Saturday, August 14, 2010

This is an excerpt from the book I'm writing now. I'd like to share it because I could certainly use some constructive criticism.  All comments will be welcomed, even if you hate it...especially if you hate it.
Keep in mind that by this point, the reader has learned that Emily and Michael are Dylan Cole's parents and Cash is his older brother.

"Is your dad home?" Dylan Cole asked as he peered around the side of the house. I looked too, and saw that the old powder green Chevy truck was mysteriously absent from its usual resting spot. I shrugged my shoulders.

"I guess not." I wondered where my father might be at this time of night. Often if he had writer's block, he would wander away for a bit. He wasn't much of a drinker, so if he had gone down to Big Dogs Saloon, he was probably just shooting darts or pool. I hoped he would get home early. I would lie awake until I heard the old truck rumble safely into the driveway, which was on "my side" of the house.

We stepped onto the porch, and Dylan Cole slid my pack off my shoulder to rest against the door frame. I stared at it for a moment suddenly aware that we were unexpectedly alone.

"Sit with me, Jessalynn," he said softly as he pulled me onto the porch swing with him. Dylan Cole always called me by my full name, Jessalynn. Everyone else had long since abandoned it for simply Jess or sometimes Jessa, which I thought sounded stupid. Everyone always called him Dylan Cole, using both of his names as if they were one, Dylancole. I pulled my feet up into the seat, and the old chain groaned against our weight. A cool summer breeze pushed its way past us, in a rush to escape the canyon below. Dylan Cole slid his arm around me, and I snuggled close to him.

We were young, alone on a swing on a warm summer night, with nothing between us but our clothes. No amount of decent Christian upbringing could quench the raging hormones of two fifteen year-olds. There were no grownups around to stop what would happen next.

This sort of thing didn't happen often for us. Michael and Emily were very aware that Dylan Cole was in love with me. He told them every day, just as he told me.

Emily had gotten pregnant with Michael's baby when she was just fifteen, and although she miscarried, she and Michael understood that their lives could have carried so much more burden. They had learned their lesson the hard way and weren't about to let Dylan Cole and I go through that sort of heartache.

And so we were constantly supervised. If Emily and Michael were unavailable, Cash, who was only eighteen, was charged with the task. He often lorded over us with an air of superiority and arrogance. I couldn't wait for him to go to college in the fall. His self-righteous attitude was unbearable.

Without the ominous presence of an escort, Dylan Cole and I took advantage. He whispered something against my ear in Spanish, tickling my earlobe with his breath. I smiled as I stared at the golden pothos I had potted and left against the house. I tried to mentally translate his words, but Emily had not taught me as well as her sons.

"What does that mean?" I asked him, thrilled that he would be wooing me in another language.

"That's for me to know and you to find out," he teased. I turned my head toward him to protest, and that's when he kissed me. It was warm, but clumsy and rough. It caught me by surprise, so I forgot to kiss him back. I stared for a few seconds at his perfectly straight, white teeth and his confident smile. He had a scar on his chin where he'd fallen off his riding lawn mower and had to get stitches. I stared at that for a minute and then touched it with my thumb.

"I love you, Jessalynn Harper," he told me for the ten-thousandth time. "I loved you yesterday, and even more today, and even though I'm absolutely sure that nobody could be loved more than I love you right now, I will love you even more tomorrow."

And then I remembered to kiss him back. Absently, I turned my whole body toward him and his strong farm boy hands slid around me to support me.

The kiss was slow and sweet and awkward. Our teeth bumped, and I think I probably giggled. I felt one of his hands leave my back and smooth down to my butt. I may have moaned a little.

Then we were interrupted by the loud clearing of somebody's throat. I was confused at first. I thought it was Dylan Cole until I realized that we'd been caught.

Dylan Cole was looking behind me over my shoulder and turning red with embarrassment. I turned to follow his gaze. My stomach could not have dropped any lower when I saw Cash standing there grinning at us.

I very quickly jumped to my feet and straightened my shirt. Dylan Cole was also on his feet, though I hadn't seen him stand.

"Don't mind me," Cash excused himself. "But when you're done here, Mom and Dad want you back at the house." He grinned even more, proud of the fact that he'd caught us red-handed. He gave us a quick two-fingered salute and jumped off my porch. We watched him cross the yard and the road and climb up the steep embankment on the other side. He quickly disappeared into the trees above.

