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Monday, October 21, 2013

Excerpt from Chasing Serenity by Eden Butler



Chasing Serenity Excerpts

Basement I:

 “What do you play?” I ask and he stops for a moment, notices me staring at his hands.
“Wing. Well, normally I’m wing. Tucker’s convinced Mullens to set me as scrumhalf.”
“Ah, so that explains it.”
“Explains what?”
“Why you hate Tucker.” He doesn’t respond, just returns to the bookshelf to grab another box and my gaze follows him, takes in the rigid set of his shoulders. “He’ll be gone at the end of the season, you know.”
“Hmm. If I’m lucky,” he says.
“Mullens is a good coach. I’ve known him forever and he’s friends with Ava.” A wrinkle forms between Declan’s eyebrows. “Dr. Winchell.”
“Thick as thieves with the president, aren’t you?”
“No. Well, yes, but it’s not what you think. She was my mom’s best friend. They’d known each other since college.”
He opens his mouth as though he wants to say something, but then just nods before he clears his throat. “Sayo mentioned it was a car crash?” When my eyes narrow, he shakes his head as though I shouldn’t be angry. “That was after she and the other two barked at me forever. Told me what an arse I was, how rude I was, how you didn’t deserve to be disrespected.” I relax and he continues. “You were hurt?”
“Yes.” My hands shake, tremble as they rest on the box in front of me and I can see myself bloody and still in the car, remembering the pain, the suffocating feeling of my mother’s loss. A breath tamps down the burn of tears in my eyes. “Three broken ribs, a completely busted up leg, and a lacerated abdomen. I had more scrapes and bruises than even you’ve probably had.”
“I’ve had many. Loads of scars as well.”
I don’t know what possesses me to do it, perhaps some subconscious need to prove how tough I am, that I’m not some sniggering girly girl, but I lift up the side of my shirt and show Declan the top of my incision from the surgery. It’s a horrid, long line still pink that runs from my hip to just below my bellybutton.
“A steel rod from the truck that hit us pinned me to the seat. Seven hour surgery.” Declan winces. The scar had faded and the doctors told me that over time it would continue to diminish, but it would never disappear completely. Five months on and it’s still quite disgusting.
Seemingly without thinking about it, Declan reaches down and rubs his thumb against my scar and at his touch, my stomach flips. I know he can see the light hairs on my stomach stand on end and how my skin covers in goose bumps. He looks at my face again and once more his eyes linger too long in my eyes, then down to my lips. But then he breaks contact and unbuttons his shirt.
“I’ve got a few nasty ones as well. See this?” He lifts his undershirt back over his left shoulder and I nod, curious of his point, his intentions. “Rory McDonald pushed me straight through the rusty, broken uprights when I was fifteen. Twenty-nine stiches that ached like a bugger. And here,” he lowers his shirt then pulls up the hem to show me a smooth gash just below his bellybutton. “Mickey Douglas forgot to ditch his watch during a practice match when I was eighteen. Fecking thing nearly ripped me in half when he lined me up and smashed me as I went for a try-scoring pass.”  The scar is faint, barely noticeable and doesn’t register really as I am distracted by muscles so taut that I can see the lines across his stomach. There is a long trail of black hair below his navel that disappears beneath his belt and I can’t help the wild dip of my stomach as I watch his bare skin.
“That’s um, yeah.” I swallow against the dryness in my mouth and Declan steps closer, his shirt still raised. Again I feel him watching me, and I don’t realize how close we are standing until he drops his shirt. There is no smile on his face, no condescending little grin that tells me he thinks I’m an idiot.
I don’t react when Declan reaches for my face or when his hand cups my cheek. The tips of his fingers are smooth, not like the rough callouses on the tops and palms of his hands. I’m about to speak, say something glib, sarcastic, but just then Declan rubs his thumb across my bottom lip, a mimic of what I’d done to him Thursday night on the sidewalk. I can only manage to watch his head lower until his lips are at my ear. When he whispers, his voice is low, a soft rasp that nears a growl and instantly makes my body ache.
“Like what you see, love?”
He steps back and the crackle present in the air, the one I’d forced the other night, returns, collects into the stillness of the basement. The seconds stretch, he moves forward, and the only sound I can hear is the low hum of the lights overhead and my own heartbeat thumping in my ears.
“Yes….um, no…it’s not like that.”
 “Liar.”

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