A decade later, Sadie returns to Appalachia to care for her ailing mother, but stays to fight for the mountain she loves. Her struggles to protect it from being ravaged for coal put her in greater danger than she ever imagined — and back in the arms of the man she never stopped loving. But the man responsible for changing her life so many years ago is determined to keep her under his control. When she decides to break free, will Sadie and Dillon's bond be strong enough to endure the truth about his identity?
Excerpt from chapter 11:
“I only have room in here for you,” he says, grasping my hand and placing it over his fast beating heart like he’s plugging me into an outlet. Live wires. I wince from the contact.
“That’s a lot of responsibility you’re giving me,” I offer, looking up at him through my lashes.
“I give it freely,” he says, taking the ice off my forehead and running his finger along my jaw line. “I want nothing in return. Nothing you do will change how full my heart is of you.” He looks at me like I’m his most prized possession. “All I want is to know you’re happy, to be in your life in some small way.”
Again, our bodies are speaking on their own frequency. I feel pulled to him and right now I don’t care that his malevolent brother, with his promise of death, is somewhere right outside that door. I’ve let him take enough from me. He can’t have this. Not anymore.
My hand on Dillon’s heart pulls on my memories like a bobbin on the end of a line. All the good comes up to the surface. And it’s about time because it’s been held down for so many years by the weight of my attack.
Suddenly, I can hear us giggling under the low branches of our tree that he’d tied a rope to so we could fling ourselves into Rich Creek. Before that, I can hear his soft voice as he coaxed me into holding my breath underwater for the first time. “See, it’s easy! I told you you could do it.”
I remember the way his tongue stuck out when he put the pink, plump fish egg on the bent hook for me so I could catch fish with him. I can hear him telling me stories in his young ghost-story voice and can feel the way he’d hold me when he’d done too good of a job scaring me. I remember how he was always teaching me. Always there when I needed to talk.
I remember when he promised me he’d buy me a big white house. He said it’d have a big kitchen and lots of rooms for all our babies.
I remember the cave he showed me that held the remains of some kind of animal. We used to go in there and play rock-paper-scissors. Mostly, he let me win.
I remember the scent of his skin when we’d been playing hide-and-seek in the grass—his perspiration mixed with the West Virginia dust, and his momma’s soap.
I remember riding on the back of his bike, his scent mingling with mine in the mountain air. I remember making snow angels together and then him helping me make the biggest snowman I’d ever seen—he even ripped two buttons off his coat to make the eyes. I can see the determined look on his face when I’d helped him rescue a dragon fly out of the mud behind my house. “Look at its face. It looks like a bulldog, don’t it?”
These memories sting—but I want to remember. Just like the song asked me to in his car. I do remember—everything.
I’ve made my decision.
I love Dillon. I want him in every way he wants me. We’ll work it all out. We have to.
“How are you feeling?” he asks, holding my face in his hand, my other hand pressed up to his heart. He’s looking deep in my eyes with those Tahoe blues.
“I think I’m cured,” I say, peeking into his core, trying to see if he understands the double meaning. If he understands that I’ve made up my mind about him, about us. Even if it is only for this brief moment before the real world comes roaring back to me in a moment of lucidity. I trace his cheek with my index finger and he nuzzles me back.
“I love you,” I say, before I can become a coward. Is that clear enough? I never stopped and I don’t want to push you away anymore—I can’t. His eyes widen and he shudders as if a chill goes through his body that he holds in. I place both my hands on his face and pull him toward me. There is only him. There is only me. It’s as if we’re alone on this planet and we’re creating all the meaning that exists in it.
“Is this really happening?” he breathes as he leans down and easily slides me by my waist toward the edge of the counter closer to him. My legs move to either side of his hips. I take a sharp breath as my tummy clenches up. He tenderly rubs the tip of his nose the full length of mine before he grasps my chin, gently tilting it up. His chest strokes against mine.
