The Final Zelda Book

I am both excited and sad to announce that The Adventures of Zelda: The One and Only Pug is now available for sale. This fifth book in the Zelda series marks the final installment of the series (at least for the immediate future). I have loved writing these books and hearing from parents, kids, and pug lovers who loved reading about a stubborn pug named Zelda. But after five books, Zelda needs some time away from the spotlight, and I don't want to sacrifice quality to pump out another book or two. It feels right to end here. Maybe some day in the future Zelda and Peach will go to space, but until then, I hope you will pick up a copy of this book and laugh some more at Zelda and Peach. Thanks for spreading the word about this series over the past few years and stay tuned for a brand new kids' book series from me in the next year!

Buy Now on on Amazon Kindle, Paperback, iBooksGoogle PlayBarnes & Noble and Kobo

The Adventures of Zelda: The Four Seasons

Laugh your way through four seasons with Zelda Pug and Peach! 

Zelda the pug is back for her fourth book of adventures with her Boston terrier sister, Peach. Together, Zelda and Peach face the evil vacuum cleaner. Zelda discovers fireflies, and Peach learns to ice skate. But one question remains. Will Peach finally catch a duck?

The Adventures of Zelda: The Four Seasons is now available for sale. Pick up your copy at  AmazonApple iBooksBarnes & NobleKobo, and Google Play.

For those new to the Zelda series, read the first chapter below! Or you can watch Zelda and Peach pick winners for my pawtographed Zelda book giveaways. Watch Zelda's video here and Peach's here to see how they picked a winner! (The videos are ridiculous, I know. I apologize for my craziness.) The winners were selected from my email list. I give away signed books and gift cards every month, so join my list!

Chapter 1: Vacuum's Return

My sister, Peach, and I stay indoors during the bright hours of the hot summer days. When the light fades in the evening, we play in the backyard or take long walks with our family. But after many dark sleeps of this pattern, I begin to long for days with adventure and nights filled with mysteries to solve. The calm and quiet are not for a pug like me. 

One day I search the house for new toys. In the backyard, I sniff the entire fence looking for traces of squirrels. On our walks, I inspect the light posts, and Peach searches the mailboxes. We find nothing. 

With no adventures in sight, I slip into a pug depression. I wake up only to eat. I can’t help it. I can’t get excited about the same old routine. Peach, on the other hand, is her normal, spunky self. She jumps on my head when I’m sleeping under the blankets, and she tries to play with me. If that doesn’t work, she barks in my ear until I give in. We run laps around the living room or play keep away with a toy or a ball. Usually, Peach riles me enough that I pug sprint through the whole house with her chasing. When I break into pug sprints, I feel joy again. I’m glad Peach forces me off the couch. 

After today’s round of chase, I daydream on the couch about past adventures. I think about the snowman, Squeaks, the skate park, and Vacuum. 

Vacuum!

I haven’t seen Vacuum in a long time. What happened to her? Finally, I have a mystery to solve. 

Peach is sleeping next to me on the couch. I nudge her with my paw. She blinks a few times and then closes her eyes. I push her a little harder. She groans at me. She is a pain to wake up! I bark twice, and with another loud groan, Peach opens her eyes. 

I jump to the floor. After three more groans, Peach hops to the ground. I lead Peach around the house, sniffing each door for signs of Vacuum. Peach follows me, but she is confused. I don’t think she has met Vacuum yet. 

Where could Vacuum be? 

When we hear Ben and Lucy walk through the front door, we sprint down the stairs to greet them. With my tail dancing, I jump in circles around them, licking their hands. 

“Hi, Zelda!” Lucy says. Peach jumps in the air, and her long tongue licks Lucy’s face. 

“Hi, Peach!” She laughs. Ben pets both of us on our head. 

“How was school?” Hannah asks, walking into the living room. Ben and Lucy drop their bags on the floor. Lucy hops on the couch. Peach joins her, giving her more kisses. Ben stoops to pick up a ball. He throws it, and I scurry after it, knowing Peach isn’t far behind. 

