Author: Mika Jolie
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: June 29, 2015
Being someone’s first love is unforgettable. Being their last is immeasurable.
Claire Peters should be on top of the world. She owns the radio waves and has a budding movie career. But her heart longs to be rooted. Ten years ago, she fled Martha's Vineyard to pursue her dream and to make something of herself. But there’s still a void. After a decade of running, she returns to the island hoping to find her happiness with the man she’s loved all her life.
When a tragic event shatters Dr. Forrest Desvareaux’ well-balanced world, the Vineyard’s hometown good guy discovers everything in his life is based on lies. Angry and betrayed, he turns to Claire - the one woman who has indelibly marked him.
Is it possible to run back to the person who broke you? Forever linked, Forrest and Claire are an unending continuum. But she’s a wildflower and Forrest’s roots run deep on the Vineyard. Can they accept home is not a place but a feeling.
Chapter One“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.”
James Earl Jones
Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard, thirteen years ago…
Claire ran her tongue over her lips, checking their current state. A soft, smooth, and slightly-moist, mouth was ideal for kissing. Hers didn’t feel chapped or dry, but to be on the safe side, she swiped the
The girls she knew were experts in the art of kissing. It embarrassed her to admit at fifteen, she hadn’t kissed anyone. But they didn't pass judgment. Rather, her friends had given her pointers and informed her fresh breath was essential for a French kiss. For that reason, she managed to avoid garlic, onions, milk, and her favorite, corn. The tasty grain was on the Cosmopolitan list of “What Not to Eat” before a kiss.
Her gaze swept over
Male laughter rose as Jason, Adam, and Blake tossed a football between them in the yard. They rarely let her wander away from their view, not that she had a wild streak or anything, but they were Alphas and they hovered. Always uncertain of what the band of brothers might throw at her, she didn’t dare get too close to the boys. They loved to throw questions at her or worse, ask her to participate in their football tossing game, just so they could play the big brother role.
Big brothers tended to be overbearing.
Phooey! She wasn’t even related to any of them.
Her gaze swiveled to Forrest. He stood not too far away in cargo Khakis and a fading
Warmth spread inside her chest, a sensation that was now synonymous with Forrest. The sight of him held an intriguing allure. Tall, athletic, with tousled dark brown hair that flopped over his eyes. Woven leather bracelets encircled his left wrist, drawing attention to the lean, hard muscles of his arms. All that football and skiing had done wonders for his amazing frame. His face wasn’t too shabby either–sharp, angled jaw, full, firm lips that curved into a proud yet pleasant smile, and a nose that
Women often stopped in their tracks and stared at him. Claire noticed the admirers every time, but Forrest seemed oblivious to the sudden pauses and clandestine stares. When he did bestow them with a glance, his fans overcompensated with a weak smile or a blush, a dead giveaway of their admiration. He always took it in stride, never flaunted, and without a trace of arrogance. He was modest and unaware of the chaos he caused, this made the girls fall for him all the more.
According to the few conversations she overheard between Jason and the others, teenage boys were horny all the time. They thought about sex every second of the day. If the wind hit them just right, they would get excited.
He thought with the head on his shoulders, not the one south of his waist. He was different that way and stood apart from the others. Despite the opportunities that came his way, he dated very little. She once overheard him telling the other guys he was a one-woman man who prized genuineness and thoughtful conversation above lipstick and high heels.
He was handsome, breathtaking. Her racing pulse and breathlessness proved it. However, what she really loved about him was his inner beauty. From the way he cared for the animals on the farm, to his warmth with everyone on the island, and his commitment to his family and friends. He was
For the last two years, these new and strange feelings often left her befuddled. They were too strong, too intense. Physically and mentally, she reacted to him in a way she never had with any boy. The slightest touch, whether it was tugging on her hair or fixing her backpack, sent her heart spiraling out of control. On days they weren’t around each other, she missed him. When she saw him, heard his name, happiness filled her. At night, his face was always the last thing she’d see; her stomach would
Now in a few days he’d leave the island and head to Boston for college. Her heart screeched in anguish, its flesh
She had to kiss him. And for that she needed complete privacy.
She studied the stoned-faced, two story red barn with an old, worn-down tractor collecting dust next to it. She glanced at the boys, still lost in whatever they were talking about. Probably all the college girls they would be meeting when they arrived on campus. Which meant Forrest would be meeting college girls, too-knowledgeable, sophisticated girls living away from their parents, who no doubt would be on him as quick as lightning.
Here goes nothing.
Stealthily she moved around the farm and hauled open the unwieldy door, tired hinges creaking like a testy old man. She paused and waited for one of the boys to call after her. When they didn’t, she rushed inside, closed the door behind her, and sucked in a deep breath, calming her nerves. A puff of the sweet, musty summer's straw odor pressed into her nose.
