It has been an exciting hectic week with my first blog post and the release of my debut novel REEL LOVE. Hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. It's been my dream to write novels most of my life and the Cosmos has lined up in perfect harmony (as one of my characters said) to finally give me the opportunity. Colt and Annie have been living inside my head for many years and it's my honor to get the chance to share them with you. Their story is filled with love, heavenly magic, glamor and a touch of angst. But the ultimate moral of their story is "never give up on your dreams." Because, just like Annie, we can have it all if we keep striving for it.
Almost forgot to mention the awesome giveaway I have going to celebrate the release of the book. Check it out.
BRIEF Excerpt of upcoming book CROSS STROKE
It doesn’t seem possible that one brief interaction, one night, can change a person’s whole life. One mistake… um … I suppose it was a series of mistakes, brought me to this place and this conclusion: love’s too—risky, too—destructive, too—fatal. Therefore, there shall be no more falling in love. The pulse of my blood beating against my temples is overwhelming. The mantra repeats in a silent thump inside my head, matching the pulse of my blood, until it’s tattooed on my heart. This is it. My new beginning. It’s time to focus on my future sans sticky relationships that do nothing but screw me over--and not in a good way.
Focus. I’m trying, but it’s glacial in this ice skating arena. Taking a long deep breath, my lungs freeze with icy air. My eyes drift to the white cloud of mist when I blow it back out. A shiver runs down my spine and I jump up and down to get blood flowing to my limbs instead of pounding inside my head.
This rink is cold--colder. Maybe it’s my newfound, uncharacteristic anxiety and fear making it seem like it is. Championship hockey and figure skating banners, in a variety of rectangular sizes, decorate the perimeter walls of the rink and stand out in the glaring overhead lights like glowing warning signs; radiating in neon gold, red and blue to tell me how good these teams are. Funny. Skating rinks used to be my safe haven. The place where all stresses and concerns slid away with the first glide of my blade on the ice. Not so much anymore.
There are only a couple of skaters and they’re hockey players, not figure skaters. One of them pushes past me as he comes off the ice. “Excuse me sweetheart,” he says. I don’t look at him or acknowledge his comment. Nope. Just step out of his way. Hmmph. Sweetheart my ass. Boys are assholes.
I move back to the entrance onto the ice; the same gate the hockey player just exited.
“Did you sign in for this session, Tracey?” Bob, the rink manager comes up behind me and asks. He holds out the clipboard with the required sign in sheet.
“Yes, thanks. Took care of it at the front desk when I came in.”
“Okay. Good. We like to keep a count of skaters on the ice for each freestyle session.” He glances up to the large digital clock on the scoreboard hanging on the wall at the end of the rink. “Cutting it kinda close aren’t you? The session’s almost over,” he reminds me. Not that he needs to. I’m well aware of the fact that I’m late.
“No need to be nervous,” he offers, as if he can read my mind. “You’ll feel better as soon as you take that first stroke on our flawless ice.” He smiles and walks away.
I pinch my eyes closed. Got to make this work: take what I’ve learned, make changes and move forward with my life. Wait. What have I learned besides the fact that love sucks?
I thought I knew all about the so-called fuzzy, warm, things called love. I so didn’t. Thought I knew what I wanted--what my future held. Nope. I used to be self-assured. When I stood in an arena, waiting to perform, I was completely confident. It was just my music, the smooth glistening ice, and me.
All that was BS. Before Sean. Before my descent into a pit of despair I almost didn’t climb out. Yeah. There always seems to be one really stupid or one really awesome thing that changes your life forever. Sean was my really stupid thing. Things I thought I knew BS evaporated like water on a Phoenix summer sidewalk, although, there are a few important things I’ve learned to replace them.
Close your eyes and imagine in your mind what you want your future to look like. The voice of my therapist, Gail, encouraging me just as she has a thousand times in the past, echoes through my mind. Huh, my therapist. Who would’ve thought at twenty-one I’d be saying those words? My parents insisted I see her and I reluctantly agreed. In the end, I was glad I did.