The Vacuum mystery is pushed to the back of my mind over the next few days. With the sun no longer burning our backs during the day, Peach and I spend more time outside. Peach chases the birds that fly through the backyard. I watch the leaves swirl in the air, knowing the leaf piles will appear soon. I can’t wait to run and jump in them. 
After a walk with Nate, Ben, and Lucy, Peach and I step into the house. A well-known scent fills my nose. 

She’s back!

I dash through the house. I smell her everywhere, but I don’t see her. I run up the stairs with Peach on my tail. The smell of Vacuum is stronger upstairs. I follow my nose to a door in Hannah and Nate’s room. The door is closed, but she is behind the door. I know it. I scratch at the door, trying to pry it open. Peach barks behind me. She doesn’t know what I am doing or why, but I can’t explain Vacuum without showing her. I bark back. 

“Zelda, Peach, leave it,” Hannah says. She stands in the doorway of her bedroom. I scratch again at the door. 

“Fine,” she says. Hannah walks over to us, opens the door, and then walks away.

Vacuum stands before us. She doesn’t make a sound, but I feel her glare. I lunge for her and bark. Peach sits next to me staring at Vacuum without a trace of fear in her eyes. If Peach only knew …

Over the next few days, I check on Vacuum in the closet. After my walks or any time outside, I sprint up the stairs to the closet. I bark at Vacuum and then run away. Some days, I bark more, hoping to get a reaction, but nothing happens. Peach follows me to Vacuum, but she stops after a few days of the same pattern. I know she thinks I am crazy. 

Several more dark sleeps pass by, and the whole family is home on this day. It’s a warm day, and I notice the breeze flowing through the windows into the house. Hannah lets us outside in the backyard. We run to the back fence and sprint through the yard. While we sprint and tackle each other, I hear a strange noise. I stop and listen. 

Vacuum! 

I bolt for the back door. On my hind legs, I scratch at the door. Peach joins me. I can’t see Vacuum, but the noise is present. I scratch and bark, hoping someone will hear us. 

Finally, Lucy wanders into the kitchen. She sees us at the door and lets us in the house. I scamper in the door and sprint up the stairs. I find Vacuum and Hannah together in Lucy’s room. 

Not Lucy’s room!

I charge at Vacuum. Vacuum backs up, but Hannah is right behind her. I bark and take a nip toward her tube. Hannah and Vacuum move away from me to the other side of the bed. I run after them. 

“ARFFF! ARFFF!” 

Peach is next to me, with her high-pitched bark. She lunges at Vacuum, and I know she gets it. We bark and lunge in unison at Vacuum again and again. 

The noise stops. Peach turns to me. I look up at Vacuum. Hannah stands behind her, shaking her head. 

“Fine. I will put the vacuum away,” she says. She pushes Vacuum back into the closet. Peach and I prance out of the room together. Vacuum is back, but now it’s two against one! 

 

Books I Love: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

I recently finished listening to the audiobook of Where She Went by Gayle Forman. Where She Went is the sequel to If I Stay. I enjoyed the first book, but this second book was phenomenal. I loved it. First, I enjoyed that the book was told through Adam's perspective. (I might be a little exhausted of female YA narrators.) I liked that it's a slow burn to learn about what happened with Adam and Mia since the accident. I love the characters. The author even managed to catch me a little off guard with how the story wrapped up. I loved the details, description, and the shooting star lyrics at the start of the chapters. Magnificent! If you are looking for a great contemporary ya book, check this one out. Here's the link to it on Amazon

Sidenote - You should probably read the first book beforehand, although I think it stands well on its own. 

Lillie is on Tour!

The Evolution of Lillie Gable is on a blog tour the next two weeks, so book bloggers will be reviewing and writing about the book and a little about me. Stop by each site and check them out. 

May 3 - Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours - Kick Off

May 3 - Penny For My Thoughts with Interview

May 4 - Texas Book Nook

May 5 - Andi's YA Books 

May 6 - A Life Through Books

May 7 - Head in the Clouds with Interview

May 8 - Young Adult Book Madness

May 10 - What U Talkin 'Bout Willis

May 11 - The Things We Read

May 12 - Coffee Book Mom

May 15 - Dreams Come True Through Reading

May 16 - Books Direct

May 17 - Simpson's Paradox

May 17 - RABT Reviews - Wrap Up

Plus, to celebrate the blog tour, The Evolution of Lillie Gable is on sale for $0.99 in the Amazon Kindle Store. If you haven't picked up a copy, now is your chance to get it on discount. Here's the link to buy your copy. Thanks & Happy Reading!


