Westridge by Heather Lin
Gabby Jones and Jason Dawson were born only months apart in the small, country town of Westridge. For the next eighteen years, they were inseparable, but after their high school graduation, Gabby got on a bus to the city, leaving Jason with a weak explanation and a broken heart. After five years of making it a point to avoid her old flame, Gabby comes home for a funeral and, thanks to meddling parents and circumstance, she and Jason are thrown together again.
But now Jason is an auto mechanic with an ex-wife and a daughter, and Gabby owns a successful flower shop in the city. Even if Gabby is able to admit she still loves Jason, and even if Jason is able to convince her to tell him the real reason she left, will they be able to get past the changes and broken pieces in time to start over?
"I'll send someone to get you. I'm busy helping with the funeral arrangements," her mother replied.
"What about Dad?"
"He's busy, too. We'll send someone."
"Mom," she said unhappily. "I know who you're gonna send. You can't."
"Oh, you're gonna have to see him at the funeral, anyway. And just because you disowned all of your friends when you moved away doesn't mean I have to."
Gabby had left the small town of Westridge five years ago. In Westridge, the nearest mall was forty-five minutes away, and "got stuck behind a plow" was the most common excuse for tardiness. The kids hung out at Walmart or the diner during their downtime and talked about how they couldn't wait to get away from the stupid small town where everyone knew everyone else's business. They didn't want to be stuck in the same routine, seeing the same people their whole lives, and Gabby had felt the same way -- trapped, bored, insignificant. At least, that's what she'd told Jason two days before getting on a bus to the city and not looking back.
Ever since, she'd made a point of avoiding her old friends whenever she returned to visit her parents. Of course, her mother always updated her on Jason whether Gabby wanted to hear it or not. Mrs Jones had complained about the girl Jason dated after Gabby, discounted their quick marriage, gushed over their new baby, and gloated when they got divorced just a year after her birth. It had hurt Gabby to hear the news, but there was no way she'd ever admit it to her mother. Gabby tolerated her mother's gossip and was grateful she'd managed to avoid her high school sweetheart in person, if not in conversation. But this visit would be different.
Her parents and Jason's had been best friends since high school, and none of them made a secret of wishing Gabby and Jason would get back together. Sending him to pick her up today was a perfect setup. For them. Gabby rolled her hazel eyes in annoyance, even though her mother couldn't see.
"I didn't disown anyone," she said. “I just went on to bigger and better things. People drift apart. It happens."
She found her seat and threw her bags onto the rack above it. Her neighbors didn't look particularly happy about the twenty-three year old talking away on her cell phone, but she ignored them.
"Bullshit," Mrs Jones admonished. Only her mother could make cussing sound like a gentle, motherly act. "You loved it here. You were perfectly happy until--"
"Mom!" Gabby interrupted, not wanting to hear what her mother would say next.
She'd become a master of denial over the years and couldn't handle anyone breaking through the fog of her self-induced memory loss. Her mother sighed. It was a heavy sound, and Gabby didn't like it. It made her seem old.
"You're right. It's fine," Gabby's voice softened. "I'll have to see him soon, anyway."
"It'll be okay, baby. I love you. I have to go now."
"Love you, too, Mom."
She snapped the phone shut and leaned her head back against the seat, closing her eyes to fend off a tension headache. But all she could see was an eighteen year old Jason: blue eyes full of disbelief, face pale, fists balled. * * * * "What the hell do you think you're doing?" Jason demanded, slamming the door to his truck shut.
Gabby had to work hard to keep her chin raised and her lips from trembling.
"Just like that? And all I get is a note in my locker on the last day of school?"
He threw a crumpled piece of paper at her feet. Her parents had dropped her off at the bus stop, but they were long gone. If that goodbye had been painful, this one would be excruciating -- which was exactly why she'd tried to avoid it.
"I told you in the note--"
"And now you can tell me to my face."
He was making a scene. Gabby was embarrassed, and the tears she'd tried desperately to keep at bay burned in her eyes.
"There isn't anything to do in this town. I just need to see what else is out there."
"This is bullshit, Gabby. A few months ago, we were talking about getting married."
Her voice rose as she lied desperately through her teeth, trying to keep control.
"Well, I changed my mind."
The bus pulled up, and Jason's anger turned to pleading.
"Don't, Gabby. If you need some time away from this place, I'll go with you."
"You belong here, Jason."
"I belong with you."
Then she turned and boarded the bus, ignoring the stares. She managed to hold the tears back until he was out of sight. * * * * The pain of the memory was scorching, surprising Gabby with its intensity. She opened her eyes. She had to get a hold of herself. She looked past the old man reading a magazine, her gaze falling on the houses outside. They were reaching the suburbs, but her destination lay far beyond that. Gabby groaned and firmly pushed the last image she had of her high school sweetheart out of her mind. The next few days were going to be hell.
