Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lone Star by Paullina Simons - Excerpt

Happy Book Birthday to Paullina Simons whose latest, Lone Star, hits shelves today!

To celebrate the release, I've got an excerpt to share - just to get you started :) But first, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Chloe is just weeks away from heading off to college and starting a new life far from her home in Maine when she embarks on a great European adventure with her boyfriend and two best friends. Their destination is Barcelona, but first they must detour through the historic cities of Eastern Europe to keep an old family promise.

Here, in this fledgling post-Communist world, Chloe meets a charming American vagabond named Johnny, who carries a guitar, an easy smile—and a lifetime of secrets. From Treblinka to Trieste, from Karnikava to Krakow, from Vilnius to Venice, the unlikely band of friends and lovers traverse the old world on a train trip that becomes a treacherous journey into Europe’s and Johnny’s darkest past—a journey that jeopardizes Chloe’s plans for the future and all she ever thought she wanted.

But the lifelong bonds Chloe and her friends share are about to be put to the ultimate test—and whether or not they reach Barcelona, they can only be certain that their lives will never be the same again.

Simons is known for her epic and romantic tales and Lone Star promises to be just that!

Now without further ado, here's a taste to pique your interest:

Chloe squeezed in by the window near the massive woman. She felt so claustrophobically cramped. Too many strangers in one confined space. Like spending hours in a packed and broken elevator. At least here there was a window.

Fifteen minutes behind schedule, the train engines finally spun into action, and she permitted herself a small smile. Yes, it was smelly. And awfully crowded. And soon to be hot. Her shirt was still damp from the rain, and all the windows were closed and she couldn’t find her ticket to show the conductor. But the train was moving at last. Soon this would be over.

Not a minute after the conductor left, the door opened again and into their stuffy, overcrowded cabin stepped the dreaded eighth passenger, a young dude. No! It was impossible! There was no room here; couldn’t he see that? It was as clear as the scowl on her face. A sharply inhaling Chloe despised him from the moment he slid open the door, smiling widely, and stepped inside to look for a seat. He was not only tall and had to bow his head to fit under the cornice, but he carried with him a crapload of stuff, enough to warrant his own cabin. Besides the oversized green duffel and a backpack, he wore a bulky leather jacket and a pretentious black beret. And on his back was a guitar of all things. Chloe nearly groaned. A guitar!

The luggage shelf above their heads was full. There was no room for a man-sized duffel, no room for a man-sized guitar, no room for a man. The guitar looked old and beat-up, and had no case. Nice way to take care of an instrument, Chloe thought. But when he spun around, she saw that the strings were new. She didn’t know which detail made her most hostile. All of it.

This interloper, at whom Chloe was too upset to look directly, assessed the situation in the cabin.

“Hello, there,” he said to her in a low easy melodic American voice. Cool and casual and friendly. Like a singsong. A fed-up Chloe stared out the window, ignoring him. Undeterred, the insolent intruder continued to speak. She glared in his direction, hoping her internal screaming might dissuade him. Nope. Just the opposite. Grinning at her with his mouthful of teeth like a simpleton, he took one long gallop through the compartment and was by her side, his duffel, backpack, guitar, jacket, pompous beret, everything. Was his black hair short or was it slicked back in a ponytail? He would have a ponytail, wouldn’t he? Oh yes. There it was.

“Hi,” he said to her, dropping the duffel to the floor. “Sorry about all my stuff. Would you mind?”

“Mind what?” Chloe barked. Her mother wouldn’t be pleased with her manners. How did he know she spoke English?

“Um, scooting over just a wee bit?” he said. His large eyes were twinkling. He probably thought they were dark chocolate in color. “You’re in my seat. Maybe you could move a smidge, and then I’d fit right in.” He grinned. “I’m good at fitting into tight spaces.” He didn’t just say that! “I’m skinny, you see,” he added. Chloe didn’t see. She didn’t see anything. She flung herself at the window. She would’ve liked to fling herself through the window like a waxwing slain.

The conductor opened the door and grunted at the unwelcome arrival. “Billetes? ”

“One moment.” The guy reached into his back pocket, and his elbow poked Chloe in her breast! He stopped, didn’t even say excuse me, moved away slightly, and passed her the guitar. “Can you hold it for a sec? I have to find my pass.”

It wasn’t as if he asked her for a favor, expecting perhaps a no. Had he ever heard the word no? He acted as if he hadn’t. First he pushed his guitar at her, already standing up, and then he asked her to hold it. Perhaps the unspoken threat was, either hold my guitar or be elbowed again in your ample bosom.

He took something out of his wallet that did not look like a ticket or a Eurail pass. The conductor glanced at it, glanced at him a moment longer, nodded quickly, his hand almost going to his temple in a salute, and backed out of the cabin. The guy stuffed everything back into his wallet, and sat down.

“I’ll take my guitar now,” he said.

She turned to the window and checked her watch. It was only 5:30! The train wouldn’t get to Riga until after eight. Chloe tried to think of other things. Yet the boy’s presence next to her was enormous and could not be denied. He crowded out all her other thoughts. She couldn’t close her eyes. She couldn’t read her book. Trying not to breathe, she stared grimly out of the window, her mouth in a clamshell.

For a few minutes, the compartment was almost silent. The professor was reading Hawking. The father was reading the paper and the boy was playing a handheld video game. The male half of the stout couple was napping, while the female half was attempting to involve guitar boy in conversation. Apologetically glancing at the woman while trying to catch Chloe’s eye, he said in English with a rueful smile, “I speak only the most basic Latvian. I wish I could explain that to her.” Oh, he fancied himself to be quite the smiler!

It was hot. Chloe’s damp shirt was pressed against the shoulder of his leather jacket. After a few minutes he mercifully took the jacket off, but not before flinging his arms and elbows and hands in all directions. Women, Chloe wanted to yell in alarm, guard your boobs! Under the leather, he wore a plain black fitted T with the white star of Texas above the pocket. Was he from Texas? Words could not express how much she didn’t care.

“I’m Johnny, by the way,” he said. “Pleased to meet you. And you are . . .”

“Chloe.” They were sitting too close for Chloe to turn her head and look him in the eye. His face was barely a foot away from her face. She half nodded in his general direction, keeping her eyes on his denim-clad knees and the pointed black–leather toe of what looked to be a snazzy cowboy boot. Lucchese perhaps? Wow. Leather jacket, beret, an ancient guitar with new strings. What the hell?

“Hi, Chloe,” he said. “Would you like to book a tour of Riga with me? I’m very good.” Every word spoken through two rows of exposed white teeth.

How good could he be? “Um, no, thank you.”

He leaned to Chloe, like a kid already familiar and undaunted by her hostility, oblivious to it, really. He inhaled the air around her and said, “You smell nice.” He tilted his head, this way and that. “Like a girl. You smell . . .” He inhaled again. “Like lavender and vanilla.”

For a moment Chloe caught his smiling eye. He blinked, slowly. She blinked slowly back. When she replied, she felt slightly heady, as if she’d been winded. “You’re telling me I smell like fabric softener?”

And he, without missing a beat, said, “I don’t know, what’s fabric softener?”

Thanks to the publisher for providing the excerpt today. Now head out to your local bookstore and grab a copy - you do have that Thanksgiving break to fill with reading after all!

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