The prologue of Noah, Julian’s POV

Noah 2

Copyright © 2016 by Cara Dee
All rights reserved
 
Edited by Silently Correcting Your Grammar, LLC.

*

Buy Noah on Amazon.

 This is the prologue of Noah that didn’t make the cut in the book.


Prologue

Then

Julian Hartley

Maybe it was a phase.

I shut down my laptop and placed it next to me on the bed. From downstairs, I could hear Uncle Noah had arrived, judging by the sheer volume of his booming voice and everyone in the family greeting him—always so loudly. It bugged me, though I tried not to let it show.

In the meantime, I was in his old room, surrounded by glimpses of his childhood. Football trophies from high school, more hockey memorabilia than I could count, and photos of him and his friends. He was ridiculously photogenic. Not afraid to take off his shirt and show his abs. He’d obviously been to many pool parties.

He lit up every picture, and I did not care for how I viewed him. Not unlike the guys I’d just watched on my laptop.

It was my ongoing trial…? I supposed. I couldn’t be blind anymore to the fact that I was attracted to guys, but now fingers were crossed it was just a phase and nothing permanent. I was only sixteen; my hormones were raging. It was a plausible explanation, and Uncle Noah was simply a handsome man. He had that kind of personality; everyone was drawn to him. But I had to wonder, was he really always that cheerful? There was something strange about people who were always in a good mood.

Having only known him for a few years, I couldn’t be certain, but the photos always showed him grinning, smiling, laughing—preeetty sure he looked giggly in one. Maybe he was intoxicated.

“Julian, honey!” Nana called from down the stairs. “Everyone’s here now!”

Duty called.

I’d kiss the ground my family walked on, but sometimes I felt so out of place. I let out a breath and stood up, catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror on Uncle Noah’s door.

I made a face. My hair was a mess, I was all scrawny, and I looked as jet-lagged as I felt. Hopefully, I’d get some sleep tomorrow when we drove to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

This year, we were going camping for our reunion, and I was clueless. I’d spent last week walking in my new hiking boots Dad helped me pick out because, apparently, sneakers were no good.

I left the room I’d share with my little brother JJ and headed downstairs. Dinner smelled so good it made my mouth water. Nana was making her pulled pork casserole, and I couldn’t wait.

As I was about to round the corner to get to the kitchen, I slammed into something solid. For a second, I was wrapped up in warmth that smelled better than dinner. Whatever aftershave or cologne it was, it belonged to Uncle Noah, and he laughed as he steadied me. Two firm hands on my arms, and I looked up dazedly to see his grinning face.

“Oh, hey there, Julian.” His smile widened. “I was just about to get’cha. You excited to go camping tomorrow?”

I stared like a moron. Something had changed. I should speak, but I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t looking forward to camping at all. Could he do or say something loud and cheerful so it could bug me? I could talk easier when I was annoyed and…unmoved.

His expression changed into one of concern, and he slid one hand up to my shoulder, almost touching my neck. “You all right, kid?”

Good God, he was handsome. I hated him. He made life look wonderful. Or, scratch that, I hated myself. I wanted life to be wonderful, too. I’d heard great things about it.

Say something!

Crap.

I nodded dumbly and managed to look away from his eyes. “Yup, yes—er, sorry. I’m tired. Camping should be…fun?”

Uncle Noah laughed and ruffled my hair like I was a little child. Like I was JJ. “Lucky for you, you get my old bed all to yourself. I’m staying at a hotel.” He winked.

My face grew hot, and maybe I did hate him a little bit. What the hell was wrong with me? Now I was picturing things. Yes, much, much better he was staying at a hotel. The Hollywood golden boy. Boy, as in…big, tall, muscular, good-smelling man. And I was a freak. Someone should have me institutionalized.

“I, uh—well, I’m, um, I’m sharing with JJ,” I said, completely flustered. I needed to get away. “I’ll go, uh, help Nana with dinner.”

I made a hasty escape to the kitchen where Nana and Mom were chatting away while cooking and preparing snacks for the camping trip.

“There’s my favorite.” Mom smiled. “Come here, you can help me cut these sandwiches in half. They’ll be lunch tomorrow.”

I relaxed instantly and got to work. It wasn’t being called favorite that had made me comfortable around Mia Collins; it wasn’t what she said that had made her Mom. It was how she genuinely wanted me around and included me, which my biological mother had failed at over and over. Last time I’d called her, over a year ago, she’d answered with, “What do you want?” Whereas, Mom…sometimes still got teary-eyed just because I called her that. No one had made me feel as included in this family as her and Nana.

It was no wonder I preferred the kitchen over the living room where all the men gathered.

“You know, dear,” Nana said, checking the casserole, “Julian’s old enough to fly on his own now. He should come visit more often.”

