say you won’t let go

When you looked over your shoulder

For a moment I forget that I’m older

She dances when she thinks I’m not looking.  It’s like there’s a beat in her head that no one else can hear.  I watch her smile to herself, her hair cascading over her shoulders even as she throws her hands up in the air, shaking her head.  Her dark hair is everywhere, a shock against her pale skin.

But she doesn’t care.

I think back to that first morning when we met.  I thought she was just an angry kid.  I still consider her a kid, still think of her as something of a china doll — breakable and frail.  I have to remind myself of what she’s been through — remind myself that she’s been through hell, and withstood her fair share of adversaries.  She’s not a doll.  She’s a woman.  She’s a true force.

She’s a hurricane.

“Whatcha thinking?”

I look up at her.  She smirks and shakes her hips, throwing her head back and giggling.  She holds her hands out to me, and I take them.

I would follow her anywhere.

The thought occurs to me then that I really have followed her anywhere.  I have gone to the ends of the earth for this girl — this woman.  I have uprooted my entire existence to follow her.  And she has done the same for me.  We’ve sacrificed so much — more than we surely thought we ever would sacrifice for another person.

But it was those sacrifices that brought us closer to one another.  It was those sacrifices that brought us here.  It’s been two years.  Surely at this point no one is looking for us anymore.  If they are, they’d never find us.  We’ve been kept safely hidden, away from the rest of the world.

Just how we always wanted it.

I’m so in love with you

And I hope you know

Darling your love is more than worth its weight in gold

I turn the music down and slow our rhythm.  “Do you remember the day we met?”  I ask the question already knowing what she’ll say, how she’ll react.

She blushes and bites her lip, running a hand nervously through her hair.  “It was the best morning of my life,” she says.  “You were so mad.”

“You were so obnoxious,” I tell her.

She shrugs, lacing our fingers together as we stand in the kitchen of our two bedroom apartment.  She meets my eyes and smiles, her cheeks still stained pink.

“I was trying to come off mature,” she admits.  “I kind of had a thing for you even then.”

“You barely knew me,” I say.  I say this every time we talk about that first time we met, now five years beyond us.  And every time she says the same thing.

“I knew I loved you then,” she says with a toss of her hair.  She reaches over and turns the music back up, taking my hands and whisking me across the floor.  I follow her lead, as always, and breathe her in when she pulls me close.  She still smells of coconut and honey, a combination of her shampoo and her lotion.  She reminds me of a warm summer’s day.

She reminds me of forever.

“There was a point to my question,” I tell her as the song plays out.  She pauses the next song and stares at me expectantly.  She always looks at me as if I hold the answers to every single one of her questions.  It both excites me and scares me.  I’m so scared of disappointing her, of making her leave.

But I know she’d never leave.  And neither will I.

I’m gonna love you ’til

My lungs give out

“I loved you then, too,” I tell her, shoving my hands in my pocket.  I feel the velvet under my fingertips and take a deep breath.  It’s now or never, Jude

I’ve been prepping myself for days, wondering just when I’d have the nerve to ask her.  It made the most sense to do it today — on the anniversary of the day we met.  I wouldn’t kiss her for another four months, and even then, it would take two months after that for her to wear me down.  From there, it would be hell trying to make it work.

We’d walked through hell together.  And here we were, finally, on the other side.

“And I know… I know I say a lot of the wrong things,” I continue.  “I do the wrong things sometimes, too—“

“Jude, it’s not about what you do,” she tells me, interrupting me as she always does.  “It’s about how you make me feel.  You… you understand me.  All of my quirks and my oddities.  You don’t care.  You—“

“Love you so very much, Shiloh,” I say, taking her left hand in mine.  “And if you could stop interrupting me for ten minutes, I would like to ask you to spend the rest of your life with me.”

I show her the box, and she grabs it out of my hands to open it.  Her eyes widen and she smiles.  “Will you put it on?”  She asks me, holding out her hand.  She places the velvet box back in my hand, her brown eyes sparkling.  I see her hands are shaking, but it’s not nerves.

