Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sneak Peek At Chapter 1 of CRUSH

Crush is coming out this weekend!

 Here is a sneak peek at chapter 1. 

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Book 1
The Crush Saga: Book 1

by Chrissy Peebles
Copyright © 2013 by Chrissy Peebles

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

A huge thanks to Autumn Conley, my editor.

Chapter 1
Big Bear Lake, California is located in a lush green valley, surrounded by mountains and the towering pines, sparkling streams, wildlife, and hidden lakes of the San Bernardino National Forest. We’d just moved into a cute, two-story brick house along the south shore of Big Bear Lake, a beautiful, quaint little home left to us by my grandmother when she’d passed away. She’d spent her whole life in the house and had loved it, so my parents thought it would be fantastic to dump our city life and move out to the smog-free middle of nowhere, where we could get lost in the peace and quiet tranquility. It wasn’t the easiest place to get to, and only three roads led in and out of the valley.
My parents loved the solitude because they were writers. My father wrote mystery thrillers, and Mom penned romance novels. They hated the hustle, bustle, and noise of the city and were sure they’d be better able to concentrate out in the peaceful wilderness. “It’ll be a fresh start for all of us,” my mother assured me just after my bad breakup with my boyfriend, “a very healthy experience all around.”
I wasn’t sure, though, if I could so easily adjust to the simple life after living in New York City, but once we got there, I loved the place. It was a far cry different, going from honking taxicabs and towering buildings to honking geese and towering trees, but I knew my mother was right; it would be the perfect spot to forget about my depressing love life.
I had two brothers and one sister, but they had already moved out of the house, so now I was virtually an only child, with the two most wonderful parents. We were a loving, close-knit family, and I couldn’t have been more thankful for that.
It was only June when we moved in, so I had almost the whole summer to get used to California and my new home before school started. I carried in the last heavy box to my cluttered room; everything was a mess. I bit my lip hard as I looked around at all the boxes and bags, knowing there was no way I’d get everything unpacked and put in its place in one night.  
My mother pushed through the maze of boxes, toppling them everywhere. “Pizza’s here.”
It was past lunchtime, and my stomach rumbled. My German shepherd pranced around in a circle and barked.
“Mom,” I said, “Max needs to be walked first.”
She brushed her hair behind her ear and smiled. “Go ahead and take him out, then, but don’t wander off too far.”
I kissed her cheek. “Of course not.”
She pointed to my eyes. “What’s with the dark circles?”
“Uh…I’m sure it’s just makeup, or maybe just because I’ve been getting absolutely no sleep?”
“It’s your makeup,” she said, smiling. “You look like a raccoon.”
“See? I’ll fit right in with the wildlife out here.”
My mom laughed. “Well, maybe the raccoons can adopt you. They’re nocturnal too.”
“I just can’t sleep at night. I can’t help it.”
She wrapped her arm around me. “Is this about the breakup with Sean? Honey, it’s been six months. Remember what we talked about? We’re here for a new beginning, a fresh start.”
“I know,” I said, wincing because the whole thing still hurt.
Sean had dumped me out of the blue, and getting dumped sucked, no matter the reason. I had given him my heart, and he had trampled all over it. The breakup absolutely blinded me, and I didn’t see it coming when he called me and said, “Taylor, this just isn’t working for me anymore.”
I knew it was time for me to move on with my life, with whatever grace and dignity I could muster. We’d both made mistakes in the relationship, and neither one of us were perfect by a long run. Still, I refused to let that relationship define who I was. Just because we didn’t work out and clearly weren’t meant for each other, that didn’t mean things wouldn’t work out with someone else in the future. My friends set me up on stupid dates that never worked out, and I wondered if I’d ever find the “spark” again. For the time being, I decided I was done with guys. I was just going to enjoy my fresh start and focus on my passion, painting. The yard was overrun with weeds and vegetation, but my dad had hired someone to fix it up, and when he was finished, it would be the perfect place for me to pursue my art.  
I threw my black, curly hair into a messy ponytail, then slid my feet into my white tennis shoes. I wore a white t-shirt and my favorite pair of skinny jeans that hugged my curves so tight they felt like a second skin. I’d washed them so many times that they were faded and super soft, form-fitting in all the right places. The right knee had a large rip in it, but that only gave them originality. Silver and leather bracelets dangled from each of my wrists, and silver rings adorned my fingers. I looked into the mirror and wiped the smeared eyeliner from underneath my brown eyes, then headed outside.