“I don’t know, Ma…” Mom grimaced and handed me some plastic bags to put the sandwiches in. “Maybe next year. I already know I won’t be able to sleep when he goes off to Paris with his class this fall.”

I chuckled. “That’s not because I’ll be gone.”

“Oh, shut your pie hole,” she laughed.

“Am I missing something?” Nana turned to us. “I’m missing something.”

I couldn’t help but smirk. “Linda’s the fussiest baby ever, and I’m the only one who can lull her to sleep at night if she’s having a fit.” Which was a lot. She probably learned new ways to scream more often than she learned new words.

“He plays for her,” Mom gushed. “It’s the sweetest thing.”

I smiled and focused on the sandwiches as my damn cheeks burned.

*

During dinner, we talked mostly about the camping trip, and I did my best to not stare at Uncle Noah too much. Already it felt weird calling him uncle. He wasn’t even very unclelike. Maybe with JJ. Right before dinner, I caught Noah teaching JJ how to Saran-Wrap the toilet. The man was a kid like that. He also had a contest with my baby sister where they made funny faces at each other, and it was all fun and games until Linda began screaming and wanted to get away from Noah’s lap fast.

Dad and I cleared the dining room table while Nana and Uncle Noah prepared coffee and dessert in the living room. For the fucking life of me, I couldn’t stop observing him. Or maybe gawking? I wasn’t sure I knew where the line went.

“Did you hear what I said, son?” Dad chuckled.

I turned to him quickly, eyes wide, and nearly dropped a dish as I was putting it in the dishwasher. “What?”

He smirked and shook his head. “You’ve been distracted all evening. I asked if you wanted to come out in the yard and play football with us.”

Since when do I play football?

“Uh…no, thanks. I can watch, though…?”

Poor Dad. I bet he wished I was more like him, into football and soccer, guy stuff and whatnot. Luckily for him, JJ was already sold on all that.

“Fair enough.” He started to leave the kitchen, but he came back to give the top of my head a quick kiss. Then he left, and it was awkward. I was dumb, wasn’t I? Maybe I should fake it. Pretend I was into that stuff. Dad would certainly like it.

“Hey, Dad?” I called, and he popped his head in the door opening. “One game.”

He smiled widely.

*

If only dessert lasted forever, but it didn’t. Dad and Uncle Noah were itching to go outside, as was JJ, so I was doomed. I sat on the old porch swing in the backyard and tied my sneakers as Noah and Mom decided the teams. I ended up with Mom and Dad, and we were playing against Uncle Noah, JJ, and Pops.

“We’re gonna win, Uncle Noah!” JJ shouted.

“Of course we are.” Noah had just taught him how to fist-bump, so they did that every other minute when JJ ran toward him with his fist up high. Uncle Noah grinned and turned to Mom. “The fuck they changing their accents for?”

“What?” Mom frowned.

“JJ sounds more British than American, and Julian over there—” Noah jerked his chin at me “—ain’t far off.”

“I don’t sound British,” I said. That was crazy.

“They’re attending an international school until they’re fluent in German,” Dad said. “Most teachers are from the UK, so it wouldn’t be implausible for their accents to change a bit.”

“I don’t sound British!” I repeated.

Pops hemmed and hawed. “You all sound like Americans who’ve lived in England too long. You clearly need more teachers from Pittsburgh in Berlin. I can volunteer, you know. Teach them Europeans a thing or two about ‘merica.”

I sighed, and Mom said it was enough chitchat because she wanted to destroy her brother in football. That made Noah guffaw.

*

I was the weak link in our team, something Noah took advantage of way too often. JJ was focused on Mom and Dad, and Pops merely played for fun, but Noah played to win.

I had no idea what the score was. Maybe we were in the lead? Either way, it made Noah more competitive, and he kind of forgot to include JJ. Instead, he tackled Dad, ran past Mom, whom Pops was blocking, and then all I heard was incoherent yelling. Oh my God. Between Noah and the goal was just me.

“You can take him, honey!” Nana hollered.

I really, truly can’t!

I glanced over quickly at Dad, who had this hopeful look on his face. I hated the game he loved, but I guessed in some way I wanted to give him at least this. Holy hell, I was going to go down fast, but I found some inner courage and braced myself for impact.

Noah wore a dark smirk as he ran closer. I was toast. I was really toast. But if I got lucky, maybe I could stall him enough for Mom and Dad to catch up. And a second later, all thoughts flew out of my head. I intercepted Noah’s path, and he crashed into me. The ball bounced and rolled out of his reach, and I grunted as my back hit the grass.

The pain shot through me, causing me to groan, and I couldn’t breathe very well with Noah right on top of me. I didn’t know my eyes had closed, but the thought of him lying on me made them flash open.