Even though I don’t see Gail anymore, now that I’m at Bernard U., the support I got from her and my family brought me to the point where I’m strong enough to stand on my own; figure things out for myself…well, almost. Gail’s office with soothing scents of eucalyptus fill my thoughts with comforting memories, as I open my eyes and stare across the shimmering cold expanse of ice.
The lone hockey player on the ice flies past me and glances in my direction. Another shiver flashes down my spine. I don’t even know why I’m feeling this trembling rush of nerves. It’s just a team practice. Maybe it’s because this is a new start, or maybe because I’m still striving to get back my long-lost self-confidence after the abysmal experience known as Sean… or it could just be because I’m late.
Standing here, about to step or should I say glide onto the ice for my first free-style practice session at the Bernard Ice Arena, I’m aware of sensations I’ve never felt before. Now I know what it feels like to fall apart and lose it when performing in front of other people. I’ve learned it blows.
I’m a complete mess. My heart is beating with an enthusiastic attempt to explode against my chest. My stomach seems determined to work its contents back out into the world and the weird Santa jelly-belly shaking of my legs has increased to seismic proportions.
The hockey player zips past me again. The wind of his speed, as he skates past me,
sweeps across my face. As Bob said, this session is just about over, but I only wanted a few minutes to get the feel of the ice anyway. However, when I take my first step onto the ice, this is not how I imagined it in my mind. And the feel I was looking for wasn’t the one where my ass hits the frigid unforgiving surface right in front of a pair of black hockey skates.
They come sliding to an abrupt halt to avoid running over me, their sharp edges spraying me with cold shavings of ice. In my synaptically frantic state, I forgot to remove my neon purple skate guards.
“Yeah. Those don’t work too well on the ice. You might want to remove them before trying to stroke.” I look up up up until I reach the face of the taunting skater.
Yowsa. His ice blue eyes are shimmering like lasers right through the Plexiglas visor of his hockey helmet. A few pieces of sun kissed streaked hair peek out from his helmet and frame cheekbones that would be the envy of every Express model. Did he say something about stroking? My naughty, little, sex-starved mind drifts--for just a second--to stroking other types of hard surfaces: the kind that could melt cold ice and my bones. Seems my blood is having no problem reaching lower regions of my body now. Stop that. Right. I’ve sworn off sex forever. Well…at least until I can let someone get close again--if I ever want to let someone get close again.
But when Hottie McHot wiggles his fingers and his brow as he stretches his hand out a little further toward me, it’s like he’s got a front row seat to the opening night of my porno imagination. Even though my ass has lost all sensation from its imminent fusion to the icy surface, I can feel the warm pink blush creeping up my neck and face--another new sensation for me.
Before my devastating relationship with Sean, I rarely experienced apprehension or embarrassment when interacting with people. I mean, who cares? No one’s perfect. Everyone says or does foolish things or thinks dirty little thoughts at some time or another. Why should I feel nervous or embarrassed? Unfortunately, as I said, my experience with Sean was life changing. But I’m determined to get back my old confident self. No guy--especially an ass-hat like Sean--is worth giving up my self-esteem.
Which brings me to another important thing I’ve learned; never fall for a gay guy--unless, of course, you’re another gay guy. Been there, done that and it was soul-crushing. Although I suppose, in technical terms, Sean is bisexual. It’s irrelevant. Because what he really is, is a cheating, douchebag liar. Okay, maybe I’m still a little angry…and broken. Anyway, he’s the primary reason I transferred from UDel and one of the reasons why I don’t accept the help of the chivalrous hottie.
“No thanks. I’m good.” I ignore his hand.
“Whatever. Take it easy, Bambi,” he says, slips on his glove and skates away before I have a chance to push myself up.
“Hey. My name’s not…” I call after him. But he’s paying no attention to my objection and his lack of interest is just fine with me.