Fan Letters - A Letter from a Great Artist

Today's post is the second in my new "Fan Letters" series. Simply put, I'm posting some letters I've received from kids after meeting them at school author days. They are awesome and brighten my day. I hope they brighten yours too!

Check out the first "Fan Letter" post too!

Sneak Peek Snippet: The Adventures of Zelda: The Four Seasons

I am excited to announce that I sent the fourth Zelda book: The Adventures of Zelda: The Four Seasons to the editor this week. I'm aiming for a summer release, but I haven't nailed down a date yet. 

To celebrate the upcoming release, I'm sharing the first sneak peek into the fourth Zelda book. Here is a good portion of Chapter 2: The Hike. Enjoy!!

Ben shoos me away. Fine. If they don’t want me here, I will find something else to do. I walk away from my family to search the clearing for something fun to do. My nose leads me on a trail to the base of a fallen tree. I know the smell is squirrel. I love squirrels! 

I look at my family talking and eating. Peach sits on the ground beside them, hoping for food. Nobody is paying attention to me, so I leap on the log. I walk on the log further in the air. It leads to a tree. The smell continues up the tree to the branch above me. This tree is huge–the tree reaches high into the sky and its branches are almost as wide as the trunk.

I look up to the next branch. The gap is small. I make it to the branch with a long step. I cross the gap and follow the branch away from the trunk. The scent leaps to the branch above. I step up to that branch and walk across it to the other end. The scent is getting stronger. I leap across a small gap to another branch. 

“Mom I’m tired,” Lucy says. I look to my family. They are way below me. I didn’t realize how high I climbed.

“I know. We are heading back soon,” Hannah says. 

I don’t have much time. 

The next jump is a big one. The branch on the other side is much smaller than this one. I’m sure it can hold a squirrel, but can it support a muscular pug like me? 

“Where’s Zelda?” Ben asks. 

Uh oh. 

Peach’s tail wags, her nose twitches, and she gazes into the air at me. She doesn’t hesitate. 

Arrfff. Arrfff. 

I scramble back toward the tree, but as I move, I hear cracking noises. I freeze. The branch is breaking! I need to get out of this tree. 

“She’s in the tree Nate,” Hannah says. 

“How did she get there?” Nate says. 

“I don’t know.” 

“Can you reach her?” 

I look at the next branch below me. It looks way too far of a jump to be safe. Is this the way I came? 

Nate walks over to me. He stands underneath me. 

“I can’t reach her. She needs to jump into my arms,” he says. I look down at him. It’s a long way down to him. 

Crack. The branch isn’t going to last much longer.

“Here, take these treats,” Hannah says. 

“Zelda, come here girl,” Nate says softly. I look into his eyes. “It’s okay. I’ll catch you.” 

Peach barks and whines. She’s worried. 

“Come Zelda,” he says again. Nate will catch me. He will catch me. 

My pug courage returns. I take a deep breath, and then I leap off the branch. The free fall is terrifying until Nate catches me in his arms. My heart is pounding, but I am okay.  

“Good girl Zelda,” Nate says. He gives me a bacon treat. 

“Hannah, can you hand me her leash?” Nate says. He leashes me and places me on the ground. Peach sprints to me and licks my face seven times. 

“How did she get in the tree dad?” Lucy asks. 

“I have no idea Lucy,” Nate replies. 

“Maybe she was hunting a squirrel,” Ben says. 

“Or maybe she thought she was a squirrel again,” Hannah says. Nate chuckles. 

“I don’t think we will ever know,” Nate says. “It’s another pug mystery.” 

Books I Love: Deathmaker by Lindsay Buroker

It's been several weeks since I highlighted a book I've enjoyed recently because my reading slowed down during the month of March. But, life is back to its normal pace and I finished a great book this morning–Deathmaker by Lindsay Buroker. 

