Here’s an all new excerpt from LUKE & BELLA.
After they said their good nights, Bella slept fitfully. How long has it been since I’ve slept alone, she wondered. She finally drifted off about half an hour before her alarm sounded and she found herself hitting the snooze button repeatedly. Her ringing phone startled her awake.
“Hello?” she answered sleepily.
“Sissy, I’m downstairs. Are you ready?” Tre asked.
“Holy shit!” she exclaimed. “Give me ten minutes,” she shouted into the phone, disconnecting before he could reply. She took the fastest shower of her life and threw on the first black dress she found in the closet, running down the stairs with her shoes in her hand.
Tre was waiting at the curb and she jumped into the giant SUV. He stared at her for a moment, his expression incredulous. “Is that what you’re wearing?” he finally said.
Bella looked down. The dress was more low cut than she realized, and she tried to pull the v-neckline more closed. “Oh, for God’s sake, we’re late! I’ll find a pin or something, let’s go!”
Tre shook his head and they drove to the funeral home. Once again the place was packed and they hurried to be seated in the family section reserved in the front of the room. Cornelia glanced up as they were seated and she blanched, wide-eyed, when she saw Bella’s dress. She quickly recovered her official mourning visage. Bella shrugged. I’m here, she thought. What the hell else do you want? Bitch.
She was glad to see that the casket was closed. As the service began, there were hymns followed by a few friends and business associates who spoke, giving generic inspirational messages about the dearly departed. Eventually Tre got up to give the official eulogy. He was eloquent, heartfelt, and understated, all the things that Bubba always was. People all around were dabbing at their eyes.
Bella felt something but she wasn’t sure what it was. She should feel sad. Her father was in that box. She shook her head. She wasn’t sorry that he was dead. She wasn’t happy, either. She really felt nothing at all. That realization made her sad, and the tears finally came.
After the service, there was a procession to the cemetery. They’ll lay him to rest next to Momma, she thought, as she rode in the limo with Tre, Cornelia, and T-Nathan. No one said anything at all, but she could feel Cornelia’s disapproving glare. Fuck it, Bella thought.
At the graveside, Bella stood next to Tre, wrapping her arm around his and holding on for dear life. The service was interminable and she thought she couldn’t take much more. Words like ‘family man’ and ‘loving husband and father’ swirled around her head. People have no idea, she thought.
When it was finally over, the limo took them back to the funeral home where they got into the SUV and drove back to the house. Cornelia had, of course, hired caterers to provide for the guests who would be attending the after funeral soiree. Such a bizarre ritual, Bella mused. Still, it was 2:00 and there would be wine, and she was in need.
Her flight to Buenos Aires didn’t leave until 6:00. Then…Luke. She couldn’t wait to see him, to be in his arms. How could you need someone so badly when you’d known him for such a short time?
Guests were already milling around on the huge wraparound porch, cocktails and hor d’oeuvres in hand. Among the guests, Bella noticed Mitchell, the guy from the funeral home last night. He was handsome enough, she supposed. But there was something pathetic about him. It dawned on her that she couldn’t think of anyone who was man enough to be her Dom besides Luke. The thought made her smile.
As Tre and Cornelia moved through the crowd, they were greeted with heartfelt wishes of condolence. Bella and T-Nathan stayed on the outskirts of the crowd and made their way to the backyard, where the main gathering was meant to be. The sky was bright blue and crystal clear, the temperature perfect for being outdoors. Bella took a glass of wine from a passing server and sipped slowly.
“Well, kiddo, we’ve almost made it,” she said, winking at T-Nathan. “When do you go back to school?”
He smiled at her. “Next week,” he answered. He seemed like he wanted to say more, so she waited, using her best interviewer arched eyebrow to encourage him. “Hey Aunt Sissy, can I talk to you about something?”
“Of course,” she said, smiling warmly. “What’s your old aunt for anyway? What’s up?”
“Well, you know how I’ve been studying pre-law? I’ve been thinking about changing my major.”
“Oh?” she asked, then waited.
“Yeah, um,” he said, blushing, “I’m thinking about journalism. I want to do what you do.” He looked at her directly. “So what do you think?”
She thought, Your mother’s going to have a cow, but she answered, “Are you sure that’s what you want to do, travel and interview and that kind of thing?” He nodded eagerly.
“Well, since you asked what I think…You should make journalism your minor, then continue with your pre-law or change to history or political science or economics or something else that you can bring to the table. Any dumb ass can read the news. You’re smarter than that. And get involved with campus news in some way. That’s valuable experience.” She smiled at him. “You know what, sometime when all the planets align, you need to come out with Luke and me, give it a try.”
“I don’t know, maybe I wouldn’t be any good at it,” he said, blushing again.
“Are you kidding me? Look at this mug,” she said, patting his cheek affectionately. “All the girls will lose their mother-loving minds!”
“Aw, Aunt Sissy,” he laughed. He hugged her clumsily and went to find his friends.
Bella smile as she watched him go. He’s such a good kid, she thought. A server walked by and she snagged another glass of wine. Last one, she warned herself. She began to make her way around the gathering, accepting kind words from the guests. She was aware of more than one disapproving look at her dress from the matrons in attendance, and more than one leer from the husbands of said matrons. She began to feel the need to get away.
It seemed ironic to go inside to get fresh air, but that’s what she did. Beyond the kitchen, which was a beehive of activity, the house was quiet and she made her way to Tre’s study with its dark paneled walls and oxblood red leather chesterfield sofas. She stood at the window sipping her wine and watching the scene outside.
“Well, pretty lady, I wondered where you’d gone.”
Bella whirled around to see Mitchell, he of the wake last night. “You startled me,” she said.
“Oops,” he smiled. “Didn’t mean to do that.” He had an odd look on his face and Bella didn’t like the feeling in the pit of her stomach.
“I just needed to get away from the crowd for a minute. I think I’ll go back now,” she said evenly.
“What’s your hurry?” he asked, eyes on her breasts. “I was hoping we could talk about old times.” He put down his glass and crossed the room toward her, blocking her from moving away from the window.
“Have you been drinking a lot, Mitchell, because you’re making me uncomfortable,” she told him.
He laughed darkly. “Oh, no, I want to make you very comfortable.” He reached out to stroke her arm, putting his other arm around her waist. “You’ve just been through a difficult time and I want to comfort you,” he whispered. She could smell the bourbon on his breath.
“Okay, Mitchell, I’ve really got to go now,” she said, trying to move past him.
With his hand on the small of her back, he pulled her closer and he moved the other hand, reaching inside her dress and fondling her breast.
Without thinking, she slapped his face hard. “Let. Me. The fuck. Go!” she hissed at him.
“Baby, the fuck is just what I have in mind, and you are turning me on!” he growled, leaning in to kiss her.
“Will not happen!” she answered, and she brought up her knee as hard as she could into his groin. Mitchell went down like a sack of hammers. Bella stepped over him and left the room hastily.
In the hallway she met Tre. “Sissy, we were looking for you,” he said. “Are you alright?”
“I just needed some air,” she answered sharply.
“Are you ready to go to the airport?” he asked.
“Hell, yes, I’m ready,” she said. “By the way, your friend Mitchell just groped me. I knocked his balls up into his sinus cavity. I hope he hurts for a long time.”
Tre shook his head and sighed. “Always an adventure, Sissy. Let me go throw out the son of a bitch, then we’ll go, okay?”
Throughout the month of June, I’m celebrating the 2nd anniversary of the publication of my first novel, LUKE & BELLA. All month long, you can get both Dream Dominant books, LUKE & BELLA and LOST & BOUND, for just .99 each.