What I'm saying, in a very long-winded way, is that Turning Home is FINALLY done!!! Every writer I know gets very nervous about releasing a new book. We have no clue how readers are going to respond to it, and that terrifies us. So while I'm thrilled to finally have Brooke and Dylan's story figured out, I am filled with anxiousness as I prepare it for you guys to read. I hope you enjoy the first chapter!
~ Brooke ~
Everybody had a secret crush, a person he or she desired but was too embarrassed to admit it. Mine was Dylan Crawford, the local bad boy. I didn’t know what it was about him that drew me to him. He didn’t have any redeemable qualities other than his looks. The shallow part of my brain said that was enough, but the logical side knew better. He graduated three years before me and hadn’t gone off to college. He was the type of boy who would die in the small town he had been born in, just like his daddy and his daddy’s daddy before him. Other than a few conversations here and there, Dylan and I had never really talked. I had caught him watching me a few times at school, and vice versa. My friends always commented that he was an STD waiting to happen because he slept with so many girls. Lily, my best friend, admitted that he was cute, but his crude behavior canceled out his good looks. I kept quiet and nodded, knowing if she knew how much I thought about Dylan, she would look at me differently.
He was everything I was taught to avoid, but as I watched him from across the room, all those teachings went out the window. He had his arm slung around a girl a year older than me. Why these two were hanging out at a high school graduation party was beyond me. Dylan was Dana’s brother. I had known her since we were in diapers, though we hung out in very different circles. When she invited me to her party, I had smiled sweetly and accepted with hidden excitement. The shock in her eyes at my acceptance wasn’t hard to miss. Having the head cheerleader at your party was sort of a big deal. If Dana knew her brother was the reason for my acceptance … well, she couldn’t find out.
As the daughter of the leading lawyer in Roseville Alabama, I had a persona to uphold. My parents expected me to end up with someone like James Henderson, which was why I was dating him. He was from old money, like me, and had a football scholarship to the University of Alabama. Our future was already planned out. I could see my death before I even lived. We would have three children, live in a fancy Antebellum, and pretend we were happy—just like my parents did. My life would be full of fake smiles, fake laughs, and fake love.
“Here’s your drink,” James said, extending his arm toward me. I withdrew my gaze from Dylan and the tart he was currently whispering to and looked at my boyfriend. His hair was perfectly parted—so opposite from Dylan’s edgy faux-hawk—and his khakis and blue polo shirt screamed ‘preppy.’ Dylan often wore jeans with grease stains and a t-shirt that was snug enough to hint at the muscles beneath.
“Thanks,” I said, taking the red cup from James. “Did you use Diet Coke?” I lifted the cup to my nose and sniffed. The scent of rum burned my nostrils. Of course James would have put extra alcohol in it; he’d been hinting that he wanted to claim my V-card for quite some time now. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the thought of getting naked with him repulsed me. If my life went how it was supposed to, I would have an entire lifetime of uninteresting sex with James. I did not want to start at only eighteen.
“Yep, just like you asked,” James said, lifting his cup to take a drink. His eyes wandered to the center of the floor where two girls were dancing with each other. They either had too much to drink, or they batted for the other team. The way they groped each other looked like a porno had broken out in the middle of the living room.
I eyed my boyfriend of a year, seeing the interest on his face as he watched the slutty dancers. I had seen my daddy and other men like him check out other women. Some of those men even had secret lovers on the side. It was one of the consequences of marrying for social status rather than love.
“James,” I said, drawing his attention to me. His head swiveled in my direction, his eyes moving a second later as though magnetized to the dancers. “What are we doing?”
A crease formed between his eyes. “Celebrating before heading off to college.”
Such a simple and boring answer. I hadn’t meant the question in the literal sense. His eyes flitted back to the girls when cheers erupted. One of them had climbed onto the coffee table and was swinging her hips to Luke Bryan’s, “Country Girl (Shake it for Me).” I sucked in a deep breath and leaned against the wall, holding my cup to my chest. Getting James’s attention now was useless. He was a hormonal eighteen-year-old boy who thought more with his dick than his brain. A small part of me was relieved his attention was off me. How screwed up was that?
I observed the crowded house and the smiles on everyone’s faces. I wish I could find that sense of excitement—the kind that wasn’t weighed down with expectations. Losing control and acting like a fool would embarrass my parents, as they reminded me every single time I did anything.
“Good choices, Brooke,” my daddy would say before I left the house. “Every decision you make reflects the Kingsley name.” It was his subtle way of telling me he wouldn’t stand for anything less than perfection. I had been doomed from the moment Brooke Kingsley was typed on my birth certificate.
“I’m going to get some air,” I told James. I don’t even think he heard me. I pushed through the crowd and headed toward the door I knew led to the garage. I had seen Dylan open it to bring in the beer when we arrived. Everyone was too busy with the party to notice me sneaking off. I closed the door behind me, sat down on the small stairs, and hung my head in my hands. I had wanted to break up with James for the past month and always chickened out at the last minute. My parents loved him, and our dads played golf together. If they found out I broke up with the golden boy, I would be harassed with one question after another. I couldn’t use us going off to college as an excuse either; James and I had chosen the same school. My daddy would be livid if he found out I gave up the chance to be with a boy who had the potential to be drafted into the NFL. It didn’t matter that I hated football.
I was just about to call Lily, when the garage door swung open and banged me in the shoulder.
