October is the month I published Written in the Scars. It’s one of my favorite books that I’ve written. It’s based off of the town I grew up in and the people I grew up knowing. It’s blue collar, small town, and gritty. Angsty. It’s not all roses and rainbows but real and raw. And beautiful, I think. I hope.
Have you read this one? Here’s chapter one if not:
“I dare you.”
Shooting Lindsay Watson a dirty look, I plop down in the chair beside her work station. Swiveling side to side in an extra hairdresser’s chair, I watch her take the final snips of Becca Snowden’s long, chestnut hair.
“But you’d look so good as a redhead, Elin,” Lindsay gushes, ignoring my empty threat. “A crimson would make those green eyes of yours pop. Just let me.”
“Ooh, you would look great with a little red,” Becca chimes in.
“I’ll keep basic variations of my dishwater blonde, thank you,” I reply. “Pretty sure my Kindergarten class might freak out if I showed up with something new.”
Lindsay laughs, her voice trickling across Blown, the salon she opened up a few years ago. Her blue eyes twinkle in the way they do when someone is living the life of their dreams, when everything is just the way it should be. It’s an amazing feeling that I remember well, if distantly.
I let the chair come to a rest, my playful energy now falling with Becca’s hair. Lindsay makes small talk with Becca as she removes the cape and leads her to the cash register in front, light shining in the windows from a beautiful fall afternoon. The city square in Jackson, Indiana, population six thousand, is bustling outside.
“I’m going to run to The Fountain and grab a drink,” Becca says, digging through her purse. “Do you want me to bring you guys anything?”
“No, but I think I’ll walk over there and grab a Bump when I leave here,” I say. “Damn, I love those things.”
“I haven’t tried that.”
“It’s my favorite,” I tell her. “A cinnamon citrus drink that’s seriously the best thing in the world. We moved here my seventh grade year. After school that first day, Lindsay walked me to The Fountain and insisted I order one. I think we became best friends after that.”
“Of course we did. How could you not want to be friends with someone with such great taste?” Lindsay jokes.
“Well, you did marry my brother, so I’d say your taste is impeccable.”
“Wait,” Becca says, turning to look at Lindsay. “You married Elin’s brother?”
“I did. I befriended her so I could meet her twin.” Lindsay sticks her tongue out at me. “Jiggs was the goal. Elin was a bonus.”
Becca raises a brow. “Jiggs? That’s his name?”
“It’s James,” I clarify. “I’m not sure why we call him Jiggs, but we do. Everyone does.”
Looking at the floor so they don’t see my eyes, I hide the fact that I’m lying. He’s called Jiggs because our father was a woodworker in his free time. My brother was obsessed with the jigsaw when he was a little boy and Dad started calling him Jiggs. I don’t share that because it’ll just bring back the sadness I’ve managed to keep from completely swamping me today.
“Hey, we’re having a bonfire this weekend,” Lindsay tells Becca. “You should come.”
“I don’t know. This place still feels so awkward to me.” Becca hands Lindsay her credit card. “I’ve been here a few months now, and I just feel so out of place. I’ve been considering going back to Texas.”
“That’s why you should go to the bonfire,” I point out. “Meet people. Have fun.”
Becca shrugs, not looking convinced. “Maybe.”
The bell chimes as the front door is cracked open, a blast of cool autumnal air drifting through the salon. It brings with it scents of grilled hamburgers, crunchy leaves, and a certain spicy cologne that makes my breath catch in my throat. In unison, although for different reasons, our heads snap to the doorway.
Lindsay glances at me through the corner of her eye.
My heart topples to the floor.
Tyler Whitt’s emerald gaze finds mine like there’s nowhere to look but at me. It’s heavy, pushing me into my seat from across the room.
I can’t breathe. Even with my jaw hanging open much wider than I’d like, I can’t draw in enough oxygen to make me not feel like I’m two seconds from passing out. He just stands there, not looking at me, but seeing right through me. Like he’s studying every thought going through my mind. Once upon a time, that look, the feeling of being the focus of his attention, was the most comforting feeling in the world. Now it’s downright violating.
My chair rolls to a stop, the toe of my sneaker dragging across the floor. I rip my eyes from his, heat pinking my cheeks, and I’m not sure which emotion is causing it because every feeling in the world is roaring through me.