“Can I take this as a yes?”  I ask her, sliding the ring onto her finger.

She wraps her arms around me, hugging me close to her.  “You can take this as a hell yes, Fischer.”

I don’t have a response, a retort, a quip to throw back at her.  She’s just agreed to be mine forever.  Even in my wildest dreams, I never thought it would be possible.

“You know you’re never getting rid of me now, right?”  She asks me as she tangles her fingers in my hair.  I tighten my grip on her and chuckle.  I feel her chest rumble against mine as she giggles, and I lean back to meet her eyes.

“Good,” I say.  “Because I have no intention of doing that… ever.”

‘Cause now it’s just you and me ’til we’re gray and old

Just say you won’t let go



I think about him a lot.

I go on a date, or I have a disastrous experience with a member of the opposite sex, or I hear my friends talking about how in love they are with their significant other, and my mind wanders.

It was around this time last year that Devin and I started talking again.  I’m not naïve enough to think I was the only girl on his mind, nor am I foolish enough to think that his intentions were completely honorable.  This is not a means to speak ill of him.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Devin and I had one of those relationships where we didn’t know what we wanted from one another, but we knew we wanted to be together – and talk to other people in case this fell through (which it always, always, always did).

But I think about him… all the time.  I think about where we’d be if he were still here, what we’d be doing if I hadn’t been so stubborn that day and just gone to see him like I wanted.  I was proud, though, and I knew in my heart of hearts that if I went to see him, I’d fall all over again.  He would be it for me, which wasn’t a bad idea; but I wasn’t ready to be someone’s forever.

But my goodness do I wish sometimes that he could have been mine.  I wish that it were his lips on mine again, and not someone else’s.  I wish it were him texting me a ‘sweet dreams’ or ‘good morning dear.’  I wish I could snuggle up with him and watch some obscure movie on Netflix and talk to him about my newest book idea.  My heart aches with this desire, this wish that will never come to fruition.

There’s a song that says “I never thought we’d have a last kiss.”  I listen to it a lot these days, thinking about how completely and utterly topsy-turvy my life has been since June, since I found out he was gone.  I never thought it would be the end of us.  I really thought that eventually we’d settle down, or at least make peace and stop messing with one another’s heads.  But I certainly never thought the last time was the last time, that I wouldn’t be able to call him one day, or kiss him again.

But alas, here I am, sitting on my couch with a cup of coffee and a tear-stained face, thinking about that day, about our conversation, and all the things we did and said.  How he kissed me, and I listened to Dashboard Confessional’s “Hands Down” on the way home and didn’t stop smiling for the next few weeks.  I’m thinking about how a few weeks after that we fought, and how a few months after that… he was gone.  I’m thinking about how all these events happened so slowly, and yet how it all seems like a whirlwind since I got the text from my friend that he was gone, how she eased me into it – asking about work and my book, and then, finally, reluctantly, telling me that the boy I loved was gone.

I know that he’s not going to magically appear and ask me to write my name on his “Hello, my name is…” tattoo on his chest.  I know he’s gone, and eventually I’m going to have to move on with my life and stop using him as my excuse for not getting back out there.  No one is ever going to measure up to him; but I can’t measure people to him for the rest of my life.  He wouldn’t want that (or maybe he would want me to just pine for him the rest of my life – it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility or the Devin I knew).  No one will ever measure up, because he was Devin and he was a force of nature all on his own.  I still remember how he kissed me on my 28th birthday as we stood under a big light in the parking lot of a bar in Martinsburg.  I remember how he asked me to go out after, and how I continually rebuffed him, and then one day decided it would be fun to edit my book while he watched a movie.  And I remember that that was the last time I kissed him, sitting in his room with my laptop in my lap, having just played him the song that inspired my book.

Maybe one day I’ll stop comparing the men in my life to him.  I’ll stop thinking about how he would have kissed me differently, or held my hand, or told me something else.  I’ll stop wondering what he would have said in a given situation.  Maybe one day I’ll get past this (though in the interest of full disclosure I am not confident in this statement).

