You all remember Heather Lin, author of The System and Scandal. I’m very happy to host her here on the blog again, this time talking about her newest release, Westridge! We’ve got an exclusive excerpt for you to check out at the end of the post. Without further ado, Heather Lin!
Heather lives in Delaware with her husband, cat, and yellow lab. She began writing romance and erotica in 2008 and hasn’t been able to keep her mind off love since. Like Heather Lin on Facebook, follow @heatherlin88 on Twitter, and visit http://www.heatherlin.com to stay updated on new releases—including Rosa’s Story, the sequel to Westridge.
Love & Loss
Westridge came easily to me. I’ve always been a fan of romances that stand the test of time, especially those involving childhood sweethearts. I was at my parents’ home when I got the idea, there for my very last summer with them, packing before I moved in with my then-fiancé. I was listening to sad, sentimental country music because it reminded me of home and simplicity. Taylor Swift’s Mary’s Song (Oh My My My) came on, and something just clicked:
“She said, I was seven and you were nine
I looked at you like the stars that shined
In the sky, the pretty lights
And our daddies used to joke about the two of us
Growing up and falling in love and our mamas smiled
And rolled their eyes and said oh my, my, my.”
I wrote Westridge in just a few months’ time. I used it as a personal outlet for my homesickness, wrapping all of my favorite childhood memories into a neat little 34,000-word package. The book is dedicated to my Great Aunt Helen, who ran M&H Luncheonette in Milton, Delaware for fifty years. It closed shortly before her death in 2008. I worked there for a summer, as did my mom, second cousins, third cousins, etc. It catered to farmers and state construction workers and down home country boys who had been going there since it opened.
M&H sold a few necessities on dusty shelves in the middle of the store, and the windows were lined with school desks. Yep, that’s right. Customers sat in tiny one-piece school desks, and there was just something about watching 70-year-old men cram themselves into those desks and then spend three hours chatting and drinking twenty-five cent coffee. M&H was a tradition, a community hub, one of the last remaining restaurants without a single piece of industrial equipment in the kitchen. When family came to visit, we sat in the back at a little red and white kitchen table and chatted while my cousins made sandwiches, coffee, and the best damn sweet tea in town.
My Aunt Helen would bustle around, pausing only to give me a quick hug and tell me to pull my shorts down, to which I would reply they were my longest pair, thank you very much.
It just made sense that Westridge would center around the death of Mrs. Grayson, who is based on my Aunt Helen. It just made sense that her funeral would be the thing to bring the two main characters, Gabby and Jason, together again for the first time in five years.
Westridge is close to my heart, and it was written during a time of change. I was grieving for my aunt and for M&H. I was leaving my childhood home and my parents. My romantic relationship was moving to the next level, and I would be graduating from college in just one year. This novella is a little time capsule. It’s a reminder of what is truly important in life. It’s a story about love and loss that was born from love and loss.
Gabby Jones and Jason Dawson were born only months apart in the small town of Westridge. For the next eighteen years, they were inseparable, but after their high school graduation, Gabby got on a bus to the city, leaving Jason with a weak explanation and a broken heart. After five years of making it a point to avoid her old flame, Gabby comes home for a funeral and, thanks to meddling parents and circumstance, she and Jason are thrown together again.
But now Jason is an auto mechanic with an ex-wife and a daughter, and Gabby owns a successful flower shop in the city. Even if Gabby is able to admit she still loves Jason, and even if Jason is able to convince her to tell him the real reason she left, will they be able to get past the changes and broken pieces in time to start over?
He took the shirt, and she peeked as he pulled it over his head and down over his muscular abdomen. She sucked in a breath, and his eyes met hers. All that hard work in the shop was doing him good. She looked away quickly, toward a pile of toys in the corner of the room. In an attempt to escape the rising temperature, she walked over to them and pushed them around with her foot, pretending to be interested in Penny’s dolls.
“I remember back when Polly Pocket actually fit in your pocket,” she said.
Her brief distraction didn’t do either of them any good. She sensed him behind her, smelled the fresh, clean scent of his soap. Her eyes closed briefly, and she sighed as his hands rested on her bare arms and his lips found her neck. She didn’t resist, and he wrapped his arms around her waist, brushing a kiss against the tender skin beneath her earlobe. She shivered, and he clutched her tighter. She could feel his need growing, pressing into her. He groaned softly in her ear, and his hand found its way between her legs, through her jeans.
It was amazing how easy it was for him. He knew all the right spots, regardless of the layers of fabric separating him from his destination. But just when she was about to give in, she remembered when and where she was, and she pulled away. Just like last time, she felt the loss, and tears stung her eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he said quickly.
“I know,” she replied, still facing away from him.
She took a deep breath and turned to look at him. His face was flushed beneath the razor stubble, his breathing ragged. She couldn’t look much better. They’d never had to keep their hands off of each other before, and trying to now only seemed to make it more impossible. But if she did sleep with him, then what? She would be even less than she was now—just a sweat stain on one of Rosa’s pretty pillows. If she had any hope of holding herself together, they needed to calm down. They needed to not be alone together, but she didn’t want to go home and deal with her parents’ questions. The easiest thing to do was just to stick to their original plan.
“Please, Jason. Let’s just go.”
He stepped close to her and slipped a hand behind her neck, gently massaging the sensitive skin with his thumb. He looked grim, worried, but he didn’t say anything, and with his hand keeping her in place, she had no choice but to keep her eyes locked on his.
“Why?” she asked suddenly.
“Why are you here?”
“I live here.”
Gabby frowned, and he smiled before leaning in to kiss her. She closed her eyes, enjoying the sensation, and she kept them closed as he rested his forehead against hers.
“You don’t want to hear it,” he told her quietly, turning serious again.
“You’re probably right.”