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Atlanta, GA, United States
I am the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon Best Selling author of The Proposition, Proposal, Music of the Heart, and Nets and Lies. I am represented by Jane Dystel of Dystel and Goderich for all books except for Proposition and Proposal.
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The Proposition

The Proposition



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Teaser Tuesday from Don't Hate the Player

So here's another teaser from Don't Hate the Player. The previous night Noah, along with Jake's father, made a startling discovery in Jake's room--they found a diamond engagement ring along with the song lyrics "You Were Always on My Mind". This scene picks up the morning after.

*This is a rough draft, subject to change, and please remember that Don't Hate the Player is YA...there won't be the level of naughtiness like in my other books!

            With Mom’s blessing to skip school, Alex, and I went over to Jake’s house to hang out with his brothers and his two cousins from out in the sticks—twins he liked to refer to as “Bubba”. Their names were actually Sean and Ryan, but Jake loved to call them just “Bubba”.
            Jonathan brought a cooler out of the apartment above the garage. We popped a few beers and lounged around by the pool. By noon, we were positively shitfaced. It took us all being drunk off our asses before we dared to bring up Jake.
            Bubba, aka Ryan and Sean, were with Jake when he died. After his seventh beer, Jonathan grabbed Ryan’s shoulder and slurred, “Dude, can you tell me how the hell it’s possible that my baby brother blew his ass up on a tractor?”
            My breath caught in my chest. I eased the can away from my lips, awaiting Bubba’s response.
            Ryan gulped down his swig of beer and shook his head. “We were all hanging out in the pasture—bored as hell. Sean and Travis (one of their other hillbilly relations) had brought along some rifles. So we started shooting beer cans off the fence,” Ryan stopped and glanced around us. “I mean, we tried shooting at them, but we were too fucking wasted.”
            Sean nodded. “Jake was pretty quiet. He kept mumbling something about falling off the wagon and ‘she’s gonna be disappointed in me’. About ten, he climbed up on Pawpaw’s tractor to get a better vantage point for the cans, or so he claimed. Travis said, “Hey dumbass, you better get off Papaw’s tractor, or he’ll wear out your hide!” But Jake just shrugged and started firing over and over again. One nicked the barbwire, ricocheted off, and…”
            Ryan noticed Sean’s hesitation. “It happened so quick. I mean, boom, and he was gone,” he muttered forlornly.
            We sat in stunned silence, staring at the sunlight glimmering on the pool water.
            Jonathan chugged the rest of his beer. Finally, in a strangled voice, he murmured, “Fuck me.”
            The sound of loud voices snapped us out of our daze. It was Mr. and Mrs. Nelson arguing.
            “Did you think you could hide it from me?” Mrs. Nelson shrieked.
            “Of course not. I just wanted you to get through the funeral first before I told you.”
            “And what is that supposed to mean, Martin? Am I such a nut job you don’t think I could handle it?”
            “No, Ev, that’s not what I thought.”
            As the voices got closer, we threw horrified glances at each other. In a drunken stupor, we stumbled around, hiding the evidence of our binge. Course, anyone with brains would have taken one look or one whiff at us and known we were totally plastered. But when you’re shitfaced, you’re not known for having very many coherent thoughts.
            Mrs. Nelson threw open the patio with such a force I thought she’d rip it off the hinges.    “Noah!” she called.
            The other guys swiveled their heads toward me.

            Shit. Damn. Hell. I straightened up in my lawn chair. “Yes, Mrs. Nelson?” I called in the

most sober voice I could conjure.

