Please welcome Penelope Harlow to the blog today! Here is the cover reveal for her debut novella, an New Adult Paranormal called Dark Seductions. Penelope Harlow is a pen name for best-selling YA author Alivia Anders. Thanks for visiting, Penelope!
Me Softly Blog Hop Schedule
Killing Me Softly
pointy-toed high heels and realize they’re the most uncomfortable shoes I’ve
ever worn. Andy’s mom let me borrow a
pair of Andy’s shoes since we wear the same size. It will take me a while to think of her in
the past tense. Looking around the room
all I see are strangers. None of these
people knew her like I did. No one knew
the way she loved soft furry blankets and in the summer she loved softy silky
pajamas. They didn’t know that she spent
more time praying for her friends and animals than she did for herself. No, they didn’t know those things, and they
days ago in a car accident with her boyfriend Doug. A car crossed over the center lane and hit
them head on. The police say they died
instantly. I talked to her exactly ten
minutes before the crash, she told me she was going to stop by on her way
home. We’ve always done that; stop by on
our way home from shopping to show what we bought. Doug took her to Dallas to pick up a guitar
and to go shopping. Andy’s parents have money. They spoiled her, but she never
acted spoiled. She was kind and
giving. For her birthday, her dad gave
her a prepaid credit card. She had to
keep her grades up, if she did, he’d load a thousand dollars on the card every
month for a year. That’s more money than
I make at my job. When I go shopping, I hit the thrift stores and yard
sales. Just because I don’t spend tons
of money on clothes, doesn’t mean I don’t look like I do. There’s a thrift shop not too far from here
that I find the best deals. If the
outfit doesn’t fit me, I do the alterations myself. My money is from my job at the vitamin store
in the mall. Eight dollars an hour doesn’t go far when you’re the bread winner
in your family.
things just for her, no, she would buy things for an after school program she
worked for as a volunteer. She would give you every dime she had if you needed
help. When she went shopping for herself, she would buy a matching outfit for
me. She would always say that I was the
sister she always wanted.
way over to me, her grief is written all over her face. I stand up and wrap my arms around her thin
body and in that moment the magnitude of what happened hits me like a brick
wall. I start to tremble, but I force
myself to keep it together until I get home.
That’s when I’ll have the luxury of breaking down.
Linda asks. One of her friends leans
over and hands her a fresh martini.
shoulders. “It doesn’t seem real, does
the alcohol on her breath as she kisses me on the cheek. “You’re welcome here any time, you’re part of
our family. If that daddy of yours gives
you any trouble, you come over and you can sleep in Andy’s room. She’d want you to be here with us, you know
check on my dad. They changed his meds
this week. As usual, he’s been in one of
his moods. Never mind all that, if you
need anything, I’m number five on your speed dial. I’ll drop off the shoes later this week.”
need them back. Go check on your dad,
I’m going to try to get everyone out of here at a decent hour. My head hurts too much to deal with so many
people. I love you, Holly, don’t you
forget it either.” Andy’s the only person who ever called me by my childhood
nickname. When I started high school, I
went back to my given name, Holland. Linda pulls me in for another hug, this
one is tighter and longer than the last one.
In my head I can hear Andy complaining that her mom is getting
mushy. I smile at the thought.
piece of her daughter for dear life.
friends of the family. A few people from
high school came to the funeral, but everyone bailed before the graveside
service. If it were anyone other than
Andy, I would have done the same. My
heart is heavy in my chest and tears threaten to come, but I suppress them so I
can get home before I start the water works.
Andy’s house, but the neighborhoods are polar opposites. Her street is lined with manicured lawns and
matching brick mailboxes at the end of each driveway. Several people on our street have taken their
mailbox down because some kids drove by with a baseball bat and dented in the
metal mailboxes. A couple of the
neighbors have cars parked in their yard and many of the houses have some type
of car up on car ramps or a jack. Andy’s
neighborhood is filled with houses with three bedrooms and two or more
bathrooms. Ours isn’t.
cracked from neglect and hot Oklahoma summers.
Our small two bedroom house is dark red brick with white trim that could
use a new paint job.
step into the living room. Dad is right
where he was when I left this morning, asleep on the couch.
position. “How was it? Is her mom holding up okay?”
for an eighteen year old girl. Her mom’s
okay, she’s a strong woman,” I say harsher than intended.
about……food. He doesn’t give a crap about
the funeral, he’s been sitting on the couch all day. He sits around and feels sorry for
himself. “Dad, I told you I don’t get
paid until Tuesday. Your Social Security
check paid the bills. I have thirty
dollars for gas. That’s all the money we
have in the bank. There’s stuff to eat,
just not what you want. Give me a few minutes to change for work and
I’ll make you some supper.”
best friend’s funeral?” He asks, posing
as the concerned father.
was buried. I have to pay the bills, so
working isn’t an option. Your prescriptions will be running out this week, I
need money for your co-pays. Look, I
don’t want to talk about this right now.”
