Welcome one and all back to Liz Land!
It’s a fun place…chock full of too many drinks, too much pizza, handsome dudes, hot athletes, and books with kissing and mucho sexy times.
It’s also a place where I’ll sometimes post a review of a book I feel strongly that YOU should read. Or a review of the odd restaurant or bar. Or even a TV show.
In short, it’s my place and I welcome YOU to it!
I’ve got a robust year ahead, with several book re-releases and releases plus some Major Life Changes on the horizon. And we shall travel this road together, you and me, arm in arm (or at least touching elbows, lest we spill our drinks!)
I thought I’d share a little something special with you, by way of celebrating the upcoming re-release of GOOD FAITH, book 8 of the Stewart Realty Series. This book is the longest I’ve ever written and includes some of the most complex relationship dynamics I’ve ever crafted. It is not a romance novel. But within its pages, it contains two young adult /teen romances, as well as stories about exploring bi-sexuality, managing mature marriages, parenthood challenges, leaning on friends and family when you need it, as well as an addiction storyline that I do not take lightly.
Here is a longish excerpt, exclusive to this, our First Pro Rookie Blog Post Together!
Be sure and pre-order your copy of GOOD FAITH, or if you agree to post reviews within two weeks after its re-release on June 8, sign up here to receive an ARC of this long, not-a-romance, yet super compelling novel. NOTE that if you have read a previous version of Good Faith, you are missing out on this new, improved, revisioned one.
And now sans further ado, an exclusive peek inside the pages of GOOD FAITH… plus a bonus photo collage!
Jack sat in the Adirondack chair and observed the crowd gathered around the last bonfire of this, what felt like the last vacation where he had any handle on his children as actual children and not almost-adults. There had been a few dramatic moments this trip. Every time Brandis and Blair would disappear from the group Rob would shoot eye daggers at him and once nailed him in the crotch with a soccer ball—“an accident,” he’d claimed.
By the second week it became clear that Gabe and Lillian Grace were doing their fair share of sneaking off to screw, which went over about as well as would be expected with her father. Jack’s ever-practical friend Suzanne had taken it in stride, pulling her red-faced spluttering husband away from a defiant looking and definitely quickly re-dressed young couple.
Katie and her now-fiancé Hugh had broken their alarming news—the baby kind, and the wedding kind. Sara had been incandescent over that until he reminded her that she had loved Hugh the second Katie brought him home the first time and that he would do right by their older daughter—the girl who had brought the two of them together, finally.
There had been random bee stings, bloody scrapes and a broken finger on his nephew little Blake, thanks to a fall from a tree, which could have gone way worse than it did. Bethany, his favorite child at the moment, had been quiet, less involved with the group than usual, but at least that meant she wasn’t fighting them tooth and nail on every little thing for a change.
He startled when someone put a cold beer bottle against his arm. “Hey,” he said, turning slightly to see Kyle Summerlin whom he’d convinced to join them for the last few days. “Thanks.” He held onto the beer and watched his large, dark-skinned, former pro football playing friend settle into the chair on his right. Evan sat half-dozing in the chair to his left.
Kyle sighed and leaned back in the chair. “This is pretty sweet Gordon. Thanks for the invite.”
“Glad you guys made it,” Jack said, letting himself be mesmerized by the dancing firelight. The men stayed silent, sipping, and listening to the women and children chatter and move around just past the circle of the fire.
“Well, you gentlemen need to congratulate me,” Kyle said, making Jack blink and turn to look at him.
“Congratulations. What for?”
“I’m gonna be a dad.”
Jack choked on a sip of beer, spitting it out onto the sand. Evan sat up straight, rubbing his eyes. “What the fuck?” Jack said, when he could breathe again. “Dude you’re…our age.”
“Thanks. I’m aware of how old I am.” Kyle’s deep brown skin glowed and his eyes were hooded as he stared back at the fire.
“Okay then,” Evan said. “This calls for something stronger.” He reached over to his other side and pulled a bottle of fifty-year-old bourbon from a bag.
