Gwen Cook has returned to Williamsburg, Virginia, after more than a decade away from her family estate. Frankie Porter has spent the last year renovating that same estate, turning the dilapidated Cook mansion into a showpiece. Gwen and Frankie shared a childhood full of hard secrets and ripe with first love. Now adults, their paths cross again and sparks fly.
A HEA with content warnings for PTSD and implied child abuse.
The boathouse had barely changed in twelve years. The creek ran quite a bit deeper and wider. Brown water had swallowed up much of the far bank and licked in pools about the base of the boathouse itself. Frankie had to shove back kudzu and sumac as she walked. The soles of her boots sank inches into mud. Tiny pink-and-white wildflowers grew up between the trees, and here and there she spotted a drooping hedge bright with red berries.
She made her way cautiously through the undergrowth until she could touch the old building. Standing against the foundation, she cocked her head and squinted up along brick walls. The boathouse seemed as sturdy as she remembered. Two stories high and crumbling on the outside, it was ruler straight and strong except for the roof, which still sagged but hadn’t given in to the elements and fallen.
“Used to be, they knew how to build to last.” Frankie patted the warm brick.
The structure didn’t tower the way it had in her childhood, but she supposed it wouldn’t. She had grown—her bones had lengthened into adulthood. She’d managed to top five feet, barely. At sixteen, she’d feared she would be stuck forever just above four.
Frankie hesitated, glancing up into the sky. The trees had grown tall, and she could see less of the sun than she remembered. The place was definitely cooler, definitely shadier; but on a warm summer afternoon, shade wasn’t such a bad thing.
She leaned against the boathouse and untied her boots. Stripping off her shoes and socks, she stood barefoot in the mud, regarding the brick walls. Twelve years gone and she was no longer a child. Could she do it?
Of course she could. Was it wise?
But her fingers and toes found the old cracks easily, and before she knew it, she was halfway up the wall. The brick brushed her khaki shorts, leaving brown stains. A branch streaked her white shirt with sap. Frankie didn’t notice. At the top she hoisted herself over the edge of the roof and onto the shingles. She sat very still, holding her breath, waiting to see if the roof would protest. The shingles held, even when she rose to her feet and tiptoed across the top of the boathouse to her old perch.
She looked up and around first, admiring the oak and the dogwood and the ash with their green-as-grass leaves. She sucked in the fragrance of the creek as she brushed her bangs from her eyes. Then she took a deeper breath and looked down.
James Creek glittered below, cut into geometric shapes by dim sunlight. Shadows gathered at the edges of the water and then spread away along the bank. From where she stood, the water looked deep and inviting.
About the Author
Sarah Remy/Alex Hall is a nonbinary, animal-loving, proud gamer Geek. Their work can be found in a variety of cool places, including HarperVoyager, EDGE and NineStar Press.
A senior basketball player. A mysterious new girl. A secret romance…
Charlie Baker wants out. She wants out of her small, southern hometown of BluHaven and she has her sights set on a basketball scholarship to a college as far away as her dreams can take her. Everything is going according to plan until she moves to town.
Aspen Sullivan is breathtaking. She is beautiful, smart, talented…. She evokes feelings in Charlie that she hadn’t thought possible. When their friendship blossoms into something more, Charlie discovers a new truth about herself. But with Aspen’s mysterious past, they must keep their relationship a secret.
Will their love be strong enough to endure the trials of deceiving those closest to them? Do they have what it takes to escape the constraints of the south and the closet together?
My Ticket Out is a Young Adult, LGBT story about love, and self-discovery. If you enjoy stories that include romance, heartbreak, and embracing who you are, then you will definitely love this book by author J.N. Miller.
Pick this book up today to see if Charlie will find her ticket out.
“We did not come this far to roll over like a bunch of pigs! Take the ball and put it in the damn basket!”
Falcons on three… one… two… three… FALCONS.”
Twelve seconds left on the clock.
One more shot.
One more play.
One last chance.
Twelve seconds is all the time we need.
Defense pounces the second the ball is inbounded like a leach latching itself to the only available life source.
The fast break is swift–over before it even started. One hard dribble towards the middle and the ball is launched to the center of the court.
