Here is the cover and first chapter from my next release, Stalker, My Love. This is an untraditional love story about a young woman who vanishes from her small town, and her stalker who sets out to find her.
STALKER, MY LOVE
Chapter One: Once Upon A What?
A young couple fought with each other on an episode of some reality TV show. The girl spat at the boy, while the boy seemed ready to unleash a suppressed rage.
Rhett didn’t know why the fight started because he’d been focused on holding Rosalyn Ray. Her head rested on his chest, her face hidden by waves of her soft, black hair. She smelled like mangos.
They were on her bed, in her room decorated for a teenage girl. Posters of some pop stars hung on pink walls, and various colorful stuffed animals sat on her windowsill.
When the show went into a commercial break, Rhett rubbed Rosalyn’s back and said, “Two snowmen stand next to each other in a yard.”
“Oh boy,” Rosalyn whispered. “Here we go.”
“One snowman says to the other, ‘Funny, I smell carrots too.’”
“Terrible.” She laughed, which was one of the best sounds in the world. Hearing her laugh made Rhett whole. Making her laugh was even better.
“Kind of funny?”
“Maybe. What else do snowmen talk about?”
“Their plans for summer.”
“They die in summer.”
“No. They just melt together.”
Rosalyn slid her body until her chin was on his sternum. Her face was so round and full of life, and her striking ice-blue eyes, they froze him in time. “You’re cute,” she said. “Cheesy, but cute.”
He kissed her forehead. “How did I get so lucky?”
“I’m the lucky one. You saved me.”
Flashes of the past, when Earl Wick had struck Rosalyn, stung Rhett’s chest. Luckily, Rhett had acted in time to stop any severe damage from being done.
He recalled the look Rosalyn gave him when he’d saved her. A look from a princess to her prince. “I won’t let anyone hurt you again,” he said.
“I wouldn’t be here, not without you.”
“I’ll always be here for you. You can rest easy.”
“You better be.” She touched his cheek, shooting warmth through his flesh. “You’re my knight.”
Her lips looked so soft, so kind and so full. He needed to feel them, but he waited to kiss her.
“What is it, Rhett?”
He didn’t answer.
“Are you okay? You can tell me. What is it?” She kept speaking, but her voice trailed away until it vanished within the rustling leaves.
Rhett opened his eyes. He straddled the branch of a tree outside the Rays’ property, the wind picking up around him. The leaves swayed intensely, as if yelling at him to join the real world.
He raised his binoculars to make sure Rosalyn was still inside her room. She was on her bed, lying on her stomach. Her legs kicked back and forth as she watched TV. She laughed at something. Rhett laughed with her. She wore black boy shorts and a purple tank top, and while Rhett could’ve stared at the exposure of her toned legs, or at her revealing cleavage, he liked to look at her face.
He lowered his binoculars, shut his eyes, and listened for her voice within the wind and the leaves. Her voice called for him, bringing him back to her room. The reality TV show was no longer playing. All of Rosalyn’s focus seemed to be on Rhett. “Are you happy?” she asked.
“Me? Yeah. I don’t need much to be happy.”
“What do you need?”
Rhett smiled, and using one finger, brushed Rosalyn’s hair behind her ear. “Just this.”
“I like this.”
“I love this.”
The temptation to kiss her returned, but he asked, “How are your friends?”
“Elliott and Mimi. Who else?”
“What do you call yourselves again?”
“REM. What about them?”
“I only ask, because Avery is back in town. Maybe all of us could hang out together.”
“I think you’re intentionally delaying the inevitable.” A glow in her eyes complemented the way she bit her lip, and when she touched his hand, he couldn’t resist any longer.
Nothing else mattered when they kissed.
They lay together and watched old episodes of some show Rhett couldn’t care less about. The way Rosalyn rested her head on his chest made him feel like the protector of their world.
She yawned, snuggling into him. “Let’s sleep.”
“Rosalyn and Rhett.”
“You and I.”
When Rhett spent time with Rosalyn, he lost himself. For minutes, and hours, he was gone, somewhere better than Pine Bridge. However, deep down he knew he should return to work.
Rosalyn fell asleep, and Rhett opened his eyes. Still on the tree, he looked at his phone, realizing he’d been there for far too long. He lifted the binoculars and looked at Rosalyn’s room. No light inside. She wasn’t there.
Headlights punched through the trees covering the Rays’ driveway. The leaves swung violently above Rhett.