It was so beautiful there. Our yard was surrounded by towering trees that stretched high into the sky. The birds chirped, the sun shone on my face, and a cool breeze ruffled my hair. I loved my back yard woods. Inhaling the clean air, I smiled. I’m really going to enjoy my fresh start here…and so is Max, I thought as the dog explored the back yard, fascinated and intrigued by all the new smells and sounds.
Suddenly, Max’s ears shot back, as if he had noticed an animal in the woods. Peering closer, I glimpsed a whitetail deer sipping from a puddle. My heart melted at the sight of the adorable animal. Max’s bark scared it almost to death, and the poor animal darted off into the vegetation. He wasn’t used to all that natural wildlife, but I knew he was going to love it there as much as I was, if not more. He barked fiercely, then suddenly bolted through the trees, deeper into the woods, and I guessed he was chasing the deer. I decided then and there that I’d have to keep him on a leash.  
“Max!” I yelled. “Come back!”
He didn’t listen.
I glanced back at the house, wondering if I should get my parents for help. The woods and its inhabitants scared me, but I debated on what I should do. Finally, I decided to just go a little ways into the woods, but I did—if only for a brief second—wonder what the chances were that I’d run into a bear.
I stepped through the vegetation and took a tentative step. Glancing around, I didn’t see Max, so I called for him a few times, only to get no response. When I heard a bark in the distance, I took off through the woods that surrounded our property. I pushed aside some green vegetation and glanced ahead and could finally see my beloved and ornery pet. “Max!” I shouted. “Come back!”
He gave me the dog version of the I-see-you-but-I-don’t-care look, then started sniffing the ground.
As I walked toward where he was, I seriously considered obedience classes. A thorn grazed my skin, and I bit my lip to stave off the pain. I swore I’d never let that cantankerous canine off the leash again.  
I stumbled left and tripped over a pile of termite-ridden, moss-covered, rotting logs, then burst through more towering ferns. Max disappeared into the thick vegetation once again. I couldn’t see him anywhere, but I could still hear him barking. Panting, I spun in a slow circle. I was afraid if I went in any deeper, I’d get lost, but I couldn’t just desert the family pet.  
The snap of a twig behind me, followed by the unmistakable crunch of dried leaves, halted me mid step, and I strained to listen. Was that...Max?
The snap of another twig drifted through the forest.
I peered around the trees and high grass. “Max?” I yelled. “C’mere, boy.”
I swept an uneasy glance around the trees, my senses on full alert, and I whistled. “Here, Max! C’mon,  boy. Let’s go home.”
The singing of crickets and chirping of birds was my only reply.
I jumped, startled, as a sudden flash of tan glinted to my left. I flinched. For a split second, I saw amber-colored eyes in the foliage. Panic struck me; I was sure it was some kind of wild animal. I worried that Max might have been attacked, and I knew one bite to the throat might prove fatal. I grabbed a long, sturdy stick. It wasn’t much of a weapon, but I’d be able to poke those yellow eyes out if their owner came after me.  
A menacing growl broke the silence. My heart thudded against my ribcage, and a shiver swept over my skin. Running after Max had been a dumb idea. My dad had warned me about black bears, coyotes, mountain lions, and bobcats. He hadn’t said anything about tigers, but it was still quite the oh-my situation.
Whatever the creature was that I’d seen, it had already seen me, so I knew there was no use hiding. I had to call for Max again, as I couldn’t possibly leave until I knew he was okay. “Max!” I yelled, pointing the stick at the eyes peering out from the vegetation, ready to fight with every ounce of strength I had.  
Finally, Max burst through the thick plants, and I clutched my heart and let out a sigh of relief when I saw that he was unharmed. He immediately took a protective stance in front of me and starting growling and barking at whatever was in those ferns. Given the fight-or-flight choice, I was sure the best course of action was to slowly sneak backward and get the heck outta there.
When the ferns parted, I gasped. I was face to face with a mountain lion, and when it let out its bloodcurdling signature roar, my heart began to pound in my chest like a high school marching band.
I turned around quickly, only to bump into a guy who looked to be about my age. He was so scorching hot that if I had wet my finger with my tongue and touched him, his chest would have steamed and sizzled. He instinctively pushed me behind him as if to protect me, then started shouting and throwing sticks at the big cat. I joined in with some noise of my own, and in an instant, the mountain lion fled into the grass.