How do I know McHottie’s gay? Oh, it has nothing to do with judgie outward -appearance observations or judgie anything, for that matter. Nope. I love men who prefer to get it on with their fellow man. And therein lies the problemo. I, Tracey Hayward, have a definite defect in my uterine radar. It seems whenever I fall for a guy--no pun intended--I’m sure to find out his only interest in me is as his new BFF. I’m like a moth to a flame when it comes to gay men. I don’t mean in a weird-conscious-I-know-what-I’m-doing kind of way. Nope. No idea why--maybe it’s some kind of Karmic thing, God’s little joke or something.
If I’m hormonally attracted to a guy, after hanging out with him for a while, I’m trying to jump all over him while he’s explaining to me I’m a great ‘friend’ but... No shit. It’s happened several times.
First there was the smoking hot music student with smoldering gray eyes that seemed to burn your clothes off without his hands ever touching you and a six pack you could bounce quarters on—or lick, whichever. He loved displaying those chiseled muscles on stage when playing rock gigs in local venues to earn money for school. The first time I saw him perform, I almost became one of those silly fan girls who fall in lust so hard they throw their panties on stage. Resisted that ridiculous gesture, but when he smiled down at me from the stage, I was hooked. Long story short, we became fast friends. We hung out at school, studied together, went to parties and bars together--generally did what good friends do. Problem was, I wanted way more from him than a new best friend. When he didn’t make a move to take it beyond friendship, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Literally. He very nicely removed my hand from his crotch while explaining, “Um, Trace. This can never happen between us.”
“Why, because we’re friends? Isn’t it a good thing to be friends before becoming lovers?” I very astutely pointed out.
“It’s a very good thing. But that’s not why this can’t happen,” he repeated in a calm voice, while stopping my hands from roaming under his shirt to trace his marble-statue-like abs.
“What’s the problem? You’re not attracted to me or something?” I tipped my head to the side and gave him the sugariest, coquettish smile I could muster.
“Um. Yeah. Something like that.”
It took all of ten seconds for my shock to morph to tear-filled hurt and then mortified indignity. Before I could stomp out of the room like an incensed ass the rock god blurted, “I’m gay, Trace. Shit. Sorry. I thought you knew.”
Oh. Okay. Disappointing, sure, but I didn’t let it get to me. We remained good friends.
My next trip into unrequited Loveland occurred with the esoteric, art student. He had long flowing hair and haunting, amber gold eyes which seemed to hold the secrets of life and made my limbs quiver. Things went pretty much the same with art boy as they did with rock god. Another beautiful friend who was unable to quench my robust desires. And then I introduced my music friend to my art friend. Hearts and flowers bloomed all around—for them. I was happy for them. Really. Sort of. Okay, I was pissed. But I eventually got over it, and didn’t panic--yet.
Then came Sean. I thought for sure a super jock, sex on a stick, quarterback would be a safe bet. I was almost right. Our relationship went way beyond friendship. Now that I think about it, we may’ve skipped the friendship stage because a “friend” would never have treated me the way Sean did. My association with that dirt bag was heart-sinking to the point where I almost didn’t survive the deep abyss of heartbreak.
Did some tremendously stupid things as a result. And not only did I almost destroy myself; I almost took my parents down with me. I’ll never be able to make it up to them for all the worry and distress I caused them and the endless support they gave me. They had my back through the crazy, self-destructive behavior and hours of self-pity.
Which is why I intend to steer clear of any over-zealous attraction to the opposite sex-no matter how much my already used V-card is begging me to try to get back into the game. I’m focusing on my marine studies and research, with a few figure skating competitions and shows in my free time. No partying. No temptations. No super-hot athletes--including hockey players.
Getting myself to an upright position, I’m still experiencing a case of the nervous jitters. Whoever said nerves and adrenaline were great tools to enhance one’s performance was either someone who never performed in front of others or an alien from another planet ignorant of human physiology. Fact is; most Earthlings become nervous as hell when performing in front of other people. No matter how long they’ve trained or practiced, people lose it when executing their skills in public. And now, I’ve joined the rest of the human race as I hang onto the boards balancing on one leg at a time to slip off my guards, place them on the edge of the boards and push off on my freshly sharpened blades-gliding in the opposite direction of McHottie.
