done.
She’d likely not be, humiliated as she was.
He should have gotten her name.