Hello! We're a week from the release of my new short story, Marking the Date, so I thought I'd share the first chapter with you all!
Pre-order here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVRPXJZ
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Need to read the other books first?
All three are available in ebook and paperback, and they're on Kindle Unlimited! This short story is set almost three years after Missing the Beat. You can technically read it as a standalone, but it will spoil some things from the main book.
Without further ado, Marking the Date...
Maya stepped out of her Uber with a grin she couldn’t hide if she wanted to. She went to the trunk of the car to get her suitcase from the driver who’d stepped out to help, thanked the woman, and then turned toward the large Malibu home she’d missed for the past two months.
But not as much as she missed the man inside.
As the car pulled back down the drive toward the high gate, Maya dragged her magenta luggage to the door. She waited, watching the car leave and the gate close before she went inside. Having an unknown driver at the house worried her, and though the lady was sweet, Maya had wanted to make sure she didn’t linger in hopes of seeing a certain rock star.
Heart racing, Maya pushed through the tall front door. She left her suitcase in the foyer and quietly shut the door, hoping Xander was still asleep. She’d caught an earlier flight than planned in hopes of surprising him.
The open concept living room and kitchen all but glistened in the morning sun streaming through the wall of windows that showed the patio area and yard overlooking the ocean beyond. The house was utterly quiet. She slipped off her shoes and crept up the stairs to the bedroom she’d shared with Xander since moving to California two summers ago. With the blinds still pulled, the room was as dark as night.
Maya had the sudden thought, as she went to the window nearest the bed, that she should’ve brought coffee. It was too late for that though. She raised the blinds, slowly letting the sunlight in, and looked over to the sleepy form of her boyfriend.
Except, his green eyes were already open and watching her.
“I was trying to surprise you,” she said with a fake pout, climbing onto the bed.
Xander grinned as he pulled her into his arms. “Babe, I got an alert on my phone when the gate opened.”
She sighed, but it didn’t matter; she was home. He brushed some of her blond hair back from her brow, holding her close. A long beat passed as they lay facing each other, neither saying a word. Sometimes, it still felt surreal that this was her life—that Alexander Lewis had returned to her, and that they’d worked out their past.
“I get you for a whole week now.” His voice was still groggy from sleep, and it sent a shiver down her spine.
“Mhmm.” Maya snuggled in closer. She had just wrapped up filming another romantic comedy, this time in Canada, but the press tour for her previous one started next week. Her schedule was even busier than her rock star boyfriend’s at this point.
His lips brushed the side of her neck. He kissed along her jaw before hesitating near her mouth. The anticipation killed her. She’d been gone for months, and though he’d visited a few times, she missed him so much it almost physically pained her. She loved her life and was so grateful for everything—the last three years had been a dream come true—but she hated how separated she and Xander were.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered, leaning away to meet her eyes, his palm against her cheek.
She shook her head but knew he could read her too well. “I just missed you.”
The corner of his mouth tugged up in a sad smile. “I missed you too.”
With that, he finally pressed a slow, sweet kiss to her lips. After a few minutes, he pulled back, and she raised a brow at him.
“We finally get to spend Valentine’s Day together,” Xander said.
Maya nodded and sat up. She had thought of nothing else for weeks. Well, maybe something else too. Last year, he’d had a show in London over the holiday, and she’d been filming up in Seattle. The year before that, it was the same thing, different places. “I know. I’m so excited. We have to make it the most perfect one ever.”
Chuckling, he pushed himself up beside her. “No pressure.”
“No, it’s going to be amazing.” She couldn’t hide her grin. “As long as we’re together, that’s already a wonderful start.”
“So, what were you thinking? Something classic and cliché or something outrageous?”
Her eyes widened. “Those are my options? How about something in the middle?”
He lifted a finger to his chin, as if trying to plan it all now. She shook her head and tugged on his navy t-shirt to bring him toward her.
Kissing his jaw, she said, “We’ll figure it out later. We’ve got more important things to do right now.”
“Oh?” One brow raised in mock confusion.
“Mhmm. And it starts with you taking this off.” This time, she yanked at the hem of his shirt, and he obliged. He tossed it to the floor. She moved down in the bed as he shifted to hover over her. His hands skimmed her sides beneath her own shirt, slowly sliding it up while kissing her again. She didn’t think she’d ever tire of this.
She lifted a leg around his, urging him closer. Though she normally loved the sight of him in these low-slung, gray sweatpants, she now wanted them—
A phone rang on the bedside table. They both stilled, their ragged breath mingling as they looked over. It buzzed along the dark wood as it continued to ring. Neither moved, waiting for it to stop. When it did, they let out a collective sigh. Xander returned to his task of inching his fingers up her back toward the clasp of her—
The phone rang again.
Xander groaned, dropping his head onto her shoulder. “Hold on. Let me just make sure it’s not important.”
Maya nodded as he grabbed it and rolled off of her. She pulled her shirt down, knowing it likely was if they tried calling multiple times so early.
“It’s my mom,” he whispered, sitting up, instantly serious. He swiped the screen to answer. “Hello?”
The soft words on the other end were hard to make out, even as Maya sat next to him, leaning against his shoulder. One thing was certain though—his mom was upset.
“Woah, shhh,” Xander said in a gentle tone. “Slow down. What happened?”
Getting to her feet, Maya went to their shared walk-in closet. She grabbed some jeans and a new t-shirt and brought them out to him. Since moving his mom out to California, getting her away from that toxic house with his abusive father, Xander had been there for whatever Janet needed. Maya knew he’d go to her.
He stood and mouthed, “Sorry.”
Maya waved him off before going to change too.
“I’m on my way.” Xander appeared in the doorway, ending the call as Maya pulled on a pastel, floral dress that reached her thighs. It might have been February, but California winter and Indiana winter were two very different things. She’d grown up with winters that dropped below zero, and it was already in the high fifties here this morning .
“You should stay and rest,” Xander said. “You’ve been on a plane all morning.”
She stepped close enough to put both hands on his chest and look up into his eyes. “I’m fine. Besides, the point of this week is to spend time together. And I miss your mom too.”
“I love you.” He kissed her forehead before reaching over to the nearest clothes rack. She almost laughed when he grabbed one of her cardigans. He knew her so well.
Tossing it over his shoulder, he entwined their fingers and led her out.
Yes, Maya had known he’d go to his mother the second they realized it was her calling. Because he was the sort of man who would drop everything for those he cared about. It was one of the things she loved most about him. Though he hid it from the rest of the world most of the time, he had one of the biggest hearts of anyone she’d ever met.
As they reached the bedroom door, she squeezed his hand. He turned toward her, and she stood on her toes to brush her lips across his. “I love you too, Alex.”
They had one week together before she went on her press tour. Next month, Crashing Storm was back in the studio to work on their new album, which would undoubtedly result in another world tour that lasted months. Their last one had been a sold-out arena tour. The band’s popularity had skyrocketed with their previous album, and now it was time to do it all over again.
A pang of sadness coursed through Maya at the thought, but she kept her smile up as they made their way to the car. She’d dealt with the distance for almost three years, and she hated it. For him though—the boy she’d loved since she was twelve—she’d do just about anything. She was so proud of all he’d accomplished.
Their time might be limited, but she would make the most out of this visit. They’d plan the perfect Valentine’s Day, and she’d remind him of all the reasons why they continued to fight to make this work—why they kept up the late-night calls and FaceTime chats every chance they had.
Maya would show Alexander Lewis just how much she loved him.