UnConventional – Excerpt

With this being #BMDAwarenessWeek and UnConventional‘s publication only eight days away, I can finally share the “final” version of the first 3500 words of the book with you. I hope you enjoy!

You can purchase the book here starting on October 14. It’ll also be available from most major ebook retailers. I’ll post those links once they’re available. Thanks for your support!


Chapter One

I’m not supposed to be here. I was going to skip ECAC this year, steer clear of New Orleans and the memories that hang from it like Spanish moss from a live oak.

The thought swims through my head as I rush through the vast terminal E of Bush Intercontinental Airport, struggling to make it to my gate. The cord from my earbuds sways as I run, the self-identified anthem of my thirtieth year pumping into my ears: All Time Low’s “Weightless.”

Expecting to fly out of terminal C, I went through security there, only to discover after the TSA torture that my gate was actually in E—mostly reserved for international departures. But hey, as the joke goes: “Louisiana: third world and proud of it.” Even with my first-class priority security access (a birthday treat to myself), now that everyone is funneled through the cancer-making voyeur machines, it took me longer than it should have, and I have to race all the way to the far end of the terminal to gate E21, hopefully before my flight leaves me stranded.

Gripping my bag, grateful I checked my suitcase, I continue my dash. I wish I were taller and my petite legs could cover more ground with each stride. I can’t afford to miss this plane, be late to the convention. I may not have originally planned on attending, but now that I’ve committed, I need to be there.

In the middle of the chorus, my phone rings, interrupting my music with my husband Stephen’s characteristic tone, and I manage to hit the button on my cord to answer it without slowing down.

“Look, I’m late—” I leap onto one of the automated walkways, dodging people and luggage who don’t obey the slow-traffic-keep-right rule.

“The company’s expanding their overseas operations, and they put my name in for an international position!”

I’m almost to my gate, hopping off the walkway, narrowly avoiding an old woman. “Stephen,” I say, “I’m about to miss my flight. Can we—”

“I don’t know why you’re even going to New Orleans. Sometimes the past is better left there. You don’t see me going back to Nebraska anytime soon, do you?” Even after ten years of marriage Stephen hardly talks about his childhood. All I know is he spent most of his younger years working on his great-uncle’s ranch, where the only difference between him and the other ranch hands was that he wasn’t paid, and he had nowhere else to go. Stephen was smart enough to get an academic scholarship when he turned eighteen, his ticket off the ranch, and he never looked back. We each have intense memories associated with where we grew up, only mine are bittersweet, and Stephen’s are just…bitter. “Like that novel you’re writing. All it does is make you unhappy. I don’t understand you.”

“That’s not true,” I say, my voice weak. Nearly breathless, I arrive at the gate, an apologetic look on my face as I hand the gate agent my ticket.

“We thought we lost you,” she says. “I’ll let them know you’re here. Hurry.”

I jog up the Jetway. “I have to go. They’re holding the plane for me. We can talk about this later. I’ll call you when I get to New Orleans.” I hit the button to hang up, music immediately surging back into my ears. I mouth sorry to the flight attendant as I find my seat—1-B—stash my bag, and sink into it with relief. I’m exhausted, sweaty, and disappointed I’ve arrived too late for my preflight drink.

I’m shutting off my phone and winding the headphones around it when the man beside me speaks.

“What’s a seven-letter word for the victim of adultery? Begins with a c?”

I glance over. He has his long legs stretched out in front of him, the tray table opened, and the airline magazine flipped to the crossword. A pen poised in one hand, he taps it against his thumb, waiting for me to answer.

Without having to think, I reply, “Cuckold.”

He fills in the word: firm, deliberate strokes, his letters all caps and neat. I like his handwriting. Then he turns and smiles at me: a big, broad grin revealing teeth that are perfect enough to be the result of years of pain and orthodontic work, yet one slightly crooked incisor on the bottom left suggests they’re naturally straight.

“Thanks,” he says, still smiling. “I should have known that.” His hair is slightly wavy, thick. A deep dark brown with a suggestion of red, conservatively cut but not so short you can’t see its natural body or texture. It’s the kind of hair that demands a woman pull her fingers through.

“I didn’t think anyone actually did those things,” I say, pointing to the magazine.

His cheek raises in a half smile as he slips the pen in the pocket of his button-down and folds the tray table back into the armrest. “Now that I have such lovely company, I don’t need to.” I notice he leans forward at the waist without really moving or bending his legs as he slips the magazine back into the pouch in front of him.

I find my eyes strangely drawn to his legs and feet; he’s wearing black, loose-fitting slacks and black leather dress shoes, although they’ve obviously been chosen more for comfort than formality.

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