I wasn’t the only one in pain, thank goodness. He was groaning too, and I became painfully aware of everything that wasn’t painful. His body was solid, larger than mine, and it felt…good. Oh God, it felt extremely good, and he smelled amazing.

I vaguely registered Mom grabbing the ball with a “Ha-ha!” that made Noah curse and slam his fist down on the grass. After that, he looked down at me and chuckled, half irritated, half amused.

“You okay?” he asked.

I shook my head because I was about to panic. I couldn’t fucking stop my body from reacting. “My spine,” I lied.

“Oh shit, I’m sorry, kid.” He rushed off me and grabbed my hand to help me up. It was dizzying, and I was mortified.

Putting some distance between us, I hoped no one could see how flustered I was, or how utterly embarrassed. Or that I was kind of hard. I hated myself.

I made my way over to the porch swing again and sat down, relieved it masked my arousal. When Mom and Dad hurried over to make sure I was okay, it was easier to lie.

Five minutes of fussing later, I was left alone while they finished the game without me. I blew out a breath and leaned forward. My erection had thankfully gone down, but the mortification hadn’t.

The man who was supposed to be my uncle had made me hard, for God’s sake. I needed to dig a hole in the ground and lie down. Hell, the more I thought about it, the more awful it got. What if he’d felt it? Had he? No, that was unlikely. But what if he had? I’d kill myself. I was only starting this hell ride of being controlled by hormones. It was bound to get worse.

I groaned quietly into my hands and berated myself for coming to the reunion. And we had a whole week to go before I could return home and suppress this memory.

You want to run into him again, idiot.

This wasn’t a damn phase. I was fucking gay. Just another thing to add to the list of crap that made me different from all others.

I wished I could be normal for once.

#

Noah 3

Dear Reviewer, You’re Wrong

In the past few days, I’ve been going through my Twitter account. I figured there’s no need to follow people who haven’t tweeted anything in three years. Plus, I wanted to find some new reviewers to follow.

As I was tracking those down, of course I saw their short bios, too. And let me tell ya, if I see another “I’m not an author, just another reviewer,” I’mma go postal. So this is my open letter to Just Another Reviewer.

You’re wrong.

You clearly don’t see how invaluable you are. A while back, I tried the promo thing. I paid x amount of ka’ching to have Breaking Free and With Brave Wings promoted like nothing else. Bloggers signed up, and I saw links being tweeted to left and right for two days. It felt…notsogood. I was invisible. I became an ad, and in today’s society we filter those out.

But you, Just Another Reviewer, take the time to read my book. There’s no one I’ll throw a book at faster than a reviewer. You make notes, rate it, and post it on social media for readers to see. You are not just another reviewer. You are my biggest support in getting the word out there.

My sales didn’t spike after doing promo. Every now and then, however, they spike because a reviewer liked my book and told people about it. A couple months after I released With Brave Wings, my sales skyrocketed, and I knew it was because of a reviewer or two. Same thing happened with Northbound and Northland, not to mention Aftermath for which I still get tagged on Facebook almost three years after the publishing date.

I don’t give a flying fuck about how small you think your following is—if you have thousands or you consider yourself a reader who “only” chats about a book online with a few friends after reading it. Publishing in the jungle that is today’s book industry would be a whole lot more difficult without you.

Sincerely,
Just another author.

Keep your fanfiction to yourself.

“You might want to keep your fanfiction writing to yourself. It’s sort of a curse word, you know? You don’t want to be labeled as a fanfiction writer.”

This is a message I received today. Friendly advice from someone who also wrote to tell me she loved Northland, my last novel.

Hey. Lady. First of all, mind ya neck. What I do in my spare time is none of your business. I’m stoked that you loved Northland, but you know where it all started for me? Fanfiction. Without it, there would be no Northland.

Second of all, telling an author she should keep her fanfiction to herself is like telling a chef not to advertise the fact that she cooks at home. Because the thing is, fanfiction is a hobby. We’re all entitled to those. And just because a chef makes mac and cheese at home doesn’t mean she’s gonna charge for it in a restaurant. Same applies to me; I might take a few more liberties in my fanfiction, but that doesn’t mean I’ll do the same in original fiction. I know there’s a difference between the two.

One is a part of a fandom. One is an industry.

I take my work seriously because I love it. It’s my dream job, and I’m lucky enough to be able to live off of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s research or editing or character development or marketing or formatting or sentence structure, everything I’ve learned started with fanfiction and the people I’ve gotten to know in my fandom.

My writing has changed a lot over the years, but no matter how hard you work, if you erase the beginning, you still end up with nothing.