I set my stuff down as I head down the short hall to my bedroom.
go back to work!” He shouts out to me.
he’s getting better. Per Dr. Paul, his
regular doctor, he’s never going to be fit to work again if he doesn’t go to
therapy on a regular basis. He’s two
steps away from being placed in an institution.
He was involuntarily committed last October, it lasted for five
days. Being the selfish person I am, it
was the most sleep I’ve had in years. He
was safely behind locked doors, and I didn’t have to worry about which side of
him I was going to come home to.
my full-size bed and a small desk I found at a garage sale. Most of my clothes are folded up inside big
plastic bins. Andy teased me about my
organization skills. She said I’m the
only teenager who puts away their clothes on their own. I found it easier to strap a bin of dirty
laundry to my skateboard and pull it the two blocks to the Laundromat than to
carry it that far. I’ve been doing our
laundry since my mom left when I was thirteen.
That was the year my dad lost his job with the advertising firm and everything
spiraled out of control.
pick up my keys that fell to the floor.
I double check my reflection in the mirror before rushing out of my room
to make a quick dinner for my dad.
Crap! I think to myself as I
realize I got more bleach splatters on the hems of my khakis. Thankfully, Gerrie won’t be working tonight
to gripe at me about buying a new pair of pants. She find a way to complain about me at every
opportunity she finds. She hates it when
I wear my long hair down, she says I shed it all over the store. Last year she
got upset with me for not being tan like all the other girls in the mall. She told me guys would come in to buy
vitamins if I had a tan and wore make-up.
come-backs to Gerrie’s insults, but I never used them.
her humor? How am I going to deal with
my dad without her encouragement? How
will I carry on?
birthday is Saturday. Dad won’t show up
for dinner, he never does. He hates surprises
and apparently he hates showers too. I
know you don’t like to come to our neighborhood, so you can drop it off at the
mall. I’m working tonight and tomorrow
mall. I’ve reloaded that Visa for you to
get some groceries. Holland, you can
come live with me, no one would blame you,” Aunt Laney says for the hundredth
time. She’s my dad’s older sister and
the only family member who still checks in on us. Her husband is a big corporate lawyer who
represents every big company in Oklahoma.
She was his paralegal, until they fell in love and got married. To ease her conscience she loads a prepaid
Visa so I can buy groceries and gas. She
paid off the mortgage last Christmas.
She has no idea how much easier she made my life when I didn’t have to
worry about that bill anymore.
this year. June moved away and I was
promoted to assistant-manager, which included a two dollar an hour raise. “Okay, I’ll see you then….and thank you for
helping us by loading the Visa.”
daughter to my baby brother. I hope
you’ve been able to keep your flawless GPA.
You’ve been working so many days a week, it must be hard to keep up your
fingernails as she talks. She’s always
struck me as a superficial person by the clothes she wears and the people in
her life. “Thanks, I don’t have any
choice, he’s my dad.” I state the
obvious. “I’m taking online classes, so
it works around my schedule. Not to be
rude, but I need to go; I have to be at work in fifteen minutes.”
I click my cell phone off and close my bedroom door behind me.
purple container, heat it up for one minute.”
I turn the corner and see my dad sitting up for a change.
should eat breakfast,” he suggests.
afternoon. I have to do laundry
tomorrow, so it would be nice if you took a shower and put your dirty clothes
in the hamper.” He won’t. He’ll give me excuses why he couldn’t shower
before I got home. Recently, he
developed a fear of showering in an empty house. His therapist called in a new medication, but
it only seems to make him more of a zombie and has done nothing for his fear of
face. He’s not even forty, but you’d
never know by the amount of grey in his beard.
and give him a peck on his head.
Mall is crowded as usual, leaving the only parking spaces ridiculously far from
the doors. During my lunch period I’ll move
my car closer so I don’t have to get security to walk me to my car after
work. I ease the Charger between two
SUVs, barely clearing the one on my right.
Aunt Laney gave me her old one as a graduation gift during my senior
year. Old to her is anything older than
two years old. She had only owned this
one for a year before giving it to me.
