UPCOMING RELEASE! THE FRIENDSHIP PACT SNEAK PEEK
My next book is called The Friendship Pact. I've been working on it for the last few months, although the idea behind it has been playing in my head for a long time. I'd like to launch this sometime this summer, and I'm excited about it, so I wanted to share the first chapter.
Note: This is copywritten material, and is subject to change before final publication.
Jonah has lived in Black Creek since the day he was born. It’s business as usual for his company, McKee Construction. His office manager directs his day-to-day from the home office, and his mom continues to do her best with the rest of his life from her condo 1,200 miles away. Things are somewhat mundane but comfortably familiar. Then, all in the span of a week, three women show up and turn Jonah’s well-organized life upside down.
Driving home after hearing the unexpected news that he’s a father, a car runs a red light and hits a dog that’s wandered into the road. While sitting in the waiting room of the nearest animal clinic awaiting the injured animal’s fate, Jonah’s mind is filled with thoughts of Scarlett, the beautiful four-year-old girl with hair the color of a raven’s wing and eyes that look just like his own. Jonah’s ex has gotten her and their daughter into trouble, and the state of Montana has decided he’s the one to bail them out.
Colbie, the veterinarian at the hospital, steps in and unwittingly saves them all. She’s funny, beautiful and sweet, with a knack for healing both animals and people. Jonah, Scarlett and the dog quickly grow to love her, and she becomes a special part of their new existence together.
But is she too good to be true?
As time goes on, pieces of Colbie’s past get kicked up, revealing things that aren’t so shiny. Is she really who she says she is? What was she running from when she arrived in Black Creek? The longer she’s in Jonah’s life, the stronger their friendship grows, but will the truth send it crumbling to the ground?
As Fate Would Have It
He fidgeted in his seat. He’d made it almost thirty-five years without seeing the inside of a psychiatrist’s office. Not that he couldn’t have benefitted from a visit or two. He’d dated a couple of girls who undoubtedly would’ve said he should have made an appointment. He shook his head. Maybe it shouldn’t have come as such a big surprise that one of those girls would finally land him here on this couch.
He moved his gaze from the window and looked at the doctor sitting in front of him. He closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. This was the last place he wanted to be, and his impatience was getting the better of him. He tried to reel that in, reminding himself that this woman, this doctor was not the problem. He exhaled slowly. He couldn’t imagine that she wanted to spend this hour with him any more than he wanted to be here.
“That is your name, correct? I need to make sure I have the right—” She looked down at the sheaf of papers she was holding, her eyes scanning the top sheet before she spoke again. “—person.” Her other option would have been “patient”. Again, most likely surprising to a few girls in his past, that word didn’t describe him at this point in time.
“Yes, ma’am,” he told her with a nod. “You’re right on both counts.”
She gave him a smile, the orange more than red tinted lipstick feathering slightly outward from the natural shape of her lips. Jonah guessed she was in her mid-fifties, maybe close to his own mother’s age. He hoped that was the only thing the two women had in common because if she was anything like Sadie McKee, this was going to be even harder than he previously imagined. The second he told his mom why he’d made this appointment, her temper had kicked off at a slow boil, and the pot had been hot ever since.
Jonah cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. “So,” he said, “how does this work exactly?”
“First of all, I’m Dr. Berkley.”
Jonah moved to offer her his hand, but the doctor simply smiled at him before looking down at the papers again. “Let’s see here … Well, it looks like the judge has ordered Ms. Gallagher to attend eight sessions.”
“Is that normal?”
The doctor gave a noncommittal shrug. “There are only guidelines to these sorts of things. Really, each case, and each judge, is a little different. Thing is, that goes both ways, which means you have to attend that many as well.”
He chuckled, but there was no humor in it. “I can’t even imagine taking up an hour of your time,” he said, shaking his head. “My life is just not that interesting.”
Dr. Berkley gave him another smile. “Oh, I doubt that, Mr. McKee.”
“Jonah,” he said.
“Very well,” she nodded, shuffling through papers again. “Ms. Gallagher is only scheduled once every other week. It’s probably best we keep the same schedule.”
Jonah calculated that in his head. “That’s sixteen weeks.”
Again, Dr. Berkley nodded. “Yes.”
“Four months?” His voice had taken on a distinct edge. “Why?”
“Could be a number of reasons. I’m not privy to that information. The judge either ordered it that way, or Ms. Gallagher requested it herself. Out of pocket expenses. Insurance. It doesn’t really matter.”
“To you, it probably doesn’t.”
The doctor flipped the pages of a day planner that rested in her lap. “Let me ask you a question.”
