At the start of 2014, I hoped this would be the year I would get across the finish line and become a published author. What a year I’ve had! In just a few days, my third full-length novel will be released. To say I feel blessed is an understatement.
This Wednesday, I get to join the Corbin’s Bend amazing authors with my own contribution to the series, Life’s Unexpected Gifts. I can’t wait to hear what the fans of my Passion Series think of this new book and I equally can’t wait to hear what the die-hard Corbin’s Bend fans think of the newest couple in town. Here is just a taste of Hallie and Troy’s story. We join them and their families opening gifts on Christmas morning.
They are torn out of their brief interlude by the clearing of Adam’s throat and as he stands to walk across the room to deliver a gift to Hallie’s lap.
“Here you go, Hallie. This is your gift from your Aunt Gina and me.” Troy detects uncertainty in the older man and suspects the confident HoH is feeling unsure. It makes Troy curious about what’s in the package.
Hallie doesn’t open it right away. When she starts pulling at the ribbons and wrapping paper, he can see her fingers trembling. He whispers into her ear, “What’s wrong?”
She turns to him whispering, knowing everyone is watching them. “I know what this is. I… well… I heard them talking about it the other night.”
Troy doesn’t know what’s in the package, but he understands Hallie isn’t happy about it. “Well, okay. Is it something you don’t want?”
Tears are spilling from her red-rimmed eyes. Her answer is almost choked out. “I don’t know.”
He smiles, trying to comfort her. “Well, there’s only one way to figure this out. Go ahead and open it. It’s can’t be that bad, right?”
He sees her push her fear aside, and she finishes opening the gift box to uncover a big folder with the Corbin’s Bend logo all over the front of it. Troy doesn’t need to open the folder to know what’s inside. It isn’t a surprise to him at all.
Aunt Gina’s crying is the only sound to be heard over the Christmas carols playing softly in the background.
“Your aunt and I know you don’t have the money to buy into the co-op on your own, but this is where you belong, Hallie. Here with your only family. We’ve gone ahead and put your name in on an application and paid the down payment so you can stay here in Corbin’s Bend with us. Merry Christmas, honey.”
Adam and Gina obviously meant well, but Troy could belt them for springing this on Hallie like this. Deciding where she is going to live needs to be discussed. Deciding to live in a town based on the principles of the domestic discipline way of life is not something to be taken lightly for anyone, but for Hallie, who has obviously experienced violence in her life, it is a huge decision. No wonder she was afraid to open this present. She doesn’t want to hurt her aunt and uncle’s feelings by rejecting the gift, but she also doesn’t want to get railroaded into living in a place that could make her miserable.
A pregnant pause has fallen over the room, all eyes on Hallie. Maybe he’s being a hypocrite by jumping in with his opinion on the matter. At least Adam and Gina are blood relatives. Who the hell is he to butt his nose into this decision? Yet, when Hallie turns to him, vulnerable and sad, there is nothing he wouldn’t do to make her feel better.
Troy looks up to the HoH in the room, choosing his words carefully. “That’s quite a generous gift, Adam. I know having Hallie here with you and Gina has made you very happy. Hallie is lucky to have family that loves her so much.”
The men are in a visual showdown. Adam is intuitive enough to pick up on Troy’s protective stance. “But…” Adam is defensive.
Troy stays calm. “But, nothing. It is a very generous gift. I’m just not sure Hallie is ready to decide where she wants to live yet. She still has a lot to work through with Traci.”
Adam snaps back. “And she will be able to do that since she’ll be living in Corbin’s Bend full time.”
“But what if Hallie decides this isn’t the right place for her? Let’s face it. This is a very unique town with very unique rules and customs. I’m not sure Hallie is ready to commit to living in Corbin’s Bend. I thought she had more time before the January Housing Board meeting to make up her mind?”
“She doesn’t need to wait that long. She needs to stay here with her family.” Each of Adam’s answers are coming back faster and more terse. He isn’t used to having his decisions questioned. As the only other male in the room, Troy suspects he’s the only one who can say what needs to be said with a hope of getting through to the older man.
“With all due respect, Adam, none of us, including myself, can push Hallie into accepting a domestic discipline way of life. To make her live here if she truly cannot accept the way of life is actually worse than the kind of judgmental crap all of us who have lived outside of Corbin’s Bend are faced with when friends and neighbors find out about our unique kinks and practices. You choose to live here so you could be with like-minded people who won’t judge you. Doesn’t Hallie deserve the same courtesy?”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about, young man. You don’t live here either. The people of Corbin’s Bend will welcome her with open arms. They will love her and protect her as their own.”
“I’m sure they will, but that isn’t the real problem now, is it?”
Adam looks like he is about to blow, so upset he is not able to come up with a new retort to Troy. Troy looks down at Hallie in his lap and finds her staring up at him in awe. It gives him the courage to push forward.
“Let me give you just a couple of examples from the last twenty-four hours. Last night at the party, we were welcomed with party gifts. Hallie was given a lotion for TiH’s to use on her ass after receiving a harsh punishment. She took her gift in stride, but you should have seen the look of fear on her face when I opened my heavy wooden spoon. We all know the men of Corbin’s Bend are not home using those spoons to cook Christmas brunch today, now don’t we?”
Adam is listening intently so Troy continues on. “The biggest example however was that the woman who was passing out the gifts happens to be the same woman Hallie got to know by innocently walking from your house to Traci’s for a counseling session. Hallie heard a submissive crying out in pain while being paddled by her HoH through an open window. Hallie had to go through the torture of having to walk by without helping. To you and me, we understand what was happening in that house was consensual and if done right, even loving. But to Hallie, she had to turn her back on someone who was being abused. Are you really sure you want your niece with you so much that you are willing to constantly put her into these types of uncomfortable situations as she goes about her normal everyday life? Trust me, Adam. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on this very topic myself.”
Troy stops and looks back down into Hallie’s eyes, tears now streaming down her face. His anger at Adam is fading as he reaches out to cup her face, never taking his eyes from hers as he continues on. “If we really care about Hallie, we need to give her the space and time she needs to figure out what it is that’s going to make her happy. I don’t know all of the things she’s had to go through, but I know it’s been a long time since she’s… since you’ve got to decide what you really want in life. I’m not willing to force you into something I know you could never accept in the long run. You’re too important to me for that.”
There. He’s said it. He’s outed himself. Twenty reasons or not, he wants Hallie in every sense of the word. They barely know each other, but it doesn’t matter. During the two weeks apart, he had convinced himself his memory was faulty. He was sure that when he saw her again last night he would realize his attraction to her had been a fleeting result of the extraordinary events that brought them together. Now, less than twenty-four hours after being back in Corbin’s Bend, he is just as sure that his life has been irrevocably changed by the spitfire in his lap. The depth of his feelings for her should scare him, but the only emotion he can recognize is excitement.
Adam clearing his throat brings Troy back to the moment. Looking up, he can see he had gotten through to the older man. Troy can hear the emotion in his warbling voice as he addresses his niece. “Hallie, honey. I never thought of it that way. You have to know, your aunt and I just love you so much that we want you to be happy and safe. I’m sorry if I tried to railroad you into staying here with us if you aren’t going to be happy here.”
Hallie speaks for the first time since opening the gift. “I know you both love me and I love you too, but I am just so confused right now. I’m not saying I won’t want to stay here… but I’m also not ready to say that I am ready to stay for good. Can’t you please give me a little more time to figure things out before I have to make a decision?”