FORGIVE ME by Eliza Freed (November 4, 2014; Forever Yours E-Book; $3.99)
The thing he loves most in the world will kill him. It’s only a matter of time . . . “
College student Charlotte O’Brien is lost and she can’t find her way home. Devastated by her parents’ tragic deaths, she aches for any kind of connection…and finds it in a man who is all wrong for her. Jason Leer is a rough-hewn steer wrestler from Oklahoma-and the hottest thing Charlotte has ever laid eyes on. Yet he has his own dark secrets…
Burying herself in Jason, Charlotte soon discovers that life doesn’t have to be so painful. When they’re together their passion eclipses everything-and Charlotte can finally begin to see a way out of the darkness of her past. Fighting for a future with Jason won’t be easy, but for the first time since her parents’ deaths, this lost soul might have finally found a place that feels like home.
About the Author:
Eliza Freed graduated from Rutgers University and returned to her hometown in rural South Jersey. Her mother encouraged her to take some time and find herself. After three months of searching, she began to bounce checks and her neighbors began to talk; her mother told her to find a job.
She settled into Corporate America, learning systems and practices and the bureaucracy that slows them. Eliza quickly discovered her creativity and gift for story telling as a corporate trainer and spent years perfecting her presentation skills and studying diversity. It’s during this time she became an avid observer of the characters we meet and the heartaches we endure. Her years of study have taught her laughter is the key to survival, even when it’s completely inappropriate.
She currently lives in New Jersey with her family and a misbehaving beagle named Odin. An avid swimmer, if Eliza is not with her family and friends, she’d rather be underwater. While she enjoys many genres, she has always been a sucker for a love story…the more screwed up the better.
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I couldn’t decide between two of the excerpts so I decided that I would spotlight both!
I sit up and a pain jabs from my neck down between my shoulders. I roll my head as I pinch the muscle on both sides. The kink will take days to come out. It’s from attempting to sleep on the concrete wall that is Jason Leer’s chest. He is painful. But the thought of sleeping without him sends a chill down my spine. Watching him sleep, his black hair circling his face, makes him seem so gentle and calm. He looks sweet in his sleep, but Jason’s not sweet. He’s some force between good and evil that whisks me away from everything I’m afraid of.
We should be talking more, though. We exist in silence. No one has sex this often without speaking. I’m not sure what has to be said, but I think everyone else is talking about something. The world is communicating. Jason rolls onto his side. He reaches out and grabs my hip. Without opening his eyes he slides his hand up my side until he comes to my breast and there he rests his hand as he smiles. My stomach flips and I cannot help but smile, too. This cowboy is doing something to me. Jason’s eyes open and rise to me, his hand never leaving my breast.
“What’s your favorite color?” I ask.
Jason seems frustrated, or amused. For Jason, the two emotions might be the same.
“You’ve known my favorite color since we first learned the names of the colors,” he says, sitting up.
“Red? Is it red?”
“Are you thinking, Annie?”
“Thinking about what?”
“Thinking in general. Trying to figure this out? Trying to make sense of everything. It’s probably the reason we’ve never been together before last week. The entire world doesn’t have to make perfect sense.”
I take a deep breath. Why does he piss me off so much?
“I can tell by your anger I’m right,” he says, and pulls me onto his lap. He throws one leg over the side of his body and I’m pretty sure he could hog-tie me if he wanted to. “My favorite color is red.”
“Do you think you’re falling in love with me?” I ask, afraid of the answer.
“What are you doing with me then?” I need to know, but panic seizes me. I need him so much.
“Surviving.” I look down at his chest. My hands find his nipples and with both between my fingers I consider pulling until he yelps.
“I don’t understand,” I say, barely above a whisper.
“Falling in love with you does not begin to describe what’s going on.” Jason tilts my chin up so I’m forced to see his gray eyes. “I felt like I was walking around dead from the day my mom died until I drove you to Stoners Lane.” He pauses and I remember how he stole me. “You are the only thing I need. The only thing I want. And you consume me every minute of every day. With you, I am alive. Without you, I am not,” he says, and the weight of his words crushes me. “‘I love you’ just doesn’t properly convey that.”
“Oh,” I say.
“Stop thinking. Give your mind a break and just be with me.” I slide closer to him and kiss him. By the time he bends me backward onto the bed I forget what we were even talking about.