Seven seconds left.
What comes next is second nature. A hard cut to the basket and back out to the wing, my hands raised in the air as I catch the ball before defense has time to adjust.
Four seconds left… Three seconds… the ball rolls off my fingertips.
Two seconds… it swirls around the rim.
One second… and falls to the ground.
The sound of the buzzer erupts through the gymnasium, solidifying our defeat. Final score thirty-six to thirty-seven.
I inhale the musty stench of sweat, perfume, and hairspray as we sulk into the locker room and take a seat while we wait for the aftermath that is Coach Stewart. I lean forward, resting my elbows on my knees and focus on the sweat dripping from my forehead, plummeting to the ground, leaving a minuscule puddle between my shoes.
That’s all we needed. And I blew it.
My main priority from the second this year started was getting a basketball scholarship out of this small town. From our very first game, it’s felt like my life has been dependent on one specific goal. A single accomplishment–like making the game winning shot–is going to make or break my future.
Coach Stewart charges through the door, letting it slam against the concrete wall as he steps in front of us. His gaze is intentional and cold, his demeanor full of discontent and indignation. His eyes trace over us, one by one, pausing just long enough for us to feel the misery set in.
He dips his head, slowly shaking it back and forth, before he holds up his index finger. “One shot. One damn shot. That’s all we needed to be undefeated this season.” He lifts his head, settling his hands on his hips. “We made mistakes tonight. And sometimes one mistake is the difference between winning and losing. The season’s not over yet. We’ll just have to practice a little harder to end it on a high. We’ve got a few games left, don’t give up now. Practice tomorrow after school. Bring it in.
Falcons on three… one… two… three… FALCONS.”
I shuffle to my locker, ignoring the hushed conversations happening around me, and begin gathering my stuff.
“That was a nice shot, Charlie,” Riley says as she pulls off her jersey, tossing it to the growing pile on the floor and retrieves her tshirt from the locker next to mine.
“Thanks,” I mutter, “I’ll see you tomorrow,” and sling my bag across my shoulders, heading for the door.
I get about three steps away from the locker room when I’m cut off by Ben. He’s wearing faded jeans, a red and black flannel over a plain white shirt, and boots with dried mud on the sides. The typical wardrobe of the boys that live around here. He’s taller than me by about three inches, with chocolate brown hair falling in his face, and forest green eyes that can’t seem to focus on what’s in front of him. “Hey, Charlie. Nice game.”
“Thanks,” I say, trying to brush past him.
He takes one long stride to the right, blocking my path. “I was thinking about checking out that new movie this weekend. Thought you might like to join me?”
“No thanks, I’m busy.”
He leans in closer, the smell of popcorn lingering on his breath, “C’mon, Charlie,” He whispers, “It’ll be fun. It wasn’t too long ago you jumped at the chance to go out with me.”
That’s not actually true. I only went out with him because Riley insisted and I finally agreed in order to get her off my back, not because I found him even remotely attractive. Of course, he doesn’t realize that, which isn’t all that surprising when I really think about it. We did the typical dinner and movie date but he couldn’t hold a conversation that didn’t revolve around him. Within the first twenty minutes of the movie, he’s shoving his tongue down my throat. I managed to wrangle him off before awkwardly sitting there trying to pretend I was somewhat interested in the film playing on screen. I haven’t gone out with him since.
“Ben, I need to get home. Can we talk about this some other time?”
“So,” he says, straightening up, his tone chipper as a smile plays around his mouth, “You’ll think about it?”
I stagger past him, picking up my pace as the EXIT sign beacons above the door, hoping my silence will answer his question.
I step outside, breathing in the bitter, frigid air of late February and make my way to my old grey Sedan. I pull out of the parking lot and head towards downtown. BluHaven is a small, southern town where the same families, shops, restaurants, and business have been here for generations. There’s a church on nearly every street corner, everything shuts down on Sundays, high school sports are the main source of entertainment, and everybody knows everything about everyone.
They say you have the freedom to be whoever you want to be, to express yourself in your own way. But if that goes against the belief system that’s been set in stone since before I was born, then don’t even bother. It’s not that I hate living here. It’s just that I never felt like I truly fit in, like my place has always been somewhere else in this world.