            It took me only a second to notice the velvet ring box in her hand. Double Shit, Damn, Hell….
            “Do you know about this?” she demanded. 
            Mr. Nelson joined her at the railing. I exchanged a glance with him before I replied. “Um, yes, Mrs. Nelson. We found it last night in Jake’s room.” Wanting to stay on her good side, I quickly added, “Mr. Nelson thought it would be best to wait to tell you.”
            While the Asshole shot me a death glare, Mrs. Nelson bobbed her head. “Good. Then you’ll be willing to help me.”
            “Um, help you?”
            “Yes,” she said, as she started over to us. I would’ve committed high crimes for a mint at that moment. I covered my mouth with my hand, trying to appear like I was deep in thought to mask my alcohol breath from hell.
            “Obviously, there’s a girl out there who my Jake truly loved—enough to want to be married to her. I want to know who she is, and I want you to find her.”
            Forgetting all about my heinous beer breath, I let my mouth drop open in disbelief. “Y-You want me to do what?”
            “I want you to find the girl who this ring belongs to. Even though Jake didn’t get the chance to give it to her, I want her to have it.”
            I stopped myself from blurting, “Are you insane, Mrs. Nelson? I know you loved your little boy, but he was a major panty chasing manwhore! I’d have better luck finding all the girls he deflowered or potentially gave an STD to than the one girl he might actually have had feelings for!”
            But at the desperate look on her face, I drew in a resigned breath. “Sure, Mrs. Nelson. I’ll try my best.”
            She smiled. “Thank you, Noah. I appreciate that.” She threw a wary glance at the others before she flounced back in the house and slammed the door. Mr. Nelson rolled his eyes and followed her.
            As soon as his parents were safely inside, Jason punched me on the arm. Hard.
            “Ow, what the hell was that for?” I cried.
            “Man, why didn’t you tell us about the ring?” he demanded.
            Uh, oh, I hadn’t thought about that one. Yeah the Asshole made me promise not to tell Mrs. Nelson, but he hadn’t mentioned anything about Jason and Jonathan. At the expectant look on his face, I decided to fudge the truth a little. “You heard me. Your dad said not to tell anyone.”     
            Jonathan snorted. “Figures.”
            Jason rolled his eyes. “Could we focus here for a minute, Johnny Boy? You do realize our brother must’ve thrown down a hunk of change to buy that ring!”
            I knew Jason was right. A ring like that must’ve cost a small fortune. Sure, the Nelson’s were fairly wealthy—the Asshole was an executive with Coke, but at the same time, they weren’t giving their sons thousand dollar monthly allowances or anything. With Jake’s sports schedule, he didn’t get in a lot of work hours either.
            Suddenly, Jonathan smacked himself on the forehead. “Baseball cards!”
            We all exchanged looks. “What the hell are you talking about, bro?” Jason asked.
            “Remember like a month ago when Jake decided to sell some of his baseball cards on EBay?”
            Jason nodded.
            “I bet that’s where he got the money. I mean, he had some that were worth a lot of money that Grandpa Nelson had given him.”
            “I’ll be damned,” Jason muttered.
            Jonathan sighed. “Course, we’re forgetting something.”
            “What’s that?” Jason asked.
            “Um, how about the fact our baby brother was thinking about marriage? That’s pretty damn near shocking if you ask me!” Jonathan replied.
            Alex, who had been quiet for most of the morning, cleared his throat. “Yeah, I was pretty shocked when I saw that ring. I mean, Jake didn’t impress me as the marrying kind—well, at least not until he was thirty or forty.”
            Jason grunted. “I figured he’d be more like some Hugh Hefner and have about three women living with him.”
            Jonathan laughed. “Me too, man.”
            I shook my head. “Forget about marriage. I can’t believe he was actually in love for once!”
            The others murmured in agreement. “Knowing Jake, it wasn’t about love,” Sean said.
            “What do you mean?” I asked. Nibbling my lip, I debated telling the guys about the flashback I’d had the night before about Jake being in love.
            “Probably some chick heard about his reputation and told him she wouldn’t sleep with him without a ring on her finger—you know to prove she wasn’t just some conquest. Since there wasn’t a piece of ass Jake couldn’t have, he probably liked the idea, so he bought the ring.”
            “Man, that’s a pretty screwed up theory and screwed up view of Jake!” Ryan argued.
            Jonathan shook his head. “Yeah, it is, but it also sounds like something Jake would do. Hell, he’d probably let the chick keep the ring in the end, too.”
            Scratching the back of my neck, I said, “Nah, I don’t think so.”
            Jason raised his eyebrows. “Oh really? You think Jake actually had a conscience and wouldn’t do something like that?”
            I nodded.
            Jason snorted. “Words of wisdom coming from the kid Jake duct taped to his chair in kindergarten!”
            While the others howled in laughter, I merely shook my head. “I think he was changing. You know—like maturing or something.”
            “Are you serious?” Jonathan asked.
            I thought of the brilliantly vivid flashback I’d had last night. “I know he was sincere about the ring because he told me he’d fallen in love with a girl.”
            “Really?” Jason asked.
            “Yeah. But he wouldn’t tell me who she was because he hadn’t had the chance to tell her first. He thought she deserved to know before I did. So like I said, he really was changing into this caring and compassionate dude.”
            “Wow, that’s deep,” Jonathan replied. He stared out over the water. “Deep like the deep end of the pool…”
            I exchanged a glance with Alex. “Um, Jonathan, what the hell are you talking about?”
            He turned back at me and then blinked his eyes a few times to clear his head. “No, you’re right. Jake really was good guy sometimes.” Jason coughed next to him. “No, man, he was. You and I both know that. He was better than the both of us put together.”
            Jason sighed. “Yeah, maybe you’re right.” He shook his head. “Sure as hell doesn’t say much for us, does it?”
            “So, just how do you propose to find this girl?” Jonathan asked.
            I shrugged. “I don’t know.”
            He snorted. “It’s not gonna be easy!”
            “I realize that.”
            “Jake may have been changing like you say, but man was he ever a player. Hell, he got more ass than Jason and I combined!”
            Jason nodded. “I don’t know what it was about him. I mean, yeah he was good-looking and all, but man, did he have the way with women.”
            Alex started laughing with the others. When I shot him an exasperated look, he abruptly stopped. Once he’d regained his composure, he leaned forward in his pool chair. “So what are you going to do? Start taking depositions from girls like some whacked out Law and Order or CSI show?”
            I refused to answer him. Instead, I fumbled under my chair for the beer I was drinking before Mrs. Nelson’s appearance. It was half full. I quickly chugged it down. I cut my eyes over to the guys who were waiting expectantly for my answer.
            I sighed. “Look, I haven’t a freaking’ clue how I’m going to do it, but I do know it’d be nice if you guys had my back a little more.”
            Jonathan nodded. “Hey man, you’re right. We all need to be in on this for Jake.” He grabbed his beer can out of its hiding place. “For Jake,” he said and raised his can.
            We all brought our cans together—even mine that was empty. “For Jake,” we murmured in unison.