Fall is officially upon us. The leaves have turned and are already beginning to float to the ground with the mid-October breeze. The first to land crunch under our feet as we walk the two blocks to Kirkpatrick Chapel.
“What is this thing we’re going to again?” I ask Julia, who’s slipped her arm through mine.
“It’s a benefit concert. There were only five hundred tickets sold so it should be intimate.” Julia says this with an air of romance. All five hundred of us are filing into the chapel at the same time. I haven’t been here since my first days at Rutgers. It’s probably similar to what it looked like in 1873 when it was built for Rutgers students to worship.
We walk through the double doors held open by ushers with buckets soliciting additional donations and the rose red walls engulf the chapel. White pillars stretching to high ceilings highlight the dark wood floors and the wooden pews. We file in, moving as close to the front as possible. It hits me that Kirkpatrick is the first church I’ve been in since the death of my parents. A cold air runs across my neck and I remember my grandmother’s warnings of “catching a chill.” I think I just caught one.
Within minutes of us sitting down, the lights fall and the band plays their soulful drums and harmonica-filled songs. I’m in the middle of the pew, flanked by Julia and Violet. Noble, Wes, and Sydney make up the rest of our group. More people file into the church and plead for everyone to squeeze together. We’re all standing now so the number of people in the pew no longer matters. The acoustics in the chapel are eerie, designed for an organ, but equally moving with this blues rock band.
All I can think of is my mom. She would want me to go to church. I’m not sure this counts. But I haven’t done anything she’d want, have I? I have. I came back to Rutgers. I’m studying. I just happen to be in love with Jason Leer. The one guy she specifically told me not to love. The very last piece of advice she gave me before she died.
The music and the lyrics are too much and I find myself fighting back tears. I lean over to Julia. “I’m thirsty. I’m going to find a drink.”
“Do you want me to come with you?”
“No. I’ll be back in a few. Save me a spot,” I say, and try to appear unaffected. I slide past Noble and Wes and rush out of the chapel as I hear the last of the harmonica lightly sounding. I walk down the hill and rest my head on my arm, leaning against a tree that has probably been here since 1873 too, and I cry. I cry for my mother bleeding in a car, I cry for my father dying before he had a chance to say good-bye, and I cry for me on a tree, unable to tolerate a song about prayer in a chapel, so filled with hate for our heavenly father. I am so going to hell. This makes me cry even harder, which a small part of me recognizes as a good sign.
“Hey,” Noble says as he turns me around to face him. “What’s wrong? Did something happen?” His kindness aggravates the crying and I cover my face with my hands, too embarrassed to face him. Noble pulls my hands away and pulls me to his chest. He’s so tall my face hits square in the middle of it and I wrap my arms around his back and hold on for dear life. “Charlotte, please tell me.”
“I haven’t been to church since my parents died and…” And what, Charlotte? “And I miss my mom.”
“Charlotte, I’m sorry.” I try to keep it this side of a sob as I unleash my utter sadness right into the center of his chest. He rubs my back and never says a word. My violent sorrow eases and Noble pulls my hair from my neck and lays it on my back.
“Noble, I’m sorry. I know I am a tremendous buzz kill.” Noble keeps petting my hair.
“No, no. Crying girls are fun.” No one can kill a party like I can; one more thing to feel guilty about. I try and catch my breath and calm a little.
“Noble, what do you think we owe the dead?” Noble’s hands still and he lifts his face to the fall sky.
“What do you mean?”
“My mom didn’t want me to be with a cowboy. She told me the day she died not to fall in love with a cowboy, that it’s not safe. That it’s not what she wanted for my life,” I say, and wipe the last tears from my face. Relief courses through me at sharing my mother’s words with someone else. Noble is searching my eyes for more information. “She was specifically talking about Jason.” My heart breaks at the words released to the world. “So I’m just wondering what you think we owe the dead.” He’s silent, trying to find an answer to a question he would never have to answer if he wasn’t burdened with my friendship.
“I don’t think you owe the dead a thing. Not one thing more than you owe anyone else in this life. But Charlotte, you owe yourself to be happy.” I consider his words. “Judging from the way you’re running from churches you think you owe them a life without Jason Leer.” His words cut me and I pull back a little. Noble’s reflex pulls me to him again and I lay my head on his chest, considering the debt I’ve imposed on myself. What if it’s not a debt? What if it’s intuition? What if she’s right?
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