The barn had recently undergone extensive renovations by Luc and Marjorie, Forrest’s parents. Old flooring was removed and replaced with a new tongue and groove floor. Claire walked passed the stalls with rubber mats and hay racks to the corner away from the windows
Tilting her head to one side, she bit a mouth-sized hole into the
It was delicious, just like how she’d imagined Forrest would taste.
She went in for another bite. Her eyes lulled shut as she drowned in the fantasy of kissing Forrest. She pushed her tongue into the flesh of the plum a little more and surrendered to the sheer pleasure of experimenting.
Startled, she jumped back and almost toppled over. The plum slipped from her hands onto the ground. Oh. My. God. Utter humiliation. Forrest saw her kissing a
He picked up the plum, brushed off the collected dirt, and examined it for a second or two. His eyebrows knitted
“No.” She tried to grab the fruit
“Then what were you doing?”
Pretending I’m kissing you. Pathetic. “Um
His gaze searched her face. Claire’s first reaction was to make a run for it, but then Jason would think one of his best buds did something to her. Mortified, she lowered her head and focused on the floor.
“Claire, look at me.” His voice was low, with a trace of huskiness and authority.
There was no rescue from this embarrassment. Pure absolute torture. She coughed and pushed her hair back behind her ear, even though it was already there. He caught her chin and raised her face, forcing her to look at him. His eyes were gray, not a dull, unremarkable gray like that of concrete or stone, but a combination of misty gray and blue like the ocean at dusk. They were sensual, alluring, and warm. They beckoned her to reveal her deepest secrets, and to lose herself in their warmth.
“Who is the guy?”
A thick fog dampened her ability to think. “What?”
“The guy you want to kiss. Your crush.” His eyes searched her face for answers. “Who is he?”
You. She wanted to scream. Instead her heart tripped and stalled.
“Claire, who’s the guy?” His voice racked her brain as she scrambled for a name of any fifteen-year-old boy from her class. But they lived on an island where everyone knew everyone’s business. If she was brave enough to lie—for the
“I don’t have a crush.”
He smiled. “So I didn’t just catch you making out with a plum?”
She turned hastily and tried to run off, but mortification followed. Forrest stepped in front of her, blocking her escape.
“Have you kissed your crush?”
“No.” She tried to walk past him. He inched closer to the door. “I need to go,” she said and hoped she sounded annoyed and angry.
“Have you kissed anyone?”
Something in his voice grabbed her attention. It was low and gravely as if he cared whether or not she’d been kissed before. Chin up, she stared into the eyes that had captured her heart, caught the twinkle of amusement, and her stomach flopped in disappointment.
Silly of her to think Forrest might actually look at her and see an actual girl with feelings instead of Jason’s shadow. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he was one of the Vineyard’s elite. She was the half African-American, half-Japanese, flat-chested girl who lived in the same house with his best friend. Not that he was ever
Humiliation quickly turned to anger. She planted her legs wide and crossed her arms over chest. “How did you know I was in here?”
He shrugged. “You weren’t outside.”
“I could have been by the lake.”
The corners of his mouth lifted up, then his smile widened into a grin “I saw you come in.”
“You were watching me.”
His eyes narrowed. “We
Not exactly what she had hoped to hear. Realizing she stood no chance to win this banter, she quickly opted for plan B. The truth. What she wanted most in the world. To be kissed by him. She edged further into the room and leaned her elbows on the window sill, her denim shorts brushing against the dusty wall. “Fine. You were right,” she started in a low voice, her back to him. “I was practicing kissing because I’ve never been kissed.”
“Cosmopolitan has a step-by-step guide on how to practice kissing and I was following the instructions.” She paused and inspected her battered red Converse, building courage to spill everything. “But it also says the best practice is with another person.” She turned to look at him. “Will you kiss me, Forrest?”
“No,” he answered without a beat.
The swift blow of rejection knocked every wisp of air from her lungs. Claire struggled to inhale, to exhale, to do anything. Stunned and disoriented, she swiftly turned her attention back to the window. The sun stung her eyes, they watered. She quickly batted away escaped tears.
“Claire,” he said, his voice a bit more soothing. “You’re so young.”
“I’m fifteen,” she said in a desperate voice caught between frustration and crying.
“And I’m eighteen.”
She whipped around and looked straight at him. “We’re only three years apart.”
He smiled. “Right now, it feels like ten.”
They stood, staring at each other in a companionable silence, broken only when Forrest let out a deep breath.
“I’m leaving for college in a few days.”
Although it was summer, the words chilled her spine. She needed to kiss him and let him see, feel everything she felt
The rejection, although gentler this time, still cut deep into her heart.
“Am I that unappealing to you?”
He dragged his fingers through his hair. “Claire.”
She held up a hand. “It doesn’t matter. Most of the boys here are trying to figure out what to make of me. An African-American-Asian girl. Is she pretty or just weird-looking?” She shrugged with indifference, but deep down the quick glances here and there bothered her.