But in the interim, maybe I’ll just sit here and contemplate the words to that song, and how completely appropriate they are for the boy I wish could be mine.

Ellis and Asher

I stared out at the sunset across the open field, the orange ball of fire making its descent beneath the horizon.  I used to love watching the sunset as a kid, sitting on the back porch with Marnie and Darcy until the sky grew dark.

“Reminds me of when we were kids.”

I nodded at my companion as he said the words.  He wrapped an arm around my shoulder like he did when we were kids, when I was new at the house and scared of my new siblings, when I was a scared little kid who didn’t know what was going on in my life.

Tyson was always there.

“Marnie used to tell me that was her favorite picture in the entire world,” I said to him, resting my head on his broad shoulder.

Tyson was always good at the comforting part.

“So are you going to say it, or am I?”

I looked to him then, and saw the questions in his eyes.  He wanted to know everything, my entire life story, or at least what I’d been doing since I left.  Namely, he wanted to know about the man I’d brought along with me.

I got lost somewhere between my first year out of Marnie’s and my first year in college.  He was my English Lit professor, and then my mentor, and as the days turned into weeks turned into months, he became my boyfriend – or something like that.

He didn’t like labels, and told me as much the first time he kissed me outside of the ballet.  I was drawn to him instantly, though – to his worldliness and his salt and pepper hair and his positively crystal clear blue eyes.  He took me on a new kind of journey, one away from my tortured past and into a new future.

And when I announced that I was going home for Marnie’s funeral, he was there at the airport with me, arranging for a TA to take over his class for the next two weeks while I booked our seats and made sure he had a window seat near the front because he hated being at the back of the plane.

I understood him – all of his little ticks and nuances, and he… well, he got me.

At least, what I would show him.

“It’s complicated,” I said to Tyson, watching as he and Darcy attempted to set up a net for night volleyball.  She would get tangled in the strings, and I could see the vein in his forehead pop out, his telltale sign of being frustrated.  He didn’t suffer fools lightly, and though my friend was no fool, she did tend to be a little too ditzy.  He was losing his patience.

I knew everything about him, and we had more or less moved in together, but we were still a strictly “no labels” couple, two peas in separate pods, individuals who happened to spend time with one another on more than one night a week.

“Asher,” I called out, standing up from my seat on the back porch.  He looked to me, pleading for me to come help him with his eyes.

“I got this, Ellis!” Darcy called out.  “We just can’t find the… oh!  There’s the stake!”

My friend tied one string to the stake, and placed it in the ground.  Asher rolled his eyes, unnoticeable to everyone but me.

“He’s a little impatient, isn’t he?”

Or so I thought.

“He’s just a perfectionist,” I said, taking a seat next to Tyson.  “Our place is immaculate.  He even has his books organized by the Dewey Decimal System.”

“Sounds like a drag.”

My breath caught in my throat upon hearing the familiar voice.  He jumped off the porch from the top step and ran out to help Asher and Darcy, not giving me a second look.  He took the net from Asher, and pointed to the box of spotlights.  Asher picked up the box, seemingly relieved at being taken off net duty.  I watched him, his dress shirt perfectly pressed and buttoned.  He was out of place in his Italian leather shoes and designer jeans, but he took it all in stride.

“He’s not wrong,” Tyson told me.

I shrugged, watching him place the spotlights at different corners of the makeshift court we’d put together.  “You don’t know him like I know him.”

Tyson waited, allowing me to continue speaking, knowing I had more to say.

“He put me back together,” I explained.  “After leaving home, and Anders, and the book… he made it all make sense again.  He made me make sense again.”

“He doesn’t even call you his girlfriend,” Tyson stated matter-of-factly.  “He says you’re his companion.”

“I am,” I said.

We were silent, watching Anders and Darcy set up the net, and Asher place the spotlights on the ground.  He winked at me as he placed the last one, before reporting to Anders for his next task.

“He’s old enough to be your dad,” Tyson pointed out.

“He’s mature,” I countered.

“He hates us.”

“He’s just impatient.”