Yup. Just one look at him and I’m feeling yummy warm sensations right down to my toes-the sensations which set off bells and whistles in more ways than one. It tells me one thing-if I want him, he must be gay.
Never and I mean never again am I going through that. My middle name is going to be Snow White while I’m getting my degree. Hmm, guess that’s two names--same idea though. That’s right. I’m focusing on the new, celibate, Tracey Snow White Hayward and what I need to do right now.
Although, the first day on the ice hasn’t started out quite as planned. Not only did I show up late and make a colossal fool of myself in front of the hottest guy I’ve ever seen in my life, but the interaction with said hot guy has led to my first encounter with my next big mistake--the one I intend not to make. It’s how it always starts: a chance encounter, a heart-racing glance at a panty melting face and body. Disaster. Not this time.
Lately, though, I never disappoint when it comes to stupid moves such as forgetting to take off my damn skate guards--something an inexperienced five-year old might do, not someone who’s been skating since she could walk! Shake if off--the apropos advice of Ms. T. Swift blaring over the PA system in the rink.
There are only a few people left in the arena now anyway, since it’s the last free-style practice session of the day. Maybe no one noticed--except for the hottest guy on the planet, that is--which doesn’t matter because, nope, no, nada, niet, am I getting involved with another gay man--or any man for that matter--just to get my heart shattered.
The Zamboni is gearing up to make its entrance onto the ice. I glance at the clock. There’s about fifteen minutes left in the session; just enough time to do some stroking to warm-up--a little footwork and then I’ll try a double or two. After two weeks off the ice while moving to Maine and into my new house, I only need a few minutes to get my skating legs back. Since my dad was a pro hockey player, I was skating almost before I could walk. The ice is like home to me--when I’m not experiencing this uncharacteristic nervousness about my new surroundings.
An abrupt switch to The Black-Eyed Peas--telling me to Pump It--interrupts T. Swift’s song and I do just as The Peas suggest, taking off at a fast and furious speed--back in the zone. The frigid wind turns my cheeks to the feel of cold-glazed marble and the resistance of the hard surface makes my muscles strain to the point of complete exhaustion. Still, the strenuous action of flying around the ice is the most liberating sensation ever. Well, maybe the second most liberating sensation. And maybe I’m not quite as pure as Snow White.
My eyes drift back to the wicked diversion of McHottie’s tight, round ass as we keep crisscrossing the ice past each other at blurring speeds. Can’t help notice his, high-speed, sharp cross-overs and Mohawk cuts and pivots while using his long, hard hockey stick to cup his puck with acute dexterity. Yikes. Only I could get hot thinking of a hockey stick as a metaphor for…for the metaphor I’m thinking of. I need to get laid. But since just the thought of getting close enough to someone to actually do the deed has my insides twisting into a pretzel, it looks like my vibrator will be getting a little more action this semester.
Then McHottie zips past me again and my eyes drop right back to his incredible ass. It’s probably the kind of ass with those amazing indents on either side: the ones no woman could ever achieve if she did ten-thousand squats a day, the ones you want to run your fingers over and…Get out of your dirty mind, Tracey.
Damn. It. What is it with me? After Sean splintered my heart into millions of pieces, I swore I’d stay away from all men and use skating as my only exhilarating escape. Seems my body is sending me mixed messages. Some parts of me--no need to mention which parts-are not too keen on the idea of life without steamy sex; other parts can’t seem to let anyone get close enough to be intimate. It’s a big problem. But it’s okay, because I’m not looking for sex--steamy or otherwise.
Sex with Sean was more in the ‘otherwise’ category. I mean it was good. Don’t get me wrong. Sean was gorgeous--on the outside. Except our sex sessions were more about him and his needs then they were about mine. He spent a lot of our intimate time telling me what he needed or wanted and how I should do things to provide him with those needs.
Maybe that’s why those parts I referred to are craving the idea of a super attentive lover now—except, since Sean, the fear of intimacy causes my chest to hurt and my stomach to tighten like it’s full of hard rocks.