The beautiful stranger eyed me up and down, warmth and empathy radiating from the depths of his glare. “Are you okay?”
Those gorgeous, winter-blue eyes hypnotized me, and I was pulled into his hold with one look. My breath had never literally been taken away before, but I was absolutely suffocating under the power of his stare, and my knees began to shake. “I-I…” The butterflies that had landed in my stomach in fear of the cat were now turning flirty summersaults. My eyes slid up his towering body, gliding over his high cheekbones and the dark stubble shading his sharp jaw. He was definitely tall, dark, and handsome, and even if it was quite cliché of me to be so taken by him, I felt like I’d been struck by lightning. I’d never been face to face with somebody so beautiful and angelic. He was the kind of guy who I thought only existed in movies, as if a Calvin Klein model had stepped down off of one of those big, delicious billboards for a hike through the woods.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” he said when my stutter never turned into a complete answer. He didn’t fidget or stumble for words like I did whenever I was standing in front of a gorgeous stranger. Rather, his cool confidence spoke volumes to me, as if he was used to girls throwing themselves at him, which I was just about to do.
My breath froze in my throat, and my stomach clenched. I’d never been so drawn to anyone before, never so instantly, so madly attracted. I couldn’t stop staring at his messy tangle of dark hair, that tousled, just-out-of-bed look that I loved and found so sexy. From his piercing blue eyes to his strong, chiseled jaw to his handsome face, he was absolutely godlike, even if he was only dressed in a black t-shirt and blue jeans. I took a deep breath to try to calm down, but it felt as if time had stopped.  
When our eyes locked, we seemed lost in each other’s gaze, oblivious to anything else. I was fixated on his piecing stare, and the explosive chemistry between us was absolutely undeniable.
My ex had told me that sexual attraction and chemistry couldn’t possibly be planned, that it was something that would just happen naturally. I knew, standing there looking at this new guy, that he wasn’t lying. I had never felt like that with my old boyfriend. I couldn’t even explain the uncontrollable force that was drawing me to him like a moth to flame. When he looked at me with that sexy smile on his face, I’d never felt so desirable, so wanted, and I wanted to jump into his strong embrace. He was a smoldering hot hunk, and I couldn’t believe I had his attention.
“Is everything okay?” he asked a third time, snapping me back into reality.
My mouth dropped, and it took a minute for my brain to function. “Uh, huh? Oh yeah. I’m, um…I’m fine,” I babbled, as if that big cat had my tongue.
He stepped forward and looked off into the vegetation. “It’s gone for now, but you must be careful of predators out here.” He met my gaze straight on. “Predators are always on the prowl. They’ll stalk their prey until an opportunity arrives to pounce, then go for the neck with a fatal bite.”
“I know. The thought of anything biting me anywhere kind of freaks me out.”
“If you are not all right with fangs piercing your skin, you definitely shouldn’t be out here.”
“You’re right. Let’s get outta here before the big kitty comes back.”
He stared deeply into my eyes. “It won’t.”
Max growled at the handsome stranger, then began to bark.
A bit embarrassed that I didn’t have my dog under better control, I patted the furry beast’s head and said, “Don’t worry. He doesn’t bite.”
 “Well, tell him that I do.”
We both burst out in laughter; his ice-breaker had worked.
Nevertheless, even with my soothing tone and gentle touch, Max still continued.
“Max!” I scolded. “Knock it off, boy.”
“Don’t blame Max. It’s not his fault. All dogs hate me. It’s their natural instinct.”
“Nah, he’s just protective and loyal, that’s all. You’re still a stranger to him, and he is trying to look after me.” I glanced around, still rattled by the mountain lion. “We’d better go, just in case that snarling menace comes back looking for dessert.”
“Like I said before, it’s not coming back,” he said sternly, then shifted his powerful stance. “It caught a whiff of my scent. It fears me, just like your dog does.”
“You mean it’s afraid of shouting humans?”
“The shouting, yes.”
I laughed. “So you’re telling me that big lion is scared of our little voices?”
He stared at me with those dazzling blue eyes and changed the subject. “Do you always hike unprepared?”
“No. It was an unintended hike. My dog took off,” I said, “and I had to find him.”
“At the very least, you should carry pepper spray to ward off bears.”
“I don’t see you sporting a can,” I said with a chuckle.  
He smirked. “I don’t need it. I can fight off a black bear with my bare hands.”
I smiled. “All right, Davy Crockett.”