“Is he wearing Italian leather?”

“He likes nice things.”

“He doesn’t even call you his girlfriend,” Tyson said again, his tone of voice changing, fighting me.

I opened my mouth to respond, to come up with a retort, but there was none.  I had nothing.

He didn’t even call me his girlfriend.

“What happened to you, Ellis?”  Tyson asked me.

I ran a hand through my hair – my perfectly groomed hair with my perfectly manicured fingernails – and blew out a breath.  There was no answer I could give him that wouldn’t hurt, no words I could offer that would make him understand.  All I could give him was the truth.

So I did.

“After Anders left it felt like I couldn’t breathe,” I said.  “Asher… he put me back together.”

“But he—“

“He doesn’t call me his girlfriend,” I interjected.  “And I realize how problematic that is.  It hurts sometimes.  I live with the man and he refuses to call me his girlfriend.  I’m his companion, like I’m supposed to tend to his every need or something.”

I watched as Anders found the volleyball and hit it over the net to Asher.  He returned it easily, and Darcy jumped in and hit it back.  He returned it.

He was outnumbered, and he was even handling that with ease.

“What happened?”

I knew the answer.  I didn’t want to tell him, but I had to.

“He happened,” I said, my eyes on Anders as he hit the ball back over the net to Asher.  He jumped, his shirt rising to show a sliver of skin.  I felt the heat rising to my face, felt my heart rate increase.

Five years later, and he still got to me.

“He broke my heart into a million pieces, Tyson.  And I didn’t think I’d ever breathe again, and then one day I did, and it was because of Asher.  Maybe he doesn’t call me his girlfriend.  Maybe he needs everything to be perfect and cleans the apartment every day because he can’t stand dirt, but he pieced me back together, and sometimes loving someone means putting up with the parts of them you can’t stand.”

I stared out at the field, at Asher and Anders and Darcy as they played, hoping to have put an end to the conversation.  I heard Tyson clear his throat beside me, finally silenced.

Only he wasn’t.

“And he’s said he loves you?”

And finally, I didn’t have an answer.

it’s not easy breaking your heart

“It certainly wasn’t easy breaking your heart.”

The room was small, and it smelled awful – like a campfire, so smoky.  I coughed, trying to clear my lungs and my nose of the smell, but it was no use.  I would smell like burnt wood for days.

I stared out the window at the town that was once ours – all lit up with twinkle lights for the yearly end of summer festival.  We were Anders and Ellis, two of Marnie’s worst cases.  We were madly in love, so blissed out on one another that the world outside didn’t exist.  We thought we were invincible, thought nothing could touch us.

“We were just two dumb kids.”

No one ever thought we’d make it out of this town alive, and now here we were: standing in an old dusty room in the back of the old church finally talking about what broke us, what made us no longer invincible, what finally touched us.

I stared at the boy I once loved, now a man who I still loved more than words could describe.  So much had changed about him – his once lanky frame now muscled and bulky – and yet so much hadn’t changed – his black hair still pulled back from his face, his corkscrew curls looking more like dreads because they were so thick.  He was still Anders.  He was still that boy, but he’d grown.  And I was still Ellis.

But I’d grown too.

He sat down on the floor, stretching his legs in front of him.  “We’re going to be here awhile,” he said to me, patting the space next to him.

I stared at the door that had shut and locked behind us and sighed.  I folded my arms over my chest.  “I’d rather stand.”

“Still the same Ellis.”

“Still the same Anders.”

He rolled his eyes at me and directed his attention to the scene outside.  The town was deserted, and neither of us had the presence of mind to bring our phones with us to the room that held the sparklers for the Firefly Ceremony.  We really weren’t getting out of here.  I could have relented and been nice to him.

But I really was still the same Ellis.

“It wasn’t easy breaking your heart.”

“You said that already,” I told him.

“I thought it needed to be said again,” he responded, his voice low and husky, that same timbre that used to sing me to sleep when we were on opposite ends of the continent, exploring our respective dreams – dreams that we’d eventually achieved.