“Pass that over here, Adams, before I lose my bloody nerve,” Kyle said, holding out a hand. “God,” he said, after taking a long slug from the neck of the bottle.
“That’s not rotgut, my man, savor it,” Evan said, shooting Jack a look.
Jack took the bottle from Kyle and sat, holding it. “You let her talk you into it?”
“Yeah. She’s persuasive.”
Jack chuckled. “I can see that. I’m happy for you.” He took a sip of the smooth brown liquor and passed it over to Evan. He’d been trying to curtail his alcohol consumption over the summer, for Brandis’ sake, and found that he didn’t miss it as much as he thought he would.
“Me too,” Evan said, holding up the bottle in salute. And in the way of men, those were the only words necessary. The circle around the fire started to fill in. Brandis sat with Blair between his knees. Their heads were close together, and in the in-and-out light of the fire Jack saw the intensity of his son’s gaze as he stared at the girl. He prayed that Brandis would stick to his guns, play football, go to class, and stay out of trouble. If it took the sheer will of the pretty girl looking back at him to accomplish that, then Jack was all for it.
He looked over and caught Gabe and Lillian in a lip lock near the deck. Katie and Hugh were huddled under a light blanket opposite him. Jack narrowed his eyes at the young man as he put an arm around Jack’s daughter’s shoulders and whispered something in her ear that made her laugh and turn to him for a kiss. Evan’s twin girls, long, tall, gorgeous blondes like their mother sat with Bethany roasting marshmallows. They were between boyfriends their father had declared with relief.
Rob flopped into a seat on the other side of Kyle, swearing under his breath when he caught sight of Gabe tugging Lillian closer to the fire, both of them looking rumpled and embarrassed. Then rolling his eyes when he saw Brandis kissing Blair.
“We are quite the Peyton Place,” Jack commented, leaning forward to grab a stick and stab a few marshmallows with it. But his heart felt light. He and Sara had had an amazing time together, just the two of them and with their kids and friends. He smiled to himself, remembering when Bethany had caught them in a quick and dirty moment in the laundry room, then again when Katie had walked in on them in one of the guest rooms. Yeah, he felt completely reconnected with his wife on many levels. The Brandis and Blair thing was now out in the open and while he didn’t like it, Rob hadn’t let it cause too much strife—yet.
All the kids coupling up had given this trip a sense of finality. And Jack wondered if any of them would ever be the same after this summer. When the boys left for school, Katie and Hugh went to medical school, and all of their lives would be altered in a few months when a new baby joined them. Jack felt his eyes burn.
His baby…about to have a baby…and they were so damn young still. Dear god he felt old. Bethany wandered around the fire handing out graham crackers and chocolate bars. He smiled and slid a perfectly toasted marshmallow between two crackers and patted the arm of his chair so she would sit and share the treat with him.
Craig and Suzanne appeared from the gloom, looking content. They’d spent the day in town alone, and Jack could tell it had done them some good. Craig looked less anxiety-riddled when he spotted his daughter sitting on Gabe’s lap, eating a s’more from his fingers. He watched them a minute, remembering something Blair had said once about her brother—about how she believed he might be bi-sexual and should explore that side of himself to be “honest,” she’d said in the self-satisfied, all-knowing way only teenagers can affect.
“Hey, blue eyes,” Julie appeared, dragging a chair and holding a glass of wine. She stationed herself between Evan and Jack, after laying a kiss on her husband’s lips.
“Cut that shit out,” Jack said, reaching over to mime grabbing her boob. “Unless you’re gonna share some.”
“Get off me, Gramps.” She smacked his hand away lightly. Evan turned her to him and kissed her again, flipping Jack off behind her back.
Jack chuckled, and sat back once more. His family, his friends, were all around but for the absence of a noted few—Sara’s brother Blake whose tragic death had rocked their collective worlds for years; her father Matthew and now her mother Beth who’d died about a year after her husband—all were sorely missed. Were it not for them he’d have everyone he loved most in the world around him. “Hey,” he peered around the fire. “Where’s my sister?”