I've read a few of Buroker's books now, and she is quickly rising to the top of my favorite authors list. She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and steampunk. Her books are filled with action, snappy dialogue, rich worlds and great characters. This is the second book of the Dragonblood series, but it reads like a standalone due to the focus on different characters. If you are looking for a new book to read, I recommend checking out the Dragon Blood series by Buroker. At the moment, you can pick up the first three books in the series for only $0.99.

When Lieutenant Caslin Ahn joined Wolf Squadron, she was prepared for the reality that she might one day be killed in the line of duty. She was less prepared for being shot down, assumed dead by her own people, and dragged off to the Cofah Empire as a prisoner of war. As if being thrust into a dungeon and interrogated wasn't bad enough, the sadistic commandant decides to give her a cellmate: the notorious pirate Deathmaker. Given the crimes he's committed against Iskandia, Cas owes it to her people to try and kill him. 

Part warrior and part scientist,
Tolemek "Deathmaker" Targoson has not only slain thousands with his deadly concoctions, but he has a special loathing for Iskandian pilots. It was Ahn's commander, Colonel Zirkander, who ruined his military career, forcing him to leave his country in shame and join a pirate organization. Years later, he uses his dreadful reputation like a shield to keep people away; all he wants is to be left alone to work in his laboratory. But when fate lands him in a cell with Zirkander's protégé, he sees a chance for revenge. Why kill the lieutenant when he can use her to get to his old nemesis? 

There's just one problem: it's hard to plot against your enemies when you're in prison with them. Cas and
Tolemek will have to work together if they hope to escape the Cofah dungeon. In the process, they may find that neither is what the other expects, and that they have far greater problems to worry about than ensnaring each other... 

Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway this week. The winner is announced below. Stay tuned here for more giveaways or join my email list for even more chances to win books, Amazon gift cards, and more!

Release Day for The Evolution of Lillie Gable: Read the First Chapter for Free!

I am super excited that today is release day for The Evolution of Lillie Gable. I am really proud of this book, and I can't wait for you to read it. So I'm going to cut to the chase. Go buy the book in the Amazon store. It's only $2.99 on Kindle or $11.99 for a paperback. If you need a little teaser, the book description and entire first chapter is below. 

Oh. One more thing. If you don't have a Kindle, you can read kindle books on any android or apple device. Simply download the free kindle app. Happy reading!

Meet Lillie Gable- 
high school sophomore, outgoing, beautiful, athletic, and funny
... 

She is the life of any party. Her boyfriend, Jake, is a smoking hot senior, and Lillie is on track to be a starter on the varsity girls' basketball team this year. 

But trouble looms behind the façade. Lillie's home life is a wreck. Her father is hiding a secret, and Lillie is determined to find the truth, even if it tears apart her family. 

While she searches for the truth about her father, the last thing Lillie needs is a feud with Angela Barrett, the brass, bleached blonde senior who is the queen of the rumor mill. Angela is determined to ruin Lillie's reputation because she has set her sights on Lillie's boyfriend, Jake. 

Heartbroken and humiliated, Lillie can't return to the life she once knew. Does she have the strength and resolve to forge a new path now that everything is changing? 

CHAPTER ONE

The sound of something vibrating woke Lillie Gable from a deep sleep, but she cast off her comforter and sprung up to find the source of the buzzing. She stepped over the heap of clothes in the middle of the floor and rooted through the mess of folders, notebooks, and papers. Under her class schedule, she found her cell phone. 

“Hey, Rachel,” she said. “You woke me up.”

“Good,” Rachel said. “You need to get out of bed. It’s the last day of summer.” 

Lillie turned and looked at her clock. “Jake and I can meet you at the beach by noon,” she said. 

“Perfect.” 

Lillie hung up the phone and texted her boyfriend, Jake. She found one of her swimsuits on top of the pile of clean clothes next to her closet. After Lillie changed and gathered a few supplies for the beach, she walked down the stairs. Her mother, Leslie, was in the kitchen unloading the dishwasher. 

“Good morning,” her mother said. 

“Hi, Mom,” Lillie grabbed a bowl from the cabinet next to where her mother stood. Lillie’s latest growth spurt put her at five feet ten inches, and when she stood next to her short and stocky mother, Lillie looked like a giant. Her mother’s short and spiky pixie hairstyle was also much different than Lillie’s long, brown hair. The lone resemblance between mother and daughter were their bright, hazel eyes. 