Dreams that eventually broke us.

“We were two dumb kids.”

“You said that already,” he told me, his voice mocking, issuing a challenge.

“I thought it needed to be said again,” I told him, arching an eyebrow at him.

He smirked.  I smirked.  He looked at me.  I looked at him.  It was a game of ‘blink’ and I was going to win.

He blinked.

I won.

He shook his head.  “You could look for the sparklers while you’re up there.”

“You could have looked for the sparklers before you sat down.”

“Are you going to try and clap back at me every time I speak?”

“Are you going to try and tell me what I should be doing?”  I asked.  “You lost that right a long time ago.”

“I thought I apologized for that,” he said, running his hand over the back of his neck, refusing to look me in the eye.

“You said it wasn’t easy breaking my heart, Anders,” I told him. “That’s not an apology.  It’s an explanation.”

“What do you want me to say, Ellis?”

I shook my head.  “Nothing.” A pause.  “I’m going to look for the sparklers.”

I stepped over him, making my way to the filing cabinet in the corner.  I had no idea what purpose it served, since it had no drawers.  There was a box at the bottom, and I squatted down to look inside.  It was filled with boxes of sparklers.

“That was fast,” I said.

“Find them?”

He was so close, his voice enveloping me.  I stopped, frozen in place.  He was right behind me, but he was all over me.  He was suddenly in everything again, the same way he was in high school, when I was just a girl madly in love with a boy who was just as broken as me.

“Ye—“ I cleared my throat.  “Yeah,” I said.  I took a deep breath and stood slowly.  I turned, holding out the box of sparklers to him.  “Right here.”

“Right,” he said, studying me.  His eyes bore into me, that same icy blue that I could get lost in.  He took the box from me and looked away, ending whatever moment we’d been having.  He walked away from me and I took a deep breath, hoping to rid myself of whatever feelings I was having, but all I got was smoky burnt wood.

I preferred the smell of him.

“I’m sorry.”

I looked at him, his back to me as he stared out at the town, the bright light of the moon drenching him in white.

I leaned against the wall.  “For?”

He turned, and that was the first time I saw it – regret, or hurt, or some combination of the two.  It was a new look on him, the boy with the stiff upper lip and the man with the Cheshire cat grin.  He looked down, inhaling a shaky breath.

I pushed myself off the wall and tentatively took a step towards him.  He looked up.  “Elle?”

“What are you sorry for?” I asked again.

He hesitated, looking between me and the door behind me, still locked, still taunting us, making us share this cramped, suffocating space.  I cast a glance behind me at the door, then looked at him again.  He took a step forward, and so did I.  I took a step forward, and so did he.  It was a dance of sorts, but neither of us knew the steps.

“What are you sorry for?”

“Everything,” he said then, and he closed the distance between us and melded his lips to mine.

So many memories flashed through my head.  I saw us kissing for the first time in this very spot when we were just fourteen – two scared kids who didn’t know the first thing about love.  I saw us sitting on the bench outside of the church holding hands and talking about the future.  I saw us saying good-bye at the airport, all tears and blotched faces, promising we’d love each other forever.

And I saw him saying good-bye to me, late one night on a sidewalk in New York City, telling me that our lives were too different, and that he couldn’t love me the way I needed to be loved.

I pushed him away, taking several deep breaths.  All I could smell was the smoke from the charred wall from the fire that I’d started when I was twelve and my mom left home again, left me wondering if anyone would ever love me enough not to leave me.  It had been over a decade and they still hadn’t replaced that wall, likely wanting it to serve as a bitter reminder for me that I was a screwed up person with a screwed up life.

“I can’t,” I finally said, my heart thumping in my ears.  I closed my eyes, tried to silence it, tried to calm myself down, but it was no use.

“I’m so—“


We jumped apart then as Darcy threw the door to the room open.  “You guys like, disappeared, and…” She stopped, looking between us.  “What happened?”

I froze again, unsure what to say, how to explain what really happened here, in this room that held so much of my own story.  Did I tell her?  She was my best friend, she knew about my story with Anders.  She knew everything about us.

