Charlotte Chronicles VIII

snowkissed-largeIn case you missed it, I have a lovely story of Noah and Grace that will be published in an anthology called Snow Kissed.  The anthology will be released on December 20, 2013.  Unfortunately it might not be available on Kobo or iTunes because both those retailers are closing down their self publishing portals (where authors upload their books) between December 20 and January 2.  It will be available from Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and All Romance eBooks. I’ll do everything I can to get it uploaded before then but I also want to make sure the end product is good enough for you readers.

You can add Snow Kissed to your Goodreads shelf.  The anthology will be 99c and will contain three different stories that have never before been published.

Reindeer Games by Jessica Clare

When mouthy Luna is voted off of Endurance Island: Alaska first, she’s a little bitter about it. The only thing that assuages her pride is knowing that Owen(the sexy-but-douchey guy that ousted her) was out next. This means, unfortunately, that they’re spending a lot of time at the Loser Lodge together. But will their fiercely competitive natures bring them together for the sexiest Christmas of all?

Undressed by Jen Frederick

Noah and Grace’s happy ever after hits a stumbling block in the form of one shady professor threatening Noah’s scholarship eligibility. Noah is given the choice of throwing his New Year’s MMA fight for a big payoff or accepting that the true meaning of love isn’t measured by the thickness of his wallet but the depth of Grace’s big heart.

The Sound of Snow by DS Linney

Widowed billionaire Gabriel Trentham never expected that the new nanny he hired would be the same woman he spent an unforgettable night with six months earlier. She’s determined to keep it professional between them now, but will a blizzard provide him the opportunity he needs to change her mind?

 

***

Charlotte

Nate is lounging against my locker after last period. His one foot is braced behind him against the metal while his other leg supports his weight.  Claudia Amsden is sidled up next to him so close I wonder  if I could fit a piece of paper between the two.

I grimace, slightly disgusted with myself for caring. Not only has my illness made me weak physically but I am now weak mentally. Before getting sick I wouldn’t have given Claudia  second thought. She would just be one more girl who liked to kiss up to Nate in hopes that he might ask them out which hadn’t ever happened to my knowledge. Nate and Nick didn’t do girlfriends. I teased them once that they were saving themselves for marriage but dropped the subject after the two exchanged looks I couldn’t interpret. Nick muttered something like, “Don’t need to” but he clammed up after Nate punched him in the shoulder.

Nick was probably alluding to the fact that they just messed around with girls but didn’t want the hassle of a relationship but I pretended ignorance. All three of us got along better that way. God forbid I bring up any three letter words to them like BOY or SEX. They’d both turned pale. Well, Nick turned pale and Nate got red in the face and gave me a long lecture about how none of the guys at North Prep were worth my time of day and how I had to wait until someone special came along like our moms had waited for our dads.

I yelled at him that he was being sexist because our dads certainly didn’t wait and honestly how did we know our moms waited. I never had that talk with my mom and I can’t see Aunt Grace busting out with “Like a Virgin” with Nick and Nate.

We may have continued arguing but Nick, the peacekeeper, made a joke about how we were both so full of air we could float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. After that, none of us talked about girls or guys with each other again.

As I get closer I can see Nate’s expression and it is not a pleased one. Whatever Claudia is saying isn’t something that Nate wants to hear. Perversely this makes me happy and I want to give myself a mental head slap for being such a jealous twit over nothing.

Nate sees me and pushes away from the lockers and Claudia. I’m not moving fast enough apparently because he hurries down the hallway to grab my arm. Claudia gives me the same pitying look that she pinned on me in the bathroom. The one that says poor Charlotte, can’t even muddle down the hallway by herself.

I jerk my arm away from Nate which causes me to stumble. “Hey, I got you,” Nate says and pulls me to his side. I’m awash in both frustration and happiness. Frustration that he thinks I need help and that he may be right and happiness because I’m tucked against his side.

I wonder if radiation has totally screwed with my brain and I will no longer be able to think rational thought again.  Resigned I allow Nate to lead me down the hall. “Thanks Claud,” he says as we pass her. He has one arm angled across my back with his hand curled at his waist. This is the embrace that girlfriends and boyfriends enjoy and for a tiny illicit moment I allow myself to think of what it might be like to be Nate’s girl.

My fantasy is interrupted when he stops at the girls and boys locker rooms. “I don’t need to go to the bathroom,” I hiss mortified.