“I have some bad news,” her mother said. 

“What?” Lillie said. 

“Your father won’t be home until tomorrow morning now, so we have to reschedule our family dinner.” 

Lillie’s parents had a tradition to celebrate the last day of summer together. School resumed on Tuesday, so the family planned dinner for Monday at one of their favorite restaurants. 

“Seriously? It’s been on the calendar for a month now,” Lillie said. Lillie’s mother worked as an intensive care unit nurse. She worked the evening shift, four nights on, then two nights off. Dan Gable, Leslie’s father, was a sales manager who travelled a few days of every week for work. With her parents’ schedule, the opportunity for all three of them to be together was rare. 

“He has to stay an extra day in Chicago for work,” her mother said. She had her back to Lillie. 

“Figures,” Lillie said. “I should have guessed Dad would bail.” 

“Your father isn’t bailing on you.” Her mother turned to face Lillie. “He has to work. I know he would rather be home with you.”

“Whatever you say,” Lillie said. She was tired of her father’s work schedule and his excuses. He was always traveling for work, and he skipped out on Lillie’s basketball games and their family plans a lot. The last straw with her father came the night before the district final last March. To celebrate Lillie dressing varsity as a freshman player, her father had planned a night out for the two of them. He’d bought tickets for the Cleveland Cavaliers game and made reservations at a new barbecue restaurant next to the Cavs arena. Lillie had been excited to watch Lebron James play and spend time with her dad.

 After practice, Lillie went home, but her father never showed. He called an hour later, apologizing profusely about having to stay late at work. Lillie didn’t buy it—it was Friday night. Furious and frustrated, Lillie went out with her boyfriend to a party. To feel better, she drank a few beers and then a few more. By midnight, she couldn’t talk in complete sentences. Worried that she might have alcohol poisoning, her boyfriend, Jake, drove her to his house to keep on eye on her for the night. With Lillie’s phone, Jake texted her mother to tell her she was staying over her best friend Rachel’s house for the night. 

By the time Jake woke her the next morning, Lillie had missed the bus for the district final. She checked her phone to see several text messages and a missed call. Rachel Brandt, her best friend and teammate, left a voicemail and messaged Lillie to ask why she wasn’t on the bus. Her mother texted a good luck message, but her father hadn’t called or texted to check on her. Lillie brushed away the tears forming in her eyes. Her father didn’t care about her. 

Jake drove Lillie to the game, and she arrived before the opening tip, but her coaches wouldn’t let her sit on the bench with her teammates. Lillie was a starter for the junior varsity team, and typically, she only played a few minutes in the varsity games. She cheered for her teammates from the stands, furious at her father, and disappointed in herself. Her absence on the bench didn’t hurt the team’s chances of winning the game, but she lost the trust of her coaches. Lillie vowed to never trust or rely on her father again. 

“What are your plans for the day?” her mother asked. Lillie snapped out of her memories, letting the anger settle back inside her. 

“Going to the beach,” Lillie said. 

“It will be a perfect day to be at the beach,” her mother replied. Lillie’s phone buzzed in her pocket. She glanced at it. 

“Jake’s here,” she said. “I’ll see you later.” 

“Let’s play boys versus girls,” Lillie said with a devious grin. Her chestnut-brown hair blew with the lake breeze. She turned to Rachel who sat next to her on their blanket in the sand. 

“We can take them,” Rachel said. She smiled, but her brown eyes were sizing up their boyfriends, Brent and Jake. The boys were standing a few feet away tossing a football to each other in the sand. 

“Let’s play, then,” Jake said. He walked over to the blanket and offered a hand to Lillie. His messy, blond hair and blue eyes were hard to resist, but Lillie waved him away. 

“I don’t need any help from you,” she said. “You guys are going down!” Lillie vaulted forward, sending sand flying in all directions. A few nearby sunbathers turned in their direction offering up dirty looks to Lillie. She yelled “Sorry!” on her way into the gentle, cool waves of Lake Erie. 

Due to a mild summer, the lake water remained chilly until a week or so ago. The cold water hadn’t kept Lillie out of the water earlier this summer, but she was bummed that the warm water had only returned in time for school to start. 

