on 20th December 2015
Amazon Kindle, Audible
Each heartbeat leads Joss closer a shocking truth that will change everything.
Joss Olstad wins the fight to switch from her private school to a public high to “find her pieces” she lost when the Indian artist father she never knew died. There, Joss struggles with a slutty friend, who flirts with her new love; Indian Culture Club girls who press her on her past, as well as her stoner mother’s lies back at home. Armed only with her handmade heart boxes that hold private messages, Joss’s search for identity leads her to a scary industrial section of Queens, and a shocking family secret that changes everything.
I imagine Will and his mom working side-by-side, her in a pair of rubber knee-pads like in gardening magazines as she digs holes for bulbs with a trowel, him bent over, boot pushing against a shovel, his bronzed shoulders gleaming with sweat as he digs holes for bushes. In Will’s case, I suspect the adage is true—If a guy has a good relationship with his mom he’ll treat his girlfriend well.
The garden brims with flowering bushes and chrysanthemums. Fallen leaves from a neighboring maple adorn the plants like fiery confetti.
“Time to rake.” Will pushes leaves off a chaise and invites me to sit with him.
Setting my tea beside his on a metal table, I perch on the edge of his chair. With Oskar, my pulse pounded from the urge to escape. Now it quickens from the sheer joy of being close to Will. Our tea glasses gleam a honey-dipped gold. The kitchen windowpanes reflect a teal sky, with a flutter in one, of a bird’s wings.
He strokes my hair, then gently takes me by the shoulders, and draws me in toward him. I shiver. Gingerly, I ease myself back until I’m curving against his chest. His arms circle my middle until I’m firmly pressed against him and feel his muscled stomach and strong shoulders. Warm. Now hot. So hot!
He rubs my belly with his palms, stirring up mad desire. By the time his hands move upwards and he kisses the nape of my neck I’m breathing fast and heavy.
Holy mother of god, he’s good.
“Oh, hello,” A lady’s voice.
In one frenzied motion, I scramble off the chair and brush off my pants.
A squat woman in an apron stands at the kitchen doorway. “Master William, your friend is here. He ring the bell. No hear?”
If this is Will’s mom she’s aged terribly and has grown a double chin since the photo. I look over at him and mouth the word who?
Will laughs under his breath as he gets up. “Meet Esme, our housekeeper.”
As I’m introducing myself I hear another, deeper voice. “Chica, chica cookie monster.” It’s Trenton. For shit’s sake! The golden moment is definitely over.
“Have you traveled, Will?” My mother’s in full throttle interrogation mode.
He shrugs. “To Lisbon, Portugal, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles.”
“Really!” Mom narrows her pale eyes and stares at him, undoubtedly trying to square off this new info with her previous assumption that he’d never set foot outside the boroughs. It thrills me.
“Tell me about your travels.” I lean forward. “Which place was your favorite?”
“Buenos Aires has the best history museum. But I liked being on the set of my father’s show in Lisbon.”
“Your father’s show?” Mom jiggles her foot. Will’s comment has obviously set off an implosion of bewildered energy in her.
“His dad was the lead in a soap opera,” I explain. “Remember Spanish Moss? He played the dude in the LA mansion who owned—”
“—Pacific Breeze Wineries,” Will finishes my sentence.
“You’re kidding!” Creases in Mom’s forehead smooth as she gapes.
“My pops was the first big Latin actor on the American soaps.” Pride rings in Will’s voice.
“Bro, you never told me that,” says Trenton. “Take me traveling next time.”
Mom pats Trenton on the back as if she’s burping a baby. “Don’t fret, you’ll travel at some point.”
“Yeah, I’d like to go to India,” I say flatly. “To meet the Duranjayas. See the Duranjaya Spice place. Learn about who does what.” I stare at Mom. Hard. I haven’t had the time to corner her about all that. It’s so much safer with backups.
“Joss, this isn’t the time.” Daggers jut from her voice.
“Was it her father’s company?” Will asks her.
“That’s a private matter.” Mom glares at Will, and then shoots me a fierce look.
I shoot her one right back. “Why is it any more private than talking about Will’s dad?”