Which told me she wouldn’t react well if I told her what had happened just two minutes before she’d opened the door.

“We came in here to look for sparklers,” Anders said, his voice booming, so loud that I flinched.  “Forgot our phones out there, the door got stuck so we’ve been waiting for someone to realize we were gone.”

“Oh, we noticed,” Tyson said as he poked his head inside the room.

Here we were again: Marnie’s kids.  The ones who’d made it, made something of ourselves.  The silence was deafening – her absence again falling over us like a heavy blanket.  I was suffocating.

“We should get out of here,” I finally said.  I pointed to the box under the window sill.  “Sparklers are there.  They’re too heavy.  I can’t carry them.”

“I’ll get them,” Anders said, his voice dismissive, detached again.  I recognized it from the night he walked away.

“Let’s go Ellis,” Darcy said, holding her hand out to me.  I took it willingly and followed her, grabbing my phone off of the pew at the front as we made our way outside.  The town was still lit up, all twinkly and calm – a stark contrast to the room I’d just been in.


Darcy and I stopped outside of the church as Anders and Tyson caught up to us.  “I need to talk to Ellis.”

Darcy looked between the two of us, presumably looking for approval from me.  I shrugged, but secretly hoped she’d stay.

“Alright, Tyson, let’s give these two a minute.”  Darcy looped her arm through Tyson’s and dragged him to the gazebo where people were finally gathering.  I watched them twirl around in the middle of the street, still the same two carefree souls I’d met on a cold April day when Marnie took me in.

I felt my heart lurch at the thought of her, at the thought of that day, when I first met Anders, too, and how much had changed in the ten years since.

“I’m sorry.”

I bristled at the words, finally looking up at Anders.  “What are you sorry for, Anders?  And don’t give me that ‘everything’ nonsense again.  Tell me, specifically, what you are apologizing for.”

He stared out at the gazebo, at our adopted siblings still dancing in the middle of the street, at the town as they gathered underneath the twinkle lights, at the big bright moon above us.  I looked out at all of it with him, waiting for his response, sure he’d write me off again, try and get a pass with a vague answer.

He took a deep breath, and I waited.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.

“For not loving you,” he said, finally.  “For not telling you sooner that I didn’t love you.”

His words, when he finally spoke them, cut me to the core, made me wish I’d never asked him to explain.  They cut me so deep that I could feel them in my soul, right in my heart, slashing it to pieces the same way he did that night.

“For breaking your heart.”

And I felt my heart break all over again.

honoring the fallen

What have I given,
Bold sailor on the sea,
In earth or heaven,
That you should die for me?

What can I give,
O soldier, leal and brave,
Long as I live,
To pay the life you gave?

What tithe or part
Can I return to thee,
O stricken heart,
That thou shouldst break for me?

The wind of Death
For you has slain life’s flowers,
It withereth
(God grant) all weeds in ours.

F.W. Bourdillon


I have not always understood the true purpose of Memorial Day.  That is not to say that I take for granted the purpose of this holiday; rather, I was one who wished people a “Happy Memorial Day” and thanked veterans for their service.  And that is not to say that I am not thankful; rather, I was missing the point – Memorial Day is for the fallen, those who we must remember, those whose memory we must keep alive, even though they are not.

And yet my mind still goes to the living – those soldiers who came home from war alive.  I’ve always heard that war changes you, and I do not take those words lightly.  I’ve met countless veterans over the years whose families say that the way they are now is not the way they’ve always been.  I’ve met veterans themselves who have said that the wars they fought changed them on the outside and the inside.

I wholly agree that Memorial Day is for the fallen, and do not wish to debate this.  But I would also submit to you that perhaps Memorial Day is also for the living who did not come back in one piece.  Perhaps they left an arm or a leg on foreign soil; or perhaps they left a happy and carefree person, and have come back unsure, scared, and feeling alone.  No matter the change, there is a piece of that person that was left on the battlefield.  There is a piece of that person missing, a piece of that person has died.