Lillie, Rachel, Brent, and Jake waded through the rocks and waves to the sandbar. The water reached Lillie’s shoulders before she felt the sand between her toes. On the sandbar, the shallow water rose to Lillie’s waist at the deepest sections—perfect for a game of water football with the boys. 

“Okay, what’s our strategy?” Rachel asked. Lillie stood a few inches taller than her best friend, but whatever advantage Rachel lost in height to Lillie, she made up with speed and tenacity. 

The boys were talking to each other several feet away. “Beat them,” Lillie said.

Together, Lillie and Rachel were tough to beat on the basketball court. When they weren’t on the court, they didn’t like to lose, even in a game of water football with their boyfriends. 

“The good news is we weigh the same as the boys,” Lillie said. Rachel laughed. Brent was tall, maybe an inch or two over six feet, but his body was typical of a runner–skinny and toned. Lillie guessed she weighed more than Brent with his three-percent body fat. Jake’s frame resembled the typical male high school athlete’s. He didn’t play any sports at Eastbrook anymore, but his free time was spent at the gym. He was close to six feet tall with broad shoulders, toned arms, and six-pack abs.

“That’s not a plan,” Rachel said, glancing over her shoulder at the boys. 

“I don’t know. Hit them where it hurts?” Lillie said. “Let’s play, we don’t need strategy.” 

“The end zones line up with the buoys,” Brent shouted across the water as he pointed to his left and right. “Ladies can have the ball first. Ready?” Lillie and Rachel looked at each other, then both gave a thumbs up. 

Brent launched the football into the air toward the girls. Lillie backed up a few paces, waving Rachel off. She caught the ball.

“Block for me!” Lillie shouted. She started running, but her dash for the end zone through the water resembled a power walk. The water slowed her down, but Brent looked like he was gliding through it without any resistance. As he closed in on her, his blue eyes sparkled in the sunlight, and Lillie knew she was in trouble. She looked over her shoulder. Rachel jogged behind her, so Lillie slowed down.

“I’ll take care of Brent,” Rachel said. “Let me lead!” 

They ran forward. With Brent a dive away from Lillie, Rachel dashed in front of Lillie and took a flying leap at Brent. She caught him off guard, sending both of them crashing into the water. Lillie laughed and kept running. 

With Brent down, Jake remained the only obstacle to Lillie’s touchdown. She knew he wanted to tackle her, to feel her body close to his, but she didn’t want to give him that joy during this game. She had a touchdown to score. If she barreled through him, she could make it to the buoy. 

Lillie put all her strength and speed into forward motion and steamrolled Jake. She elbowed him in the stomach, and a knee landed below the belt. He crumpled into the water, so Lillie hesitated. He resurfaced seconds later and leaped for Lillie, wrapping his arms around her waist. She pressed forward, looking at the buoy several paces ahead on her left. Her legs burned from carrying Jake’s heft and weight, but a touchdown was within her reach. Dragging Jake behind her, Lillie used her remaining strength for a final push to the goal line. She lunged forward.

“Touchdown!” she shouted, crossing the imaginary goal line. Jake released his grip on her. Lillie threw her arms in the air and then spiked the football into the water, splashing both of them. Rachel celebrated from across the water with cheers and arms raised, and she failed to see Brent until he tackled her. They both fell into the water. Lillie laughed. 

“We let you have that,” Jake said as he approached Lillie. 

“No, you didn’t,” she said. “We scored on you fair and square.” 

“I’m not sure I would call a knee to the groin fair,” he said.

“Sorry about that,” Lillie said, turning to him. “Let me make that up to you.” She wrapped her arms around him and let her lips dance with his. His wet, muscled body was warm against hers. 

“Maybe you can make it up to me later?” he asked between kisses. 

“We’ll see,” she said, pulling apart from him. “First, we have a game to finish. She grabbed the football and swam to Rachel.

They played a few more rounds in the water before calling the game. Lillie and Rachel squeaked by with a win because they had one more offensive possession than the boys. They didn’t care if it was unfair; they wanted to win. 

Exhausted, the four of them strolled out of the water and sprawled across their blanket in the sand. The girls took the middle places with the boys on opposite ends. With the sun at its afternoon peak, they dried off in a matter of minutes. 