“I know.” He looks both ways and then pulls the door of the boys’ locker room open.  “Incoming,” he yells. “Cover up.”

There’s a rustling of activity and metal clanging against metal as I surmise that guys are dressing or, as Nate ordered, covering up. “What are you doing?” I gape at him.

He gives me a quick smile but it dies almost as quickly as it had appeared. “Claud told me you were puking up a storm today.”

“That little—“ I don’t finish my statement. Instead I am turning to the door to chase Claudia down and give her a piece of my mind but Nate’s hands take hold of my shoulder.

“Look, I know why you’re trying to hide this. You think if our parents know that you’ll be yanked out of school and put in some special treatment program, maybe in Switzerland.”

My mouth drops open. “Have you heard something?” I ask. Fear is making my heart rate pick up. I wasn’t aware that Nate knew of my mom’s desire to take me out of Chicago, out of the country.

“Only that it’s an option and we all want to make sure it’s an option that doesn’t become necessary.” Nate stops talking and leans toward the interior of the room. The clanging noises have stopped. “All good?” he calls.

“Yup.” It sounds like there is more than one guy in here. I’m so embarrassed.

“Nate, I can’t be in here.” I’m feeling queasy and it’s not due to my condition. Perhaps other girls would love to be in the boy’s locker room but for me it’s a kind of stinky and I don’t want to see a bunch of my classmates’ underwear or worse. I’d never be able to look them in the eye again.

“Yes, you can.” He drags me into the room. Along the way I see several guys who give Noah chin nods and questioning looks but no one stops him. Maybe girls in the boys’ locker room is ordinary occurrence.

We stop at the end of the locker room where there is an office door that says “Head Coach” and then another closed door that says “Training Room.” Nate opens the training room door. Inside are two metal long metal tables. Nate curses when he sees the bare tables. “Hold on,” he says and then leaves.

I stand there like a fool, wondering what I should do. I don’t really want to walk out and see things that should be unseen but I don’t want to wait around until someone who is supposed to use this room shows up.

I’m about to leave when Nate returns, shouldering his way in, his arms full of clothes and towels.  He gives me a frown when he sees my hand on the doorknob and I guiltily pull it away. Curiously I watch Nate spread out the materials. There are a couple of pairs of workout pants, the kind that have snaps on the sides so that the players can quickly disrobe. Stripper pants, I liked to think of them although I’m sure if I said that to any of the guys they’d give me deeper frowns than the one that Nate shot me when he returned.  Nate carefully positions the pants so that there isn’t much overlap. Over the pants go three large sweatshirts. When he’s done, he pats the table. “Hop up.”

“What?”

“Hop up,” he repeats.

I stand there like a dummy because I don’t get what he wants me to do. Nate shakes his head and in two steps reaches my side and propels me forward. “Charlotte, you spent your lunch hour vomiting, right?”

I really hate Claudia. She must have been in there the whole time and then ratted me out to Nate.  “So what if I was?” I sound snippy but I don’t even care one bit.

“So you’ve got to be worn out. You go home and pass out, our parents are going to suspect something. Work with me here,” Nate pleads. Understanding dawns. Nate wants me to take a nap while he practices football and he hopes the extra sleep will make me appear healthier at home.

“This is really nice of you Nate, but you don’t have to do this for me. I’m fine,” I lied giving him a big smile.

“Charlotte, stop. If I was sick wouldn’t you do anything you could to make me feel better, help me heal?”

I give a reluctant nod of my head.

“Then why is it pity or wrong for me to want to do the same for you?”

Shamed I look down at the bed of garments that Nate had spread out. My throat tightens at the gentle care he’s showing me. Not wanting Nate to see me cry, I climb onto the makeshift mat and immediately I am struck by how very tired I really am. My whole body seems to loosen up. Nate lays two towels on top of me like a blanket.

“We’ll get some better bedding in here for you,” he murmurs, stroking the side of my cheek with one long finger.

“How will you keep this a secret?” I close my eyes and revel in the sensation of his caress. I don’t know that he’s ever touched me so tenderly before.

“Only a few guy’s know and they don’t have any call to rat us out.” His voice is sounding further and further away.

“I love you Nate.” I whisper as I let go and let sleep take me away. I dream that I hear him say “I love you” back.

As always, if you sign up for the newsletter you’ll get an entry in the Charlotte Chronicles in your inbox a week ahead of time!

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