“And I love you, Sadie,” he whispers into my mouth and takes my lips between his, so delicately. Live wires. I move my hands up to his hair as our kiss deepens.
“Dillon!” We are forced out of our reverie; the stern voice is coming out of Donnie’s mouth as he stands in the doorway. “God dammit, boy. You’re out in public. Ain’t nobody allowed to do this even if it is with someone like that.”
I gasp and cover my face with my hands.
“Someone like what?” Dillon challenges, turning away from me, blocking me from Donnie’s stare. I pull my legs up to my chin, pull my skirt over my legs, and cross my ankles.
“Someone who lets men grope her in public,” he says, like it’s hot and he needs to drop it on someone.
“We aren’t doing anything wrong, Donnie.”
“From my perspective you are, and I’m the law.”
“Shut up,” Dillon says, just like a brother would.
I peek out from my hands. Donnie’s mouth says, “It’s your turn in about five minutes,” but what he’s really saying is: “I’m going to kill you both.” That’s exactly the look on his face. Pure evil. I’ve started trembling so badly now, like I’m cold on the inside.
“Sadie, why are you shaking?” Dillon says, so concerned. I can’t help it when I start to make the ugly cry face.
He’s breathing harder than normal. “What’s the matter, baby?” He looks at Donnie and back at me with my head hanging low. It’s like something clicks. “Give us a minute, man,” he says, curtly and waits until Donnie walks away.
“Does he scare you?” he asks, leaning into my legs pulled up to my chin, wrapping his long arms around me. I can’t lie. He knows. I shake my head yes. “Why?”
“It’s just that we keep getting caught kissing and it’s really embarrassing.” Did that work?
“Is that all, Sadie?”
“Yes,” I lie again. This sucks.
“Don’t be embarrassed. Who cares what he thinks?” Well, you might if he tries to kill you with his fishy knife.
“What just happened, Sadie, was one of the most beautiful moments of my life.” I shake my head and try to calm my breathing and straighten my ugly-cry face. “When you said you loved me,” he puts his hands on his head, “I don’t care if this means anything for me right now, like if you’re ready to be with me or if you want what I want. Just to know how you feel.” His voice hitches in his throat.
I guess that depends on what Donnie’s going to do now. Maybe it would be better to just tell Dillon so I would have someone to help me through this. I would, too, if I thought that Dillon could stay calm and strategize rather than turn medieval and challenge his brother to a duel. He would be no match for an ex-Army soldier. It would be like tagging him with a big red stripe and sending him to the slaughter house.
At this point it’s too late to hide what’s going on between us. We’ve kissed, like that, right in front of Donnie. There’s no going back. I’m staying here to see my mother until her last day. And I’m going to help protect this mountain—for her. There has to be a way to get one step ahead of Donnie. A way to keep him away.
“All I know right now is that I love you, Dillon. I always have and I want what you want. I do. But there’s so much that you don’t know.” He helps me put my legs down and pulls me into his strong, safe arms. This is where I want to be—need to be.
“There’s nothing you need to say right now,” he says into my ear. “You owe me nothing. I’m just happy with whatever this is right now.”
“Thank you, Dillon,” I whisper into his chest.
He pulls back and looks down at me thoughtfully. The iPhone in my purse strung crossways over my shoulder buzzes. I must have a new email. That’s when divine providence strikes. I can get Donnie to talk. He’s so angry he’s bound to threaten me again and someone will hear. No, I need a way to prove what he did in a way that I can control. I look at my purse again. That thing has to have some kind of a recording device.
“Are you ready to go out there now? Can you walk okay?”
“Yes, I’m ready.” Yes, I am. For the first time in my life I want to talk to Donnie. And I’m going to find out what’s going through his Machiavellian mind—right now.
I bet my eyes look like a wild dog before a planned attack.
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BARNES AND NOBLE
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About the sequel...Click here to read the first and only chapter of Sadie Survived.