He grinned right back at me, nearly melting me where I stood. “But all joking aside, you shouldn’t be out here. As I said, these woods are full of hungry predators.”
I shot him a flirty look. “Well, then it’s a good thing I’m safe here with you.”
I didn’t know what had come over me, but something had. Where are these wild emotions even coming from? I’d never been so bold and daring. It wasn’t like me at all, but I couldn’t keep the words and the girly giggles from coming out of my mouth. I couldn’t explain it, but there was some hot, intense, intoxicating connection between us. The attraction was sizzling, but I didn’t have the guts to ask him out or for his phone number. I didn’t even know if I was his type or not, if he even liked brunettes with frizzy, curly hair and chocolate-brown eyes. For all I knew, he was only into boob-job bleach blondes, and that most definitely wasn’t me.  
“You don’t know a thing about me,” he said. “What makes you think you’re safe in my hands?”
“Are you saying I should fear you more than that mountain lion?” I asked. “Maybe I should be carrying more than pepper spray, if that’s the case.”
“What I’m saying is that you need to be careful. Seemingly nice guys cannot always be trusted,” he said, glancing down at the growling Max.
I smiled. “Are you a nice guy?”
His face lit up, and he grinned again. “I suppose there’s only one way to find out.”
I took the bait and engaged him. “And, pray tell, how’s that?”
Suddenly, his gorgeous grin faded, and worry flashed across his features. He began to dart his eyes around from tree to tree, shrub to shrub, and he listened so intently that I could have sworn his ears perked up like a dog’s.
Max started to bark and snap at the air, but when I peered into the foliage and thick brush, I couldn’t see a thing.  
“They’re back,” he whispered, then pointed to Max. “Please keep Max quiet.”
They? I thought, worried that he was talking about more than one mountain lion. As he suggested, I patted Max’s head and tried my best to calm him, but it didn’t help.
Finally, Mr. Mysterious knelt down and petted Max. “Shh, boy.”
Much to my surprise, Max immediately quit barking.
The handsome stranger then placed his hand on my lower back and briskly led me in the direction of our house. He gently tapped Max’s head. “Go home.”
Obediently, Max bolted off.
When the house was in view, I glanced over my shoulder to thank my escort, but he was gone, as quickly and mysteriously as he’d shown up in the first place. I squinted and looked through the dark spaces between the trees, but he was nowhere in sight, as if he’d just vanished into thin air. Who is he? I wondered. Where does he live? Gosh, I’m an idiot. I didn’t even get his name. Shaking my head at my foolishness, I walked to the back door and opened it.
“There you are. What took so long, sweetheart?” my mom asked. “And I know you didn’t stay in the back yard like I told you to.”
I pointed in the direction of where I’d come from. “I saw a mountain lion.”
My dad immediately pulled me into a tight hug, then stepped back from me and began inspecting me from head to toe. “Are you okay?”
I sighed. “I’m fine, Dad. Max ran off, and I just—”
“You weren’t supposed to go in the woods,” he said firmly.  
“What was I supposed to do? I had to find Max.”
“You shouldn’t go out there alone. You could have hollered for me, and I would have gone with you.”
“It would’ve only taken a minute to get me or your dad,” my mom said.
“I didn’t know he was gonna go so deep into the woods, or I would have,” I said.
My dad’s brown gaze narrowed. “Are you sure it was a bobcat you saw?”
“Positive. I just took off running and—”
Taylor,” my father pushed, “if that was a bobcat or mountain lion, its natural instinct would be to chase you. Never run. Just yell, shout, and make yourself look bigger.”
“Yeah, I know, but I panicked, I guess. Still, it didn’t chase me.”
“I don’t want you going out there alone again,” my mom said, as if I was five years old.
Dad handed me a plate with two slices of pizza on it. “Well, you’re safe now, so sit down and eat.”
I tried to calm my breathing. I didn’t have the guts to tell them I’d met a man in the woods and that he had saved me from the mountain lion. My stomach was tangled in knots. “Thanks, Dad, but I’m not really hungry. I think I’ll just go unpack a few boxes.”
“All right. I guess you have had quite a day,” Mom chimed in. “We’ll save your pizza, and you can just microwave it later if you get hungry.”
On my way upstairs, I glanced out the window but didn’t see anything unusual.
Later that night, when the moon began to shine and the crickets began to chirp and the wind began to whisper through the treetops, I thought about my mysterious stranger. The entire scene played out in my head over and over again in my dreams, and when I woke up the next morning, his beautiful face was on my mind. I had to find him, to see him again, if only once more, and to put a name to the beautiful face that I knew would linger in my mind for a long, long time. 

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