Once he was out of sight, Dylan Cole grabbed my elbow and turned me around to face him. Our feelings for each other hadn't changed, but there was an awkward silence anyway. He fumbled just a bit as he pulled a ring out of his pocket, and I took a step back from it. He held it between two fingers, and before I could protest or even utter words, he had slipped it onto my left finger.

"It's a promise ring, Jessalynn. It's got a heart-shaped ruby." He held my hand tight, even though I tried to pull away from him. "That's your birthstone," he informed me as his eyebrows scrunched together with worry. "It's just a promise ring." I pulled my hand free.

I stared down at it, afraid that I might lose function of my hand. The ring, though just a delicate golden band with a modest stone, seemed to weigh about five hundred pounds, and although it had slipped on easily enough, it now seemed to be cutting off circulation, threatening to cut my finger completely away.

How did this happen? Five minutes ago I had been clumsily receiving my first kiss from a boy and now I had a ring on my finger that said I was promised to him?

What exactly did that mean?

Dylan Cole must have sensed my tension. He took my hand in his and looked me in the eye. He brushed my long, dark blond hair away from my face and smiled reassuringly.

"You can wear it on a chain, if you want, Jessalynn," he told me. "It's just a promise ring. It just means that I promise to love you until the day I die."

"Yeah?" I uttered and turned my cheek into the palm of his hand. "And what about me?"

What about me? I had never told him once that I loved him. Was I supposed to say it now? Somehow, I couldn't get the words out. My voice box was not working…broken.

Dylan Cole laughed under his breath. Somehow that put me at ease, and I smiled

"I think…" He thought for a moment. "I think that it means you promise not to give your kisses to any other boys."

Okay, I could probably live with that.

He moved his fingers into my hair and kissed me on my lips again. Sweeter. Longer. Thoroughly. I could definitely live with that.

"I gotta go!" He released me and hopped off the porch, much like Cash had done a few minutes before, full of energy. I watched his back as he trotted away from me.

I suddenly felt lonely, almost as if our mere separation had torn something out of me. I didn't want him to leave.

"Dylan Cole!" I cried out to him just as he reached the paved road. He stopped and turned to me with a big cheesy grin on his face. He kept walking backwards into the road.


I wanted to call him back to me. I wanted to kiss him again, to tell him I would keep his ring on my finger. To tell him that I loved him too, and that I always would.

I would have told him all those things, except for the sound I heard.

Some weird slow motion magic takes over my memory at this point. I can see everything clearly in my memory, step by step. The sound of the old Chevy coming around that curve came first. I heard the squeal of the brakes and I saw my father's face through the windshield when he realized that he was going too fast. The look of shock and sorrow on his face when he realized I was there, watching, seeing all this happen will never be erased from my mind.

I saw Dylan Cole's face turn to the oncoming truck, and then he turned to me, almost as if he knew what was going to happen. He had already played it through in his mind, and now he turned to me and spoke to me with those coal black eyes. I heard his unspoken words clearly in my head. I had heard them so many times before. "I love you, Jessalynn Harper. I will love you until the day I die."

And then…he was gone. I called his name, but not only that, some guttural, bestial cry of pain came out of me. It was the only sound I heard over the pumping of my own blood through my veins as I witnessed the death of Dylan Cole Sawyer.

I ran toward him even as the truck slid to the side and rolled over him. My feet did not seem to touch the ground. I could have reached out and touched the fender as it slid past me on the asphalt, rolling once again and sliding into the trees on our side of the road. The woosh-woosh of blood in my ears blocked out the screams that I should have heard from Cash as he emerged yet again from the trees. His face was twisted with fear and horror. No no no no no! He pushed me away from Dylan Coles twisted body, but I refused him.

My childhood was gone in this moment. My life was meaningless. With the realization of his death, and the fact that I had caused it, I knew I would never deserve to be loved again. I would never go back to innocence. As I ran my hands over Dylan's blood-soaked, mangled body, searching frantically for a sign of life… please God please, just a sign…I knew that everything good in me had been ripped away, and I might never, ever get it back.


  1. That is actually good. I hate to put the word "actually" in there, but to be completely honest with you I wasn't expecting much. I used to work at a newspaper with a girl who wrote romance novels on the side and one or two of them had been published, but I saw them as complete drivel. I think that is what I was anticipating when I started reading your excerpt. I was pleasantly surprised. I urge you to continue working on this story. You have great potential.

  2. Thank you so much for this comment. I have been working on this story in my free time, but I have changed the point of view to third person. There was more to the story that couldn't be told well in first person.
    Reading it again, I wish I hadn't changed it. Then again, I'm always second-guessing myself...and third-guessing...and fourth guessing...