I’ve imagined this scenario a thousand times. The moment I saw him again has played over and over in my mind. The vision always looks different. Everything from us running in slow motion to each other, kissing like our lives depended on it, to me throwing every punch and kick I could manage straight into his gorgeous, frustrating face was possible.
Regardless of the version, I just hoped that maybe, just maybe, time would’ve weakened our connection. That I wouldn’t feel the maddening tug that I’ve always felt around him. That somehow I’d be able to hold on to the anger that I’ve woken up with and gone to bed with for forty-three nights now. That I would see him and instantly forget all the reasons I loved him and would remember all the reasons why I’ve convinced myself I don’t. Looking at him across the salon, nothing has diminished. Not even a little bit. It’s still there, all crackly and electrifying and enveloping and heartbreaking.
Fidgeting in my seat, I take a deep breath and try to get my bearings. The fear of uncertainty rocks through me. If we have to interact, it’ll end in a fight. That’s the only thing I’m certain of. It’s the way we operate now.
Ty’s Adam’s apple bobs as he forces a swallow and hesitates, just a split second, before walking fully into the salon. After a look that tells me everything and nothing all at once, he clears his throat and pulls his gaze away from me.
The scent of his cologne, the same scent he’s worn since I bought him the first bottle with my first real paycheck, drifts around the room.
“Hey, Linds,” he says, his tone warm, yet distant. “Jiggs around?”
When he speaks, my throat clenches shut, trying to bury all the emotions that threaten to spill over. The emotions I don’t have half the handle on I thought I did. Having him here feels like yet another punch to the gut.
“No. He’s at home, I think. He was working on the truck in the barn.”
Ty nods, running a hand through his thick black hair that’s spiking up every which way. His angular jaw is dotted with stubble, more than a day’s worth. I know what it would feel like if I ran my hand against it, how his head would cock to the side just before a playful smile kissed his lips. I can imagine the feeling of the scars marring his sculpted back from the mining accident that changed our lives in such horrible ways last year. I can envision his crooked smile, telling me everything would be okay. Clearly, that’s a lie.
His six-foot-one body, clad in a pair of jeans and a clean white t-shirt, looks lean and healthy like the basketball hero he’s lauded to be. He looks good. He looks like my Ty.
Gripping the chair, I forbid myself from blurting the millions of questions rustling around my mind. I won’t ask because I won’t give him the power by speaking first. It’s childish, I’m sure, but I don’t care. I have to survive however I can. Knowing I held tight to something makes me a little less powerless in the most defeating situation of my life.
The limp in his gait is now fainter than I remember, and I want to ask him how he’s feeling too. But I don’t because he hasn’t given a damn about how I’m feeling since he left.
My hands fold over my stomach, and I fight back the tears that wet the inside corners of my eyes. I won’t cry. Not here. Not in front of him, the man that looks like the person I fell so madly in love with. But that’s not him anymore. Hell, I’m not sure who I am these days. I just know that together we’re too different, too volatile to work.
Lindsay looks at me out of the corner of her eye, her lips pursing together in sympathy for the brokenness I feel. She knows. She’s the only person that knows the depths of my pain because she was there for it all, a front row seat to the misery.
I glance at Ty and he’s looking at me.
The sides of his lips begin to tilt upward, to flash me that cocky smile that made me fall for him in the first place. As my breath catches in my throat, his start of a smile catches on his face and he looks at Lindsay.
“I’ll head over there. If ya see him, tell him I’m lookin’ for him,” Ty says, a gruffness to his tone. He glances at me again. My optimism spirals entirely too high, waiting, hoping that he says something. Anything. Hi. Screw you. How are you? I’d take any of them. But I don’t get a single word and that slices me to my already bleeding core.
I don’t want to hurt. Not anymore.
He turns, jamming one hand in a pocket, and pulls the door open with the other and walks out of my life again as abruptly as he did the first time.
“Holy shit!” Becca exclaims, dropping her purse on the counter as the door swings shut. The keychain hanging off the side clatters against the top. I snap my head to her, my annoyance level brimming, and get a warning glance from Lindsay. “I changed my mind. If that man will be at the bonfire, count me in. Who was that?”
“Uh—” Lindsay starts, but I cut her off.
“That’s my husband,” I growl, sliding off the plastic chair and letting it twirl round and round as I barrel my way out the back door.
Yikes, right? Read more by clicking below. Written in the Scars is available on Amazon, in Kindle Unlimited, and on Audible. Available to Whispersync if you own the ebook.