“I guess that’s what we’re doing here, right?” A bit of sarcasm. A lot of annoyance.
She looked up at him, a pencil poised over the calendar. “For four years, you’ve had a child with half of your DNA living and breathing in this world and you never even knew she existed. I don’t know how all of that came to be,” she paused, “at least the you not knowing part, but I will.”
Jonah felt a heat ignite in his belly. He was well above annoyed now. “I thought you were gonna ask me a question.”
“In a second. You don’t want to be here.” Dr. Berkley raised her hand in a placating gesture. “And I get that. I really do, but no one forced you through the door. You made that choice on your own.” She watched him and noticed that the color in his cheeks was high, but his blue eyes never wavered from hers. “In the grand scheme of things, four months isn’t that long.” She shrugged. “Consider it a gift, because that first choice is about to snowball into an avalanche. Here’s my question. Are you ready for what lies ahead?”
Jonah blinked. Truth was, somewhere in the back of his head, he’d always entertained the thought of being a father, but the fact it had never come to pass hadn’t been all that disappointing.
When he didn’t answer, Dr. Berkley dropped the eraser on the book she held and quietly bounced it once, twice, three times. “I’ll pencil you in for the same time a week from Thursday.”
~ ~ ~
It felt like all 1,715 residents of Black Creek were on Mayfair Street as Jonah turned off the state highway and headed toward Country Club Road. He’d made the appointment with the psychiatrist late in the afternoon with the hope that it wouldn’t throw a wrench into his entire day. He had a long list of things he needed to take care of. He reached up and rubbed the pads of his fingers against the whiskers on his chin. Success in this matter wasn’t looking good. He was trying not to feel any kind of way about that, but truth was, he definitely felt a certain way about it. He’d woken up feeling annoyed. He realized as he made his way through the mess of traffic all around him that he was even more so now and had to concentrate hard on not laying on the horn when a car cut him off, then proceeded through the yellow light in front of him.
“Jesus. They’re just givin’ away licenses at the DMV now.”
Jonah saw it, an indistinct black bundle moving from the right side of the road, but it was out of the corner of his eye. The driver of the car in front of him, the one who had sped through the yellow light, saw it, too, but not until it was too late. Jonah heard the heart wrenching wail of a creature in pain the same moment he watched the white sedan swerve sharply to the left before it came to an abrupt stop, its nose angled crookedly into the oncoming lane. The sound of horns punched through the air as cars maneuvered around the Toyota sitting haphazardly in the road. Jonah saw the driver tumble out. He was a younger kid, wearing a backwards baseball cap and a look of annoyance on his face. Jonah checked traffic before moving right and parking his truck on the shoulder of the road. He never looked at the kid as he slid from the seat. His eyes were on the unmoving ball of fur lying on the asphalt near the yellow line that separated the lanes.
“It came out of nowhere, man,” the kid said as Jonah approached. “I never even saw it.”
“You didn’t see the light, either,” Jonah said, dropping to his knees.
Jonah wasn’t sure if the kid hadn’t heard him or if he was copping an attitude. He didn’t much care. He reached out and moved the dog’s ear so he could see his face. He guessed that the dog was a Labrador, maybe a year old. The animal wore no collar, and his paws and fur were muddy. Jonah was no doctor, but he was sure that not all of the dog’s limbs were facing the right way, and he was losing a lot of blood from the gash that had torn his rear quarter apart.
“That about sums it up.”
“Did I kill it?”
Jonah carefully gathered the broken animal into his arms and cradled it against his chest. He’d lived in Black Creek most of his life and, though he hadn’t brought himself to share his life with a dog since Mack died a handful of years back, he remembered exactly where the veterinarian’s office was he used to take him to.
“The kind thing for you to do would be to follow me and find out. If you didn’t, the least you can do is pay to have him fixed up.”
“Ah, man …”
“At least move your damn car,” Jonah said dismissively. He was fairly certain the kid wouldn’t be accompanying him to Crow Valley Veterinarian Clinic. He may have felt some niggling remorse but probably didn’t have the funds to do anything about it. “It’s rush hour for fuck’s sake.”
Jonah moved around the front of the kid’s car, the dog cradled in his arms. Quickly but carefully, he maneuvered through the collection of after work traffic and felt the dog shift in his arms. The poor thing cried in pain, and Jonah looked down to see that the dog’s eyes were partially open.
“Well, he said, slipping through the door as it began to close behind another four-footed patient and their owner. “I was just wondering how things could get any worse. You’re alive, so I guess that’s one point in this godforsaken day’s favor.”