“Over here dear brother,” Maureen called out, walking up hand-in-hand with her husband Rafael Inez, the young man who’d helped Jack conjure a winning soccer club for Detroit out of seemingly thin air. Rafe saluted him and they put their chairs in the sand next to Brandis and Blair who took their lovey-dovey eyes off each other long enough to acknowledge them.
Brandis had been special to Mo from the day of his birth. Not just because he bore her late, first husband’s name. “It’s like he got the worst and the best of both of you guys,” she’d said to him once as she paced the floor with the boy in his early temper-tantrum prone days. “I want him to succeed in spite of that.”
Jack watched her put an arm around both of the kids, tell them something that made them all laugh, then settle back into her seat, holding hands with Rafe. Her other two hadn’t made it this year. The twins Ella and Adam were much older, busy with their families and jobs this year, and couldn’t join them.
A sudden chill hit his spine. The fire seemed to dim, as if on a switch. Silly, he knew, but odd. He grabbed a water bottle from a nearby cooler and downed half of it. Noises, conversation, laughter went on all around him, here at his place where he provided everything his family needed. The odd, panicked sensation spread to his chest making his heart thump.
He kept watching everyone around him but their voices slowly faded. All he heard at that moment was a strange, low, keening sound. A sort of crying but from a raw, wounded-sounding throat, so the noise was rough, low and tired. And on the heels of that, a black hole seemed to open up, releasing a dread so palpable and real it forced him to his feet. He made his way away from the fire, stumbling over his own feet, trying to dispel the terrifying emptiness that chased him, seeking to pull him under, suffocate him.
The wooden props under the lowest deck level provided a dark, safe haven. They felt real, solid, and calmed him as he gripped them. He kept watching the group, who’d barely noticed his leaving. Kyle still held onto the bourbon bottle. Evan and Julie were snuggled up in his chair now, her long blonde hair curtaining their faces. The kids, including Katie and the newly accepted Hugh, were all roasting marshmallows, no longer in their too-adult-like couples, more like the noisy, boisterous, cloud of young humanity that they had been for so long. Little Blake was right in the middle, as usual, clowning around and making the whole crowd laugh. Rob and Lila passed more ingredients around. Craig tuned up his guitar while Suzanne sat at his feet, staring into the flames.
Jack put a hand on his chest, wondering if he were having a heart attack or something. Then he heard her, Sara, her voice loud and strong and demanding to be told now if anyone needed anything else because she was not going back up the steps once she got down here and where the hell was Jack anyway? He closed his eyes for a split second and saw her face, recalled her standing at the door of an empty condo the day they first met, and felt his heart splinter in a thousand pieces at the memory of that chance moment.
“Over here,” he croaked out, making his way back into the crowd.
“Ew, Daddy you didn’t go pee over there did you?” Bethany demanded, motioning for him to sit back down next to her.
“Maybe,” he said, winking at her.
“Yuck,” she declared, but leaned into him as he sat amongst the kids. He grabbed Sara’s arm as she passed by him and tugged her into his lap. The need to hang onto her was so strong he couldn’t explain it.
“Hey,” she whispered, putting her arms around his neck as Craig started singing a Simon and Garfunkel ballad. He saw that Kyle’s wife Shannon had joined the group and sat nestled into Kyle’s lap. He rested his huge hand on her stomach and whispered in her ear. The group, mostly complete, gave him such a jolt of melancholy he had to shake his head to dispel it.
When everyone joined in the song, Jack leaned into Sara’s neck, but the cold chill would not leave him. It made him want to stand up and run off, to escape whatever loomed, promising unhappiness.
But he sat, and after a while he relaxed again, as his friends and family sang, ate, drank and enjoyed their last night together, before dispersing to a life that felt so incredibly unknown, so ominous with its many possibilities. He took a long, deep breath and held on tighter to the one thing he knew would never change, especially now that they had such a firm grip on their recent near-brush with marital disasters—his love, his anchor, his wife, his Sara.