She even covers the car insurance so it wouldn’t be a burden on me and
close? It’s the fifteenth which means
payday for the military, and they love to come stock up on the protein
powder. This is usually the busiest day
of the month.” I glance around the store
to make sure everything is in order.
already today. One guy wanted to return
something, but I told him to come when you’re working. He said he’d come back tonight,” Sam says.
of Vitamin C? Someone turned all the
bottles backwards, it was probably a kid.” Sam’s a quirky guy who spends all of
his paycheck on body building powder and his spare time in the gym. He dates a girl I went to high school with,
she’s rumored to have appeared in a couple of adult films. She’s a pretty girl but she can’t carry on a
conversation without talking about kinky sex. “I’m going to the back to place
some orders, if you need me just call,” I say as I turn to the back of the
the phone intercom causing me to jump.
dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt talking to Sam. His short light brown hair is definitely Air
Force the way it is perfectly squared off on the back of his neck.
and not to be intimidated.
you with,” I ask as I step behind the cashier counter. Another pretty-boy airman with his deep
dimple and flawless skin. There’s no way
he’s much older than I am, that’s good because I don’t typically back down to
people my age. Older guys in the
military scare me, they seem so hard and angry.
come back when you’re here to refund this powder.”
eyes, pale blue eyes…incredibly pretty blue eyes and smile. The manager-in-training classes I took told
me to always hold the customer’s gaze.
They obviously never looked into eyes like his. It takes everything in me not to shift my
eyes away from him. It makes me feel
exposed as if he is literally looking into my soul.
look down at the jug of Mega Muscle Protein Powder. “It gave me a rash,” he replies without looking
up at me.
embarrassed to admit they ended up with a rash. “A rash? Do you have a photo of the rash?” Our return policy on store-brand products are
if it gives you a rash, you have to provide a photo. There’s nothing more disgusting than looking
at a rash on a stranger.
intrusive. When I read it, I was floored
that it was a real rule.”
charm and turn into a douche. I’m sure
Sam is doing the countdown in his head.
“Yes sir, we must turn in the photo along with the explanation in to our
corporate office. Our policy is for
quality control and has nothing to do with being intrusive. May I see the picture?”
scrolls through his pictures before holding it up for me to see. Sure enough, it’s a rash… on his ass! He took a selfie of his ass rash in the
mirror. He is standing in his boxers and holding one side of them down and
taking a picture with his other hand. I
need to call Andy and tell her about this, she’s going to die laughing. Dammit!
I can’t call her, because she’s dead.
snap. My mood has gone from good to
pissed in two seconds.
ass to give me a thirty-five dollar refund?”
go-to defense pose when I’m hiding my feelings from the world. “I didn’t write the rules, but I follow
them.” This is the look Andy called my bitch-face.
off a picture of my ass to get a thirty-five dollar refund. You can keep the powder and the money.” He shakes his head back and forth before
taking his receipt and folding it up neatly before returning it to his wallet.
him walk out of the store.
buying it for an instant. “Holland, one
minute you were okay and the next you flipped and were pissed off.”
sales for the day. My dad flips, I just
office, if you need it,” Sam says sarcastically. Good thing I like him or I’d write him up
just because I can.
you get to mop the floor tonight.”
Without turning around, I head back to the office. When memories of Andy pop into my head, I’m
reminded how lonely life is without her.
I’ve been going to her grave and sitting there for hours. She was always my sounding board when it
came to my dad, now I feel guilty for all the times I made her listen to me
complain. We should have spent more time
doing pranks and laughing at stupid movies.
Now, I’ll never be able to do those things with someone. Lately, everything reminds me of her and I’ll
either cry or get angry. It isn’t that
I’m mad at her, it’s I don’t know when the pain will stop. My therapist says dumb things like, time heals all wounds, or everyone grieves differently. The therapist was Aunt Laney’s idea since the
health insurance policy she bought for me covers the visits.
me back to reality. “Hey, do I really
have to mop the floor? I have plans
after work and I don’t want to smell like bleach and dirty mop water.”
bath. I’ll let it slide this time, but
don’t ever hint for me to take Pamprin again, okay?”
me to send her back here?”
If you follow me or are my friend on Facebook, you may have seen my announcement the other day that I am going to be a part of a Halloween anthology. It will be titled Howl, and will be a Young Adult/New Adult Paranormal Romance. Featuring authors: Alivia Anders, Airicka Phoenix, Inger Iversen, Victoria Escobar, Allana Kephart & Melissa Simmons, Desiree DeOrto, Jennifer Martinez, Katie Quinn, Sami Schwartz, and, of course, me! I’m already hard at work on mine, and I think y’all are gonna like it. It will be available in ebook and paperback. The official cover will be revealed on September 8th. If you’re a blogger and want to sign up to participate in the cover reveal, sign up here: http://girlsheartbookstours.blogspot.com/2014/07/cover-reveal-howl-halloween-anthology.html In the meantime, hope you’re pacified with the placeholder cover!