“Oh no.” He looked at his truck, which he’d parked on the side of the road after delivering the Rays their dinner. Although he knew he’d never make it out of there in time, he lowered to the next branch in a swift panic. His foot chipped bark. He slipped off the tree for a flashing second but caught himself.
The car leaving the driveway closed in on his spot. He was about to jump from the tree when the strap of his binoculars squeezed his neck. He was caught on something.
Headlights landed on him. The car stopped, staring into Rhett’s soul. I’m a deer. I’ve always been a deer. He squinted to see the driver, but the lights overpowered him.
The car slowly rolled up to Rhett’s truck. The window lowered. More beautiful than she ever was in his thoughts and dreams, Rosalyn looked up at him and said, “What the fuck are you doing?”
“I. Uh. What?”
“Is your truck broken?”
She doesn’t see the binoculars yet, he thought. She can’t know. “Yeah, it just needs to cool down,” he said, trying to shield the binoculars caught right above his head. “Overheats a lot.”
What am I even saying?
“Rhett, you delivered the food a long time ago. Did you call anyone?”
He remembered how excited he’d been when Rosalyn’s delivery was called in to the restaurant, and how he’d sat in his truck all nervous at the thought of speaking with her. But her dad had answered the door.
The past didn’t matter because his chance arrived to say whatever he wanted to Rosalyn. A lie left his mouth: “My phone isn’t working.”
She saw the binoculars. “What are those?”
She turned, looking at her house, at her room, and was quick to realize what exactly Rhett had been doing. “Holy shit,” she screamed.
“Wait.” Rhett unhooked the binoculars and tossed them to the ground. He hopped onto his truck, then the pavement, and went to her car. “Rosalyn. I can explain.”
“You’ve been spying on me?”
“Have you been spying on me?”
“I was… I was… oh no. This is so embarrassing.” Rhett grabbed his blistering, sweaty forehead. For some reason, he thought everything would be smoothed over if he told his joke, so he said, “Two snowmen are standing next to each other.”
“Snowmen? What the hell are you talking about?” Rosalyn exited her car and marched around the front of it until she stood a few feet away from him. They were about the same height. “Tell me what you were doing. I’ll call Sheriff Mancini if you don’t.”
His breath made some sort of strange noise. “I wanted to spend time with you.”
“Spend time with me? By watching me? Holy shit. This is so, so freaky. Even for you, man.”
They stood on the road for what seemed like an awkward eternity. Rhett knew what he’d been doing was weird; he was quite aware of that, but maybe after all that time Rosalyn needed to know the truth. “Rosalyn,” he said, his words lost under the rapid beating of his heart.
Say it now. Now or never. Say it.
“You what, Rhett?” Rosalyn asked. “What do you want to tell me?”
Say it. Say it. SAY IT. “I love you.”
Rosalyn dropped her hands from her hips and squinted at Rhett like he was the dumbest person in the universe. “You what?”
“Ever since elementary school. I’ve always loved you. Remember when we held hands back in the first grade? That first touch. I knew, Rosalyn. I knew I loved you.”
“First grade? What? We held hands? I don’t remember that.”
That’s okay, he wanted to say, it was a long time ago. We were kids. We didn’t know any better.
He said nothing.
“You can’t love me,” Rosalyn said. “You don’t know me.”
His head became weightless. “I know you.”
“No, you don’t. Watching me is not knowing me. You get to know someone by talking with them, not watching. We’re in our twenties, man, you should know this.” She stepped back. “This is crazy. You need to grow up. We’re not teenagers anymore.”
Rhett didn’t know what to say, and his body was ready to give out. A sickness consumed him. He needed to lie down and lose himself in something, anything to end that moment forever.
Before the night circled into the sewer, he found the strength to say, “I’m sorry.”
Rosalyn stared off the road, deep in thought. “I know you watch me in town. You watch me when we’re in the same place. I’ve always known. All of Pine Bridge knows, but you seemed harmless before tonight.”
“I would never hurt you.”
Rosalyn raised a hand like she wanted to swat him away. “Don’t ever do this again. You say you love me? Fine. What do you expect me to say? I don’t know you. I don’t watch you. What should I say?”
“I don’t know.”
“Yeah. Okay. I’m calling the sheriff next time. I’ll even call Earl. Hear me on that.”
Lightning struck Rhett, paralyzing him in a pit of obscurity. I’m a stupid boy who thought he saved his princess. I was tricked by all those fairy-tale endings. The noble prince saves the girl and gets the girl. That’s not real. It never has been.
When he came to his senses, Rosalyn was gone. Likely forever.
The quiet in the trees thought the same.