I will spend this day reflecting as I always have – honoring the fallen, thanking them silently for their sacrifice, and bearing a sadness I cannot describe that it is only one day a year we have set aside to do this.  I will reflect on poems as that one above, thankful for the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their life so that I can sit here and write this.

And yet a part of me will also mourn those who are still living, those who have lost pieces of themselves – physical and mental pieces – to wars that they fought on my behalf.  I will silently thank those brave souls as well for doing what I could never do.  I will silently mourn the losses they have suffered.  Because Memorial Day is for the fallen, and yet the fallen are not all deceased.

The fallen is the veteran who can’t go to a fireworks show because the sound is too much for him to bear.  The fallen is the veteran who lost an arm because they encountered a roadside bomb.  The fallen is the veteran who shoots straight up in the middle of the night covered in sweat and tears, because the nightmares are just so real.  The fallen is the (more than) 22 veterans a day who end their lives because they no longer see hope in their situations.

I will remember all of our nation’s fallen, and continue to be grateful for the sacrifices they made.  I will reflect on the love these men and women had for their country – a love so great they were willing to die.  This holiday, for me, will always be about honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice; but this year, I will also remember those who have made various other sacrifices, lost parts of themselves, and have been completely and utterly changed by the wars they fought.

With a heavy, and grateful, heart.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Without Reason contest/giveaway!

I promised myself that if I didn’t find an agent by the end of the year, I was going to self-publish in 2016.  With that in mind, I am now hosting a contest/giveaway for my newest book, Without Reason!

The rules are fairly simple.  I have four options for the cover art for the book.  I want YOUR (yes, all of you!) help picking the one you like the best.  The one with the most votes wins.  AND, from all of the people who take the time to vote, I am picking one person to win a free signed copy.

A brief synopsis can be found below the pictures.  To vote, just put in the comments section your choice — cover one, cover two, cover three, or cover four.

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It came as no surprise to Simone Perrier that she fell madly in love with Jacob Wessner. The summer before college felt different, like something big was about to happen. Just hours before she was set to move across the country, she spotted him in a crowded bar. She wasn’t looking for love, but it certainly found her, and the next ten years of Simone’s life were nothing short of a roller coaster.

WITHOUT REASON details from Simone’s point of view the highest and lowest points of her decade-long love story with Jacob, providing unique insight into a relationship between two people who just can’t seem to get it right. Simone speaks to her own indecisiveness, trying to choose between her life with Jacob, the fatally flawed man who loved her more, and Ian Colston, the man who seemed to calm the chaos Jacob caused. In the end, Simone is left with a choice between the two, but she realizes even the simplest of answers can cause the greatest heartache.

better place

“I never knew things could be so bright.”

I turned to look at her.  She was standing at a spot in the Space Needle where the sun was brightly shining through.  She looked like an angel.  I forced myself to not think about the terrible, awful things I’d done to her.  She was beautiful, untouched.

Not even by me.

“You made everything bright again for me,” she said.  “You made my life a better place, Jake.  I can’t… it’s crazy, right?  Our relationship is so dysfunctional.  But… you made everything better.”

“I could say the same thing for you,” I told her.

“Yeah, well, you don’t say it often enough.”  I stood beside her as she looked out at Seattle.  It was an unusually sunny day in the city, but I wasn’t complaining.  It gave me a chance to take my girl out, see the sights.  We hadn’t had much time to ourselves.

I sighed.  That was my fault.

“Don’t do that.”  Her eyes never left the view.  Even without looking at me, she knew I was beating myself up.  “Don’t hate yourself because you have a job and you’re busy.”

“I heard that inflection,” I told her.  “You can get a job, Simone.  It’s not like—“

“It’s not like we’re moving back to New York in a month?”  She asked.  “What would be the point of taking a job when this is temporary?”

“We can stay out here,” I said.

She shook her head.  “I want to go home, Jake.  I miss my friends.  I miss my family.”  I saw her lips pout as she stared out at the view.  “I miss us.”