Heather: Yes! Definitely. JK Rowling, of course, and, more locally, Judith E. French. The author has several pen names (most recently Katherine Irons), but I met her when I was working for a local bookstore, and she’s just everything I want to be. She’s been writing romance since the 80’s, we live in the same area, and she’s able to make a living solely off of her work. She’s been great enough to let me contact her for advice, but I get all giddy and terrified of making an ass out of myself whenever I talk to her. Fangirl all the way.
Ali: If you could co-write with another author who would it be and why?
Heather: That’s a tough question! I guess I’d have to say Nora Roberts. She is basically the queen of romance. I feel like our writing styles would complement one another, and there is so much I could learn from her—promotional advice, writing techniques, how to ease readers into something new…That woman can write paranormal romance, contemporary romance, and even mystery novels and keep her following hooked. I like to dabble in different genres, and I’m a little worried that some people who have read my erotica may not read Westridge, and those who have read Westridge may not be interested in my upcoming futuristic romance.
Ali: The world is under attack and you are forced to run for your life. You only have room for one book in your survival kit, what book do you take?
Heather: Zombie Survival Guide! Because, let’s be honest, it’s probably a zombie apocalypse.
Ali: Who are your favorite literary characters? (Yours or someone else's)
Heather: Oh, gosh. Another toughie! Anne Shirley, always. I actually love Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (such a tortured soul), and how awesome is it that Heath Ledger was named after him? Wendy from Peter Pan because I’ve always struggled with change, so I identify really well with her…and there are way too many more to name. If I love a book, I have to love its characters.
Ali: If your friends were asked to describe you in one word what would it be?
Ali: Where do you do your best work?
Heather: At home on the couch.
Ali: Do you find it harder to write a full-length novel or novellas?
Heather: For me, it’s harder to write a full-length novel. I tend to want to focus on one story line that takes place in a relatively short amount of time. There are more opportunities for authors who write longer works, so I’ve been trying to paint a bigger picture in my mind when I have story ideas. Westridge is a novella, but I’ve completed two full-length novels since I wrote it. At the same time, I’ve learned not to force the length. If it works better as a novella, I have to let it be a novella.
Ali: When did you fall in love...with writing?
Heather: I don’t even remember. When I was 5, I think. I wrote and illustrated a Princess Gwenevere and The Jewel Riders fanfic before I even knew what a fanfic was. And I wrote a book called My New Bike before that. Guess what it was about? ;) My mother was always incredibly supportive, and she read to me every day until I could read by myself (and even a little after), so I don’t ever remember a time when there wasn’t a story in my mind.
Ali :Are you a plotter or fly by the seat of your pants writer?
Heather: Both! Strangely enough. The one time I sat down to write an outline for a piece of fiction, I hated the result. I usually have a loose idea of a plot, and while I always stick to the important plot points, I’m never too rigid about how I get from point A to point B. As I write, if I get a fantastic idea, I type it a few spaces below what I’ve already written and refer to it. But that’s about all of the organization I can handle.
Ali: What is your favorite thing to do outside of writing?
Heather: Spending time with friends and family. And with my cat! Whether I’m going out for drinks with the girls, shopping with Mom, or hanging out on the couch with my hubby, I’m happy. :)
Favorite food Scrapple. Or jalapeno poppers.
Boots or heels Boots
eReader or Print Print
Social Media: Love it or Hate it? Love/Hate?
Beer, Liquor or Wine Beer
Favorite place to get it on besides the bedroom There’s another place??
Favorite TV Show Sex & the City
Favorite Book series (besides your own): Harry Potter
Pj’s or Lingerie PJs
Vampires vs. Shifters Vampires!
Favorite Genre Romance, of course! Even if the romantic elements take up all of 3 pages, that’s usually enough to win me over. :)
Heather lives in Delaware with her loving husband and loyal cat. She began writing erotic and slightly less-erotic romance in 2008 and hasn't been able to keep her mind out of the gutter since. Her next novel, a futuristic romance called The System, is due out in August from Silver Publishing. Until then, feel free to check out her short stories, which can be found at TheEroticWoman.com, in the Coming Together anthologies, and through New Concepts Publishing. Visit Heather HERE
Heather is giving one lucky winner an eBook copy of WESTRIDGE! Thanks Heather!! Leave a comment to win. Contest Open Internationally! Contest ends Saturday @ Midnight. Check out the rest of Heather's tour stops HERE