“I can’t believe today is the last day of summer,” Rachel said. 

“I know. It sucks,” Jake said. “At least it will be my senior year. One more year at Eastbrook.” 

“Lucky,” Lillie said. Rachel and Brent were juniors, but Lillie was the young one of the group—she was a sophomore. 

“Either way, it’s going to be a great year,” Rachel said. 

Lillie knew it would have to be better than last year for Rachel. Rachel had lived with her grandparents all of her life. Her father was killed in the Gulf War when she was a baby, and her mother had been out of the picture until last year. Against her grandparents’ wishes, Rachel met her mother. The meeting wasn’t what Rachel expected. She discovered the truth about her mother, father and why her mother left. The truth devastated Rachel, but over time, she moved forward. She forgave her mother and started talking with her.  

“I agree,” Brent said. 

Lillie looked over at Brent and Rachel, who lay close together with their hands fingers intertwined. They looked at each other like they would be together forever. Brent had stayed by Rachel’s side through the tough moments last year. Their romance is more than a typical high school fling, she thought. She turned her head to face her boyfriend. She had fun with Jake, maybe a little too much fun, but she couldn’t imagine a life beyond high school with him. 

Jake pulled into Lillie’s empty driveway. She kissed Jake good-bye and walked through the front door into an empty house. She wondered where her mother was. Lillie marched through the entryway, past the living room, into the kitchen in the back of the house. Under the basketball magnet on the refrigerator, Lille saw a note and a twenty-dollar bill. 

Lillie, 

I took an extra shift tonight at the hospital. Here’s money to order pizza or to go out with your friends. 

Love,

Mom

Lillie ripped the note to shreds and threw it in the trash. Home alone again. She picked up her phone and called Jake. 

“I know you just left, but want to come over? My parents are gone for the night.” 

“Sure. Let me shower at home, then I’ll be there.” 

“Great. That is enough time for me to shower and clean up,” Lillie said. 

“I can help you shower,” he said. 

Lillie groaned. “No thanks. See you in a bit,” she said. She walked upstairs and jumped into the shower. By the time her hair was dry, she heard Jake’s car pull in. She hurried down the stairs to greet him. 

Jake walked in carrying a six-pack of beer. He wore black athletic shorts with a snug, gray Eastbrook football T-shirt that accentuated his muscles. Lillie bit her lip. 

“Didn’t you say something about a family dinner?” he asked, placing the beer in the fridge. 

“They ditched,” Lillie said. 

“That’s good news for us.” He walked over and sat next to Lillie on the sofa in the living room. He leaned in and kissed her. She kissed him back, her lips growing more furious with each moment, pushing her hurt further back with every kiss. The touch of his cool hands on her back sent a shiver through her body. She pulled him on top of her on the couch. 

It was almost ten, and Jake needed to go home, but she didn’t want him to leave her in the empty house. 

“I have an idea,” he said. He threw on his T-shirt and stood up. “We both don’t want this awesome summer to end, so I think we should have one more day of summer.”

“What are you saying?” Lillie asked. 

“Let’s ditch school tomorrow. We can spend the day at the beach. It will be quiet because everyone will be at school, and we get to have one more day at the beach,” he said. Excitement was written all over his face.

“Ditch? I don’t know, Jake,” she said. She loved his impulsiveness, but ditching school could get her in serious trouble. 

“It’s the first day. You know nothing happens on the first day. Teachers aren’t paying attention to who should be at school and who isn’t there. It’s the perfect day to ditch. We’ll leave at the same time we should be heading to school. Your parents won’t have a clue. They aren’t around ever.” He grabbed her hands and looked into her eyes. “C’mon, it will be lots of fun.” She turned her gaze from him and mulled over his argument. He’s right. The first day of school is pointless.

“Okay. Let’s do it,” she said. He grinned, gave her a big hug, and lightly kissed her lips. 

“I’ll pick you up first thing.” He turned and walked out the door. Lillie locked the door behind him. She turned off the lights before heading upstairs. She brushed her teeth, set her alarm, and collapsed on her bed. The silence overwhelmed her. She switched on her television so she could sleep.

I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of The Evolution of Lillie Gable. Click here to buy the book