“We’re still the same people, Simone,” I said.  “We haven’t changed.  You’re still the girl I fell in love with one summer.  I’m still the—“

“The guy who put my heart back together and broke it all over again?”

“Are we having a fight?”  I asked.  “Is that what you want to do?  We can have a fight, but I’d prefer if we weren’t in public.”

“I’d prefer if I were back home, but alas, we can’t always get what we want.”

“You moved to Seattle with me, Simone,” I told her.  “I didn’t force you to come.  I told you that you could stay home and I’d be back.”

“We did the long distance thing already, Jake,” she said.  “We broke up twice.”

“Once,” I countered.

“So the day you slept with the TA for my history class was what, a break?”  She sighed.  “We aren’t Ross and Rachel.”

“I would hope not,” I said, remembering the episodes of Friends we watched together over the years.  “I don’t have the energy to chase you all the way to Paris.”

“She got off the plane,” Simone deadpanned.  “Granted, you haven’t had a movie night with me in forever, so you haven’t seen that episode recently.”

“Do you want to have it out here?”  I asked.  “I’m trying, Simone.  I’m really, really trying, and all you seem to want to do is argue.”

“I don’t want to argue, Jake,” she said sadly.  She finally turned to meet my eyes.  “I just… I wanted to tell you how much better things are with you, but this really is the most dysfunctional relationship I’ve ever been in, and yet it’s the best relationship I’ve ever been in.”  She leaned against me, resting her head on my chest.  I wrapped my arms around her, sheltering her as best I could – though as of late I hadn’t been doing a good job of that.  “You’re my one in ten million, and yet I can’t help but feel like you’re still looking for that.  Like I’m not enough, even though I moved out here, even though I put grad school on hold so we could be together out here.”

“I’m not,” I said firmly.  “I’m not looking for anything, Simone, outside of you.  Look, I’m sorry I keep fucking up.  I’m sorry I keep sleeping with anything in a dress.”  I chuckled bitterly.  “And I’m sorry I forced your hand to move out here, but I promise you, things are going to be different.  Things are going to be better when we move home.  You’re going to go to grad school and I’m going to be a hot detective and we’re going to rule the world together.”

She laughed.  “You sound awful sure of yourself.”

“Yeah, well…” I trailed off, searching for the right words.  “I can do anything with you.”

“Ditto,” she said.  “But… can you do me a favor and start telling me these things without me having to almost start an all-out brawl in public?”

I smiled at her.  “Why don’t you tell me?”

“No girl wants to tell her boyfriend that she wants to be appreciated,” she said.  “I just… I want you to think of you, Jake.  I want you to do what’s necessary so you can get ahead, but I want you to think of me, too.  Of us.”

I kissed her forehead, hugging her tight to me.  I remembered in the early days of our relationship when I was so scared of crushing her – how tiny she was, how fragile she looked.  But she was stronger now, full of sugar and spice and piss and vinegar.  I’d put her through hell, but she stuck by me in spite of it.  I shoved my hand in my pocket, felt the velvet box that I’d been holding for a year.  I was waiting for the right moment, wanted to do things right by her, make up for all the shit I put her through.  Now seemed as good a time as any…

“Oh!”  She squealed, releasing me.  I dropped the box, my hand flying out of my pocket.  “Can we get sushi and red vines and binge watch that new fairytale TV show?  Hadley says it’s super complex and you have to watch everything together.”

I smiled.  There would be a better moment, less public, when I could finally ask her to spend the rest of her life with me.  “Yeah, let’s get out of here.  Want to pick up sushi on the way home or have it delivered?”

She shrugged, looping her arm through mine.  “I don’t care.  Though the sushi place that delivers has those spring rolls you really like.  Hey, Hads said that Cinderella makes an appearance, too…”

I smiled as she chatted away about the new show and all the characters she was excited to see.  She was a simple girl – woman, really.  She’d grown so much since that first night on the beach, and I’d had the privilege of watching her grow.  She was beautiful then, but now… she was even more radiant, bright, full of life.

And it didn’t matter if it happened tonight or another eight years from now, I knew I would be spending forever with her.