I know there are writers who start with fanfiction and move over to original fiction way before they’re ready, hence the bad rep fanfiction has earned. But to assume we’re all like that is insulting.

If I were ashamed of writing fanfiction, it’d be like saying fuck you to every single reader who’ve encouraged me to publish in the first place. If it weren’t for them, I don’t even know what I’d be doing today.

I write what I want to read, and I will continue to do so, whether it’s original fiction or mac and cheese.

New Topic. I Chased Away The Plot Bunnies.

I usually hide out in my fort, but I’ve made an effort lately to learn more about my industry. It’s overwhelming when you first start because there’s so much. Blog tours, takeovers, giveaways, author posts, interviews, spotlight tours, bling (what?), swag…and it’s all spread out across multiple platforms. Goodreads is a jungle, I barely even knew Amazon had a community, Facebook is a catwalk (work it, honey, work it), blogs are radio networks you tune in to now and then, Twitter is a timeline of links that take you all over the interwebz, and Pinterest is Pinterest.

Everyone else does it though, so I’ll try harder and keep my envy to myself when others make it look so easy. (If there’s a magic pill, please contact me. I’m serious.) But anyway, it was when reading author interviews I noticed something.

“The characters in my head just won’t shut up.”

I’ve seen countless authors write something along those lines, and I couldn’t agree more. There’s a party up there. *taps noggin’.* But then I saw someone write, “Once a story comes to me, I have to write it,” I came to a screeching halt.

I’m familiar with plot bunnies. They are vicious little bastards, and they can’t form a tidy line and wait their turn. I’ve been attacked by many, but as I saw more and more authors speak about stories they just had to write, I started thinking I should stop using “plot bunny.” Because plots don’t come to me. Sad face.

I racked my brain and thought back on all my novels…

Instead of saying I’ve been attacked by a plot bunny, I should just say “new topic.” Because I’m a friggin’ student, which is ironic; school was never for me. But it’s still true, I get subjects or topics rather than plots.

(I could go with sub plot bunny, since I want my locations to play a part, but my mind goes to BDSM, so that’s out.)

I read a book where a character had been kidnapped. Happily ever after began as soon as the hostage was released, and no. It couldn’t be, so I found the topic of kidnapping and started my research. Aftermath was the result, and I presented it as a paper to my teachers, AKA readers.

I saw a documentary about Alaska. I couldn’t be reached properly for two months because I was busy learning everything I could about this new subject. Then I wrote two novels that took place in Alaska because I wanted my teachers to see everything I had learned.

It was only supposed to be a short story for this anthology I’d had my eyes on…but I had so much to show everybody!

“You want two hot guys fucking each other’s brains out and falling in love? Sure, but let me show you this magical place in the north, too.”

Then you get the reviews. Even better? If you end up with a bestseller.

A good review means I passed the subject! I can finally move on to something new, which might explain why I tend to struggle with sequels. If I’ve already written about one thing, I want something new. Usually. Remember Outcome? Boy, was that struggle real.

My next subject will be Autism. If you’ve read my stories, you know I sometimes sprinkle some Autism in there. Cam in Aftermath has Asperger’s, Flynn in Public Display of Everything is on the spectrum too, but I haven’t seen many books where the female character is autistic. Being autistic myself, I better freaking pass that test, and I hope you’ll like my Aspie girl.

Class is in session, or, as Sherlock would say…

~Cara.

Speaking of blogs, I need a spreadsheet, Wright?

I know, I know, I have a spankin’ new website now and don’t need a blog anymore, but I want a second playground. I’ve been thinking about what to do with this page for a while now. It’s a work in progress, so I left it vague in the banner. But anyway, spreadsheets, be my friends. Pwease?

I’d finally decided to pimp the page a bit, and I thought, hey, I could use some quotes from my books in the background. So I started scanning my novels and found a few I wanted. Then it was Public Display of Everything’s turn, and I freeze at the sight of Flynn Wright.

Wright.

Friggin’ names. Wright happens to be the last name of another character of mine. You’ll meet him in Breaking Free, which I’m releasing in June. It means there’s still time to change his name, but you spend four hundred pages with a man and then try to change his name. I can’t do it!

Naturally, I turned to my person. Lisa.

IMG_4690I know that now. I’ll spend one of these days writing down all the names I’ve used. Can’t wait!

In the meantime, we have a problem Wright this moment, but trust my editor to fix it.

IMG_4693 There you go.

Cause and effect, peeps. If I hadn’t decided to use this WordPress, I wouldn’t have gone through my books in search for quotes, and Cory and Flynn from Public Display of Everything wouldn’t be doing a cameo in With Brave Wings, Breaking Free’s sequel.

And now that I’ve pressed publish on this post, I can’t act like I’d thought of this all along.

Oops.