About the Author
J.N. Marton graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a Bachelor’s degree in education. Along with educating the future of our nation, she enjoys taking her daily morning run, reading any book she can get her hands on, and binge watching the latest shows on Netflix. Marton happily lives with her wife, Hollis, and their Lab/Basset Hound mix, Sam.
Email her at email@example.com and follow her on her favorite social media platform, Twitter @jn_marton.
When everyone has something to hide, who do you trust?
In the military and law enforcement, the line between right and wrong is clear. Who you trust absolutely has never been questioned…until now.
Air Force Security Forces Master Sergeant Alex Thomas just got back from a rough deployment and already has a new assignment-to train a new team in everything she knows. Much to her dismay, her new team is not military but members of the Boston Police Department. When she finally meets them, she realizes why the military and local law enforcement don’t team up. Officer Jen Miceli doesn’t play by the rules and is all too willing to take risks. The two women are locked in a battle of the wills, but when the team comes across a large stash of weapons and drugs, their world is turned upside down by who it implicates. As members of the Boston PD are ambushed and friends are fighting for their lives, Alex must find a way to complete the mission and keep her team alive.
What do you do when the lines that you have always counted on become blurred? When you don’t know who to trust?
Excerpt Her kidnappers grabbed her hair, pulled her head back, and lifted the bag off her face just far enough to take the tape off her mouth. “Yell and you will get hurt, cooperate and you will be let go.” The same voice that held the gun to her head earlier spoke into her ear. She couldn’t pick up an accent indicating where her attackers might be from, and all that she knew at this point was that they were silent, specific, and cold. Every move they made so far was deliberate, and she had no doubt that these people would follow through on any threat they made. She was getting scared. She mentally evaluated her situation—she could not feel her hands, her legs were tied together, she didn’t know where she was, and she was outnumbered at least three to one. If they would just take this damn hood off, I might be able to figure a way out of this.
“What is your name?”
“So you like to tell lies, do you?” the unknown voice asked with a hint of anticipation. “Do it.”
The chair was pulled out from under her, and the moment she hit the floor, she felt three punches, all landing in the gut. She was coughing and still trying to suck in air when she was lifted back up and on to the chair.
“What is your name?” Her captor’s voice was like the calm before a storm.
She took a minute to catch her breath and then sat straight up. “You already know, so why don’t you cut the crap and tell me what you want.” She spat out her words with as much venom and calm restraint as she could find.
“It looks like we have a lively one here.” He laughed a controlled laugh before continuing. “Okay then, what is your new sergeant up to these days?”
They are after the sarge? Not a chance in hell am I saying anything. “Who?”
“Sergeant Thomas, the woman who has been training you. What is she teaching you and why?”
She smiled. “I don’t know who or what you are talking about, asshole.”
“You will, little girl, you will. That you can trust me on.” The tape was put back over her mouth, and she was thrown back onto the floor before he even stopped speaking.
What felt like hours later, the only things that had changed were the number of times she was prodded in the ribs by someone’s boot and her temper. Fury replaced fear, and determination replaced doubt. They are not getting anything on the sarge no matter what. The “or what” was the part that she was trying to prepare herself for when she was grabbed again.
Tossed on the chair and tape ripped off again, she was asked, “What is your teacher teaching you?”
This time, she laughed. “Don’t know, I’m not a good student.”
After a short moment’s pause, her captor said, “Drink,” just before what tasted like water was forced into her mouth. “I am not going to poison you. I just want information, and how can I get that if you die of dehydration?” her captor said with a hint of humor in his voice. “Drink.”
She did her best to try and spit it out, but a hand pressed against her mouth, preventing her from being able to. For the next hour, she was made to drink water and asked the same
question. “What is she teaching you?” Jen changed her answers from simple laughter to blatant insults. “Well, I think I will just have to come back to her. Are her friends still upstairs?”
About the Author
Aprille Canniff is a deputy sheriff and member of the Air National Guard. Trust is her first published novel, which she wrote while deployed to Afghanistan. She currently lives in Virginia with her wife and “ninja” cat. When she isn’t writing or working, her passion is fishing and bragging about how big the one that got away was.