Saturday, August 20, 2016

Blogiversary Excerpt and Giveaway: So Close by Nicola Kraus

From international #1 best-selling authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus comes a story about a girl from the trailer parks of central Florida and the two powerful men who shape her life one of whom will raise her up to places she never imagined, the other of whom will threaten to destroy her.

Amanda Beth Luker has spent her whole life desperately looking for someone who can show her the way out of her trailer park Florida town. And then, finally, help arrives in the form of Tom Davis, a successful lawyer with political aspirations who grew up just a few towns over from Amanda. But it's his wife, Lindsay, who really captures Amanda's imagination. Strong, smart, and determined, she gives Amanda something she's never had: a role model. Meanwhile Amanda is introduced to the wealthy, charismatic, and deeply troubled Pax Westerbrook. He clearly desires Amanda, but if she gives in will that move her closer to the life she's always dreamed of or make it impossible?

Amanda rides Davis's political success all the way to Washington, where he becomes Senator and will later be tapped for president and even make a bid for the White House. But when Amanda starts to suspect, and later confirms, his moral indiscretions, her loyalty is tested. Will a girl from a trailer park even be believed if she goes public with damning information? Will she be willing to risk losing everything she's gained?

By August I thought I was a seasoned hangover veteran, but the pain radiating behind my eyelids that Saturday morning shocked me. I was immediately aware from the thread count of the sheets that I was somewhere I shouldn’t have been. I just prayed to God that I wasn’t already late for my hostess shift.
Whipping upright on the king-sized bed, I braced my head with my fingers, my eyes focusing on the fading blue Sharpie blob next to my belly button—the vestiges of the flower my ex, Diego, had been trying to convince me I should get tattooed. The marker he’d used had outlasted his devotion. I angrily scrubbed at it every morning in the motel shower while I tried to make sense of his abrupt departure. He’d left me with an apartment I couldn’t afford, a security deposit I couldn’t get back, and one wheezing Honda hatchback.
Forcing my eyes to stay open, I realized where I was and it wasn’t good. Beside me, in the mess of deflated pillows, a tan frat guy with rooster boxers was splayed as if on a pool float. I stood, compelled to pause for a second until my balance returned.
Hunting for my dress, I took a squinting survey of the trashed penthouse suite. The Raleigh hostess and Fontainebleau waitress whom we’d met up with the night before were sprawled on the couches in the adjoining living room. One of my roommates from the motel, Alicia, was curled beside them. The recently reddened tips of her hair made it look like a wild fox had found its way inside. Alicia had been the one to convince me to leave the club for that new place where she knew the bouncer, and I had blindly followed her behind another velvet rope damp from the salty air.
A guy stirred from the flokati rug at the girls’ feet just as I spotted my dress in a heap by the glass doors to the balcony. Swiping it up, I stepped outside through the billowing curtains and into the sun banking off the white tiles. A breeze as refreshing as a close-panting dog rippled the Jacuzzi. A flash of the evening came back to me while I retrieved my bra from where it’d been discarded with the other girls’, as if my fifth-grade teacher’s rainbow rubber band ball had exploded. Dropping my dress on the baking stone, I re-cinched the yellow lace.
I was bending to grab my dress when I spotted him on the far end of the vast terrace. He was leaning on his forearms, blowing out a stream of smoke that dissipated over the ocean thirty floors below, his khakis and caramel skin and hair giving the impression of camouflage. He looked bemused as I clutched my dress in front of me. Did we hook up? I would have remembered that. I darted my eyes for a changing spot that didn’t involve dealing with the passed out revelers inside. You’d think a terrace of that size would at least have had a potted palm.   
    “I’d offer you one,” he called over.
    “A cigarette. But I know how you feel about that.”
    “Do you?” Fuck it. I dropped my dress to step into. I wasn’t about to shimmy-tug it on with an audience.
    “Yeah.” He hung his head, his hair sifting over his cheekbones, his muscular shoulders rolling leisurely forward. “I don’t recall much from last night, but you made your opinion on smoking pretty clear in the limo.”
    I remembered. He’d rolled in behind a crowd of guys with appraising eyes and monogrammed money clips. I thought he was an asshole. All of them were. But that was my last clear memory before we accepted their bottle service. I nodded and slid my arms through the straps of my dress as if this was just another day. Flicking his cigarette over the edge, his finger and thumb made a ring around a pale stripe  on his wrist.
    “I lost my watch. My Dad’s. Which kind of sucks.”
    “I’m sorry.” I spotted my heels under a chaise and strode over to push them on.
    “You sound surprised.” I glanced over my shoulder to see him staring at me.
    He shrugged. “Didn’t expect your sympathy.”
    “Just my opinions.”
    “Yes. Got a full tank of those last night, thanks.”
    Whatever. “Well, you don’t really have it.” Where the fuck was my clutch? “My sympathy.” I stepped back and tried to nonchalantly search under the row of chaises.   
    “Looking for your bag?”
    “Target would like you to think so, yes.” I finger combed my blond hair, the sun-bleached ends still damp.
    “Powder room by the front door. You left it there when you, uh—” He averted his eyes. “Went in with Trevor.”
Uck. Rooster boxers. Awesome. “Thanks.” I nodded and clicked toward the rippling curtains.
“Now you sound surprised.”
“Didn’t expect your assistance in my departure.”
“Well.” He grinned. “You don’t really have it.” We held eyes for a moment across the mess of white furniture. If my brain hadn’t been screaming, it would have been a cologne ad. The wash of blue behind him, his tanned hip bones arching out from those sagging pants. The instinct to prowl my way across the chaises flickered.
But I couldn’t be late to work.
And there was the unfortunate fact of Trevor.
I managed one more nonchalant step through the billowing drapes before I flat out ran past the sleeping partiers to the powder room, then the hall, where I tucked my head against the security cameras and remained tucked all the way down to the lobby’s side entrance, then out to my car. Jamming my key in the ignition, I tugged my gas station sunglasses from the glove compartment and then slammed it a thousand times to get it to stay closed. I had exactly twenty-three minutes to get home, get changed, and get to work— at the exact hotel I’d just woken up in.

About Nicola 
Kraus graduated from New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She met Emma McLaughlin while both were attending New York University, and working as nannies. She lived as a child at 1000 Park Avenue, whose residents she claims inspired some of the characters in her fiction.

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