“What do you care what others think? You’re beautiful.”
An equal mixture of pure ecstasy and excruciating pain made her heart go pit-a-pat. “You think I’m beautiful?”
He nodded. “Definitely.”
“So why won’t you kiss me?”
With quick strides, he came to stand next to her and gently stroked her cheek with the pad of his thumb. “You should be kissing boys your own age.”
She looked into his eyes and her heart swelled from the emotion bottled inside. Feelings even she didn’t understand, let alone try to express. He gave her a quick smile, then walked back to the door. The bitter taste of regret stung her tongue like a rusty razor blade. The moment she had planned, spent so many sleepless nights imagining, had slipped from her hands.
He opened the door and turned to look at her once more. “When you do kiss your crush, I hope it’s everything you imagined it to be.” He smiled—a sweet, sexy smile that got her all flustered—and then he walked out of the barn.
* * * *
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
She’d almost missed him.
“Forrest,” she called after him, heart in her throat, fearful he would enter his parents waiting
Please look at me.
He slowed his steps and after a second or two he turned. “Claire,” he said, squinting.
Her heart leaped with joy. She caught him just before his parents drove away to catch the ferry to Falmouth. Smiling, she ran forward, closing the distance between them, and said through ragged breaths, “You’re leaving.”
“I know.” He looked over his shoulder at his parents’ truck. “What are you doing? It’s pouring.”
She launched herself at him, strong arms clamped around her waist. “I love you,” she whispered and squeezed her eyes shut.
For a minute neither moved, time stopped. They stood still, holding on to each other, their bodies drenched from the downpour. She shivered, not from the coldness of the rain, but the string of electricity shooting through her veins. Her heart, like a fly in a cobweb with nothing to do, waited for his laughter to confirm how ridiculous she sounded. But it didn’t come. Sucking in a breath, she waited a little longer. Except for the huge raindrops splattering with charged energy, there was absolute silence.
Slowly, she opened her eyes and looked into the depth of his gray ones. A fluttery feeling took over her body. “Forrest.”
He swept back her matted hair, and his lips cracked into a smile. “I’m your crush.”
She shook her head. A crush was the lowest level of romance. Her feelings ran beyond that. “It’s not a crush.”
“Claire, you’re fifteen.”
The world around her started collapsing. “I’m in love with you,” she said emphatically.
“It’s an infatuation.”
No. No. This was bigger than an intense, naïve, adolescent admiration. She searched his face for any hint that just maybe deep down he believed her, only to come up short. Empty. Nothing. Feeling weak and hopeless, her shoulders slumped. She was losing this battle. “You’re going to have sex in college.”
He let out a heavy sigh. “Claire.”
“I know about sex.”
“Jesus, Claire, if you’re having sex with some
“I’m not having sex,” she cried, fighting back the tears threatening to spill. “But I know what it is. I don’t want you doing it with girls in college.” She grabbed his arms. “Please wait for me.”
“What makes you think I haven’t had sex?”
Raindrops, hard and thick, hit her face like bullets. With a quick brush of her hand, she swept matted hair away from her eyes. “I overheard you telling the guys you were waiting for that person.” She was making a fool of herself but at this point what did it matter. “You want it to be special… your first time.” She swallowed the panic choking her. “I want to be your first, Forrest, and you mine. I love you.”
He looked at her for a long moment. His eyes became shadowed. Hope bubbled in her stomach. And then he sighed, took a step back and broke their connection. Her heart dropped all the way to her toes.
“This is a crush. It will pass,” he said quietly.
“No.” He owned her heart. Forever. It didn’t matter, she was only fifteen. Some things only happened once in a lifetime and had nothing to do with age. “Promise me, you’ll at least try to wait for me.”
“I have to go. I’m sorry, Claire.” He touched her face and stared at her for a long beat. “One day you’ll look back at this and laugh.”
“No,” she choked.
Their gazes locked. The pitiless rain continued thrashing her skin.
Forrest took her hand in his and brought it to his lips. “I have to go.” He released his grip and walked to his parents’ truck. For a brief moment, he hesitated and looked back. Hope stirred low in her belly, then he tossed his backpack in the truck and shut the door.
Nausea pained her stomach, heart and chest. She had waited for this moment to come forward with her deepest feelings and bring to life those three words she’d been harboring.
She fought and lost.
Her world collapsed.
Emotionally bankrupt, she stood in dazed isolation and took the onslaught of the chilled rain. Her wet dress hugged her, its weight heavy and oppressing. With blind eyes to the world, she stared at the shadow of the
About The Author
For latest news on my current WIP, interviews with fellow authors, or just to see what I’m up to, check out my blog: http://mikajolie.com/ While there, sign up for my newsletter for the latest news and giveaways. No spamming.
The Martha's Way Series