“Shit,” I mumbled, grabbing my shoulder and standing up. “You better not have ripped my cashmere sweater,” I snapped. When I looked up, I swallowed all the other insults lingering on my lips.
“Sorry, Princess,” Dylan said, coming down the stairs. “You shouldn’t be sitting right in front of the door.” He walked over to a refrigerator and opened the door, leaning down to look inside.
“I didn’t expect anyone to come out here,” I said, glancing over my shoulder to inspect my two hundred dollar sweater.
A soft chuckle left his lips and filled my ears, awakening something inside of me. I brought my eyes back to his and noticed he was looking at me with derisive amusement.
“What’s so funny?” I made sure my voice was crass. I had perfected it over the years, part of my snobby persona. I had no idea if it was my real personality or just my way of fooling people into believing I was strong and more important than they were.
“Girls like you,” Dylan said, his eyes caressing my face before snapping back to the contents of the fridge. “You’re more worried about materialistic shit than anything else.”
My shock at being so close to my secret crush was replaced with anger. “You don’t know anything about me.”
A smirk lifted one side of his mouth. He grabbed a bottle of Southern Comfort and shut the refrigerator door, taking a couple steps toward me. His green eyes raked over my entire body, lingering on the ‘V’ of my sweater. I stood stock still, entrapped by the warmth searing me from the inside out. James had never gotten this response out of me.
“Oh, I know you, Brooke Kingsley: head cheerleader, daughter of a lawyer, drives around in a Mercedes S-Class, and dates the star quarterback—even though he was eye-fucking those two girls out there. You’re a cliché.”
You’re a cliché. Those words hurt more than him throwing James’s horniness in my face. I swallowed around the lump in my throat, summoning my inner bitch. I would not let Dylan Crawford know he upset me. The only reason he knew what car I drove was because I had purposely flattened my tire just so I could take it into the mechanics shop where he worked. My daddy wasn’t the only one who was subtle about things. I had secretly watched him loosen the lug nuts on my car, appreciating the flex of the muscles in his arms. Now that I knew what he really thought about me, I felt like a loser for all those times I had checked him out.
“Tell me, Brooke,” Dylan said, taking another step toward me. “Do Mama and Daddy know you’re here, slumming it with us common folk?”
“You have no right to talk to me like that,” I said. “You’re the one hanging out at a high school graduation party. I may be a cliché, but you’re pathetic.”
His smirk widened into a full-blown smile. I steeled my features instead of reacting to how gorgeous he was when he smiled. My eyes fell to the side of his neck, and I grimaced at the tacky hickey decorating his tanned skin. Did people still give each other hickeys?
“I’m here because I know how eighteen-year-old boys get when there are girls and alcohol in the same room. Things get dropped into drinks, and I have no intention of letting that happen to my little sister. Too bad you don’t have someone awesome like me watching out for you. Then again, your boyfriend’s plan didn’t pan out the way he wanted it to, did it?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Ask golden boy what else was in that drink of yours other than rum and coke.”
My lips parted in shock. “You’re lying. James would not slip me something.”
Dylan moved so close that I could see the flecks of blue in his eyes. “Why, because he’s rich and popular? Only guys like me do those sorts of things, right?” He rolled his tongue across his lips, his eyes tracing mine. I held back the shiver ricocheting through my body.
“You must be terrified to be alone with me, huh?”
Exactly the opposite, I thought. “You don’t scare me, Dylan Crawford, and whatever you think you know about me or James, you don’t.
“Okay, then prove me wrong, Princess.”
“Don’t call me that,” I snapped.
“Do you prefer Your Majesty?”
I was angry and turned on the same time—the two emotions contradicting each other so harshly, my hands shook. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to smack him or fist my fingers in his hair and kiss him. I decided leaving was my best option. With a glare, I spun on my heel and headed toward the door.
“I didn’t think you would give up that easily,” Dylan said behind me. “Aren’t Kingsleys known for their competitiveness?”
“I am competing,” I said. “With myself as to whether I should smack you or walk away. You see which option won out.” I held my hands out to signal the distance I had put between us.”
“You want to change my opinion of you? Then I suggest a test.”
“I don’t care what you think about me.”
Dylan unscrewed the cap to the Southern Comfort and lifted the bottle to his lips, taking a long swallow. His eyes stayed on me while his throat worked the alcohol down. Everything else disappeared; all I could focus on was the glint in his eyes and the way it made me feel. How many times had I seen him give girls that look and wished it were directed at me? I had to admit, it was pretty powerful.
“That’s just not true, is it, Brooke?”
God, the sound of my name coming from his lips stoked heat between my legs. The fact that a conversation could turn me on was ridiculous, but I couldn’t help the way my body reacted to him, even if he was being a jerk. He was right; I did care what he thought about me, but not for the reasons he believed. My interest in his opinion didn’t revolve around my popularity.
“Fine,” I said. “What’s the test?”
A satisfied smirk lifted one side of his mouth. “First, go throw away that drink James got you so no one else drinks it, and then meet me in the kitchen.”
“All right, but I know James wouldn’t do something like that.”
Dylan rolled his eyes and shoved past me, opening the garage door. “Yes, we all know how honorable men with money are.”
The sound from the party filled the garage as Dylan walked away. I was still ticked at his arrogant attitude, but this was the most alive I’ve felt since … ever.