Still, the kind of fantasy lover they write about in romance novels; the kind who puts the woman’s pleasure above his own, a guy who cares more about the girl’s needs and pleasing her in every way possible, that’s the kind of attentive intimacy I would love to be able to experience just once. Even if, at the moment, I’m an anxiety-ridden mess when anyone tries to get too close.
My mind goes back to the thought of McHottie’s dreamy turquoise eyes and-- although I’m in a frigid ice rink--my lady parts are experiencing warm wet sensations. Argh. I’m a hot mess. Exactly.
My thoughts drift back to the way I melted over rock god’s eyes the first time I looked into them. Yeah. No. Focus on the ice. The naggy little voice inside my head is trying to keep me from making the same stupid mistakes. This time I intend to listen. I shake myself out of the sultry thoughts and refocus on my skating.
When everything else falls apart, skating is my release--my salvation. Despite the shit storm my life has become, it’s so good to be back in my skates. I’m feeling the good kind of adrenaline rush that comes with the elation of flying around the ice. It’s time to go for it--a double Lutz for my last move of the day. It’s always been my toughest jump, especially in combination with another jump. But everything feels so right--I’m in the zone. Connected. The music is pushing me faster, harder. I build speed toward the opposite corner of the rink and just as I look over my shoulder--ready to push off my edge and soar--McHottie comes into my line of vision. It’s too late to pull out--no pun intended, yet again--and we crash like the Titanic into that catastrophic iceberg. Although in this case, I’m not sure which one of us is the doomed ship and which one is the damn iceberg, because we’re both sprawled out on the ice in a tangled mass.
“What the fuck?” McHottie gallantly asks. “You’re supposed to look before you go into a jump!”
“Excuse me?” I very politely query. “I was looking, but you cut across my path.” I may’ve mumbled ‘jack-ass’ after that statement, can’t be certain--my thoughts are in such a haze because of the collision.
“I cut across? You skated right into my path. And you broke my hockey stick. Christ!”
Pretty sure he’s not speaking in metaphors. “I didn’t break anything.” Yet. “What are you doing on the ice with a hockey stick and puck during a free-style session anyway. You’re not even supposed to be here.”
“If you look around, Bambi, you’ll notice we’re the only ones on the ice,” the hot, super douche suggests while pushing himself up from the ice and pulling off his helmet. “The rest of the figure skaters already left a while ago. You were late.”
Holy oh my God! He is be-yond gorgeous with his caramel, sun-streaked, surfer-style hair and his tanned chiseled face. “It…it…doesn’t matter what time I got here.” I manage to put my tongue back in my mouth and use it for speaking. “This is still a free-style session and you’re not supposed to be on the ice,” I point out, while pushing myself up.
This time the dickhead doesn’t offer his hand in assistance, which is, once again, just fine with me. Has every college campus changed their admission requirements for men? 3.5 GPA and Must Be Total Asshole.
“You know, Bambi, you might want to take a few more lessons before trying those doubles and triples. You’re a walking--or should I say skating--disaster. If you don’t kill yourself first, you’re going to take out another skater while you’re learning.”
“While I’m learning! Listen, jackass.” Yes. This time I went right ahead and said it aloud and I’m pretty sure his beautiful Titan god-like face grimaced just a little in response. Since my dad was a hockey player, I grew up in rinks around some unrestrained, expressive male skaters. Which also means I’m never at a loss for not-so-sweet animated expletives.
“First of all, my name is not Bambi,” I point out, even though I get the whole snarky Bambi reference. “Second of all, I’ll have you know I was the Senior Ladies National Collegiate Gold Medalist two years in a row.” I put up two fingers to fully illustrate to the jackass how many years that is.
“Huh. Yeah?” He scoffs, while putting his helmet back on. “And who was your competition, Will Farrell?”
“Ha ha, Very funny, jackass!” I yell to his spectacular ass as he skates away. What a jerk. Who cares if he has gorgeous ocean blue eyes, a perfect chiseled jaw and amazing kiss-me lips--he’s still an asshole. Lucky for me there’s no chance of any mutual attraction between the two of us. Unlucky for me I think my skating tights melted when I took one look at his supermodel face.