My friends! Do you remember the series of spoof stories at ALBTALBS? (If not you should check them out – they’re quite entertaining. Especially the first parrot shifter one >.>) Anyway, the wonderful Jen W. at Cover Remix (you guys remember her right?) graciously allowed me and some other authors to use her covers. So I found
victimswilling participants to write the stories. This time we have Mari Carr and Jess Dee.
Almost There (Part I)
Atlanta, Georgia is miles away from Jake’s Robert’s life in Sydney, Australia.
But since his mother uprooted them both to live in America with her new husband, Jake has no choice but to find his feet in his new home.
Problem is that new home, so totally foreign to him, is also strangely familiar. As is the hauntingly beautiful Southern Belle who appears to him out of thin air…determined to address him as John Masters, someone Jake doesn’t know at all.
Or does he?
Jake Roberts walked the length of another endless corridor, restlessly tossing his bright red cricket ball from hand to hand, cautious not to throw too hard in case he missed and the ball smashed into one of the priceless antiques lining the walls of the mansion he was now expected to call home.
It wasn’t any home he was familiar with. Hell, it wasn’t any country he was familiar with.
It’ll be a new start, his mom had promised. A whole new life for both of us. We can learn to be happy again.
Yeah, right. His mom may be happy. She may have gotten a whole new lease on life, what with the new marriage and all. Jake? Not so much. A month in Atlanta, Georgia—an ocean and a continent away from everything known to him—and he’d yet to settle into his new school, make a friend or find a sport he could relate to.
Senior year in Atlanta sucked great big dingo balls.
He should have been in Sydney preparing for his HSC, not stumbling around in a school system he didn’t understand. He should have been back in the tiny unit he and his mum had lived in for the five years since his dad had died, not exploring a rambling manor that had more rooms, staircases, hidden passages and priceless antiques than Hogwarts. The mansion had once been home to one of the countries most successful cotton farming families, but that was back before the Civil War had devastated the South. Back when slavery was still legal and cotton plantations had thrived. Now it was just a big, confusing house.
Jake’s interests didn’t lie here. They lay back in Sydney, with his mates and his school and a life that he knew. Understood. Enjoyed.
Maybe he’d just bite the bullet and try out for the baseball team. Yeah, the rules may be different to cricket and the bat an odd shape, but Jake had a killer bowling arm. Maybe he could pitch for the Atlanta High School Giants?
Come Monday morning, he’d track down the coach and find out what he needed to do to try out. It would be sick to meet a few of the players, possibly make some new mates.
The decision should have made Jake feel better. But Monday was three days away, which meant he faced another whole bloody weekend with not a thing to do, and worse, not a single bloody person to do it with.
“Why, heavens, John Masters. There you are. I have been searchin’ high and low for you.”
Startled by the unexpected, feminine voice, Jake missed the ball he’d just tossed. It careened past his hand, narrowly missing a sepia-toned, wood-framed photo of indeterminate age hanging on the wall.
“Mama is waitin’ to begin afternoon tea, and you know how she hates for us to be late. Why Edie has prepared your favorite tea cakes, and she’s already fussin’ that there won’t be any left if we don’t get to the drawing room soon.”
A sweet, floral scent, similar to but more subtle than the flowers growing in the garden outside, teased his nose. Bewildered, Jake searched the passageway—and saw no one.
“Now, don’t you look so confused. Surely you heard the bell. It rang not five minutes ago.”
Jake’s heart lurched when a hand slipped beneath his arm and settled on the back of his hand. Or that’s what it felt like had happened anyway. He could sense the dainty pressure of a palm and fingers resting on his skin. He just couldn’t see it.
He scanned the walls and ceiling for speakers, wondering if someone had turned on a radio, but found nothing. Besides, the voice he’d heard wasn’t echoing through the hall. It was a soft, personal whisper in his ear.
He scrubbed his free hand over his eyes, wondering if jetlag had finally caught up with him, or if missing home so much had just gotten the better of him and he’d begun to hallucinate. There wasn’t a single person around, and yet there was no denying a young woman spoke directly to him.
Bloody hell! He was losing his mind.
“You’re tired again,” the voice noted. “Honestly, you need to get some rest before you leave. You’ll do the Confederates no good if you arrive for your first day of duty exhausted.”
As accustomed as Jake had become to the southern drawl, this woman’s accent was stronger than any he’d heard before, and he had to repeat her words to himself once or twice just to be sure they made sense.
He had no idea who Edie was, what tea cakes were, where the drawing room was, why she’d mentioned the Confederates, and…oh yeah…just who the fuckola spoke to him.
“You’ve gone and done it now, mate,” he muttered, walking further down the passageway, leaving the ball where it had fallen. “Completely lost the plot.”
“Well, whatever do you mean by that?” the voice lilted, and something that sounded like layers of material swished at his side, along with the pitter patter of soft footsteps. “And the way you’re talking, it just doesn’t sound at all like you.”
Jake tapped his forehead. “Going bleeding crazy, that’s what I’m doing.”
The invisible hand that had settled on his slipped away and something brushed against his leg.
Jake was forced to grind to a halt as he walked chest first into something. Or someone.
He blinked twice.
No one was there.
A soft caress trailed over his cheek, the whisper of a touch that sent hot chills racing down his spine. From fear? Confusion? Or something else altogether?
The contact was startling and unexpected and it made Jake jump a good few inches off the ground. At the same time though, there was something hauntingly familiar about it. Something comforting and intimate. Something that made his belly tighten in…anticipation?
“Who are you?” he whispered, finally accepting that someone…or something was in the room with him. His breathing accelerated, but the response didn’t seem driven by fear. Rather it was provoked by expectation. Excitement.
Silence followed as he counted breaths. One, two, three…ten. Enough time passed that he almost believed he’d imagined the whole thing. Then the swish of material sounded again.
“What do you mean who am I?”
Her voice sounded haughty, but tinged with just a trace of pain. He could have answered the anger, repeated his question, adding his own annoyance to the sound. After all, he’d been a bundle of frustration and fury since his mom had uprooted them and moved them half a world away.
But the pain in her voice stopped him. He’d hurt her feelings and that realization rested uneasily on his shoulders. “I’m sorry. I…” His words faded away. What could he say?
“John,” she whispered. “It is you, isn’t it?”
Jake started to say no, but the denial died on his lips. A memory niggled. Just a brief wisp of an image, more picture than movie. His mind conjured the remembrance of a beautiful young woman dressed in a full, pink ball gown, laughing at something he’d said.
“John?” she repeated.
Suddenly the voice was no longer coming from thin air. He blinked rapidly, his eyes focusing. It felt as if he were a blind man, seeing for the very first time. Squinting, he watched as the bright light before him took form, then shape. Color burst through the sheer whiteness, filling the foyer in front of him with her bright blue eyes, blonde ringlets, rosy cheeks…and that same pink dress.
Recognition dawned. “Elizabeth?”
So what’d you guys think?!