THE STORY OF US
by D. Nichole King
Crystal: Today I have the pleasure of hosting D. Nicole King. Welcome D. Nicole! I'm so excited to have you here today. Would you share a little bit about yourself with us today?
D. Nichole: Hi Crystal! Thank you for having me.
I live in a small town in central Iowa with my husband and four children. We also have a cat, a dog, and a turtle. When I’m not writing, I enjoy movies, board games, scrapbooking, and of course, reading. Honestly, other than that, I’m pretty boring.
Crystal: What are you currently working on?
D. Nichole: I have an anthology project coming in April. It’s a collection of short stories about the night after you’ve had waaaaay too much to drink. The anthology benefits St. Jude’s Hospital. I’m also working on The Evolution of Us, which is a companion novel to The Story of Us, a YA book, Finding Elysium, and the second book in the Breaking Series, Breaking In.
Crystal: Where did you come up with the idea for your current release?
D. Nichole: I’m not really sure, to be honest. I knew I wanted the arch of the book to take place in 24 hours. But I also wanted to take the reader on the couple’s early journey and weave the past and present together. Then the story just took off in my mind from there!
Crystal: Do you have a favorite snack that you like munching on while writing? If so, would
you mind sharing it with us?
D. Nichole: Salted sunflower seeds is def my favorite go-to snack. Really, I like anything salty. I also do peanuts, cashews, almonds, and when I’m feeling healthy, I’ll munch on raw bell peppers slices.
Crystal: Do you have a favorite scene you’d like to share with us?
D. Nichole: I adore this scene from The Story of Us. Enjoy!
I weave my way through the tanners and sleepers to the water. There are a few body surfers in the area, but most are in the water to cool off and chill. My guess is most of the shenanigans will begin this afternoon when the spring-breakers rouse from sleeping off last night’s festivities. Something tells me these easy morning hours will be my favorite time of day here.
I stride in, enjoying the warm water on my skin. I’ve never seen water this beautiful. Between the palm trees, the white sandy beaches, and the ocean, I understand why this is paradise on Earth.
I wade farther out, tipping my face up to the sky. Even the air is sweeter here. I stop when I feel the water rise above my navel, then I dip to coat myself in the glorious Caribbean.
I keep my eyes closed, basking in the sensation and not thinking. That’s why I came here: to not think. About school, about life, about Chris and his newborn twin girls.
I exhale, slow and steady, blowing out my frustrations. I’m here to relax and gather some sanity before I finish my sophomore year at Western Kentucky University. I turn in a circle, my arms extended just under the surface.
Sun. Fun. And no thinking,” I say to myself. Maybe I’ll even let Finn drag me along to some nighttime excursions. Because she’s right. I don’t have to marry anyone. Six more days and I’ll be back home, all of this left behind.
I’m beginning to feel better when something sweeps past my calf. At first it’s rubbery and smooth, but then—
“Oh my God!”
I jump and grab for the leg that’s searing in pain. I bite in my yelps and hop toward the shore. The throbbing worsens the closer I get, and finally I collapse, half in the water and half out. A lady comes over to me, cautious as she scans the area I’m holding.
She lowers herself to the sand. “What happened?”
“I don’t know. Something stung me, I think.” I let go of my calf because touching it makes the wound hurt more.
“Are you here with someone?”
I point toward Finn, who’s not watching. The lady puts her arm around me and helps me to my feet. Even a little weight has a new shot of pain racing up my leg, so I limp out of the water. Finley catches sight of me and runs over just as I sit down on shore.
“Jesus, Ali, are you okay?”
I roll onto my hip to assess the damage. Thin red lines like whip marks curve over my calf.
“Jellyfish,” the lady says.
“Seriously? Ah, it hurts,” I moan. Damn those little suckers.
“What do we do?” Finley asks.
“I’ll go find someone.” The lady pats me on the shoulder, then darts off toward the resort.
Water laps up onto my leg, and it stings so much I jerk away.
“Ew.” Finn scrunches her nose. “There’re little pieces of goo stuck to you. Are those jellyfish body parts?”
“I don’t want to know.”
On his way past, a guy points at me. “You gotta pee on it,” he says like he’s had experience. “Sorry.”
“Pee on it?” Finn repeats, but the guy is already out of earshot. She turns back to me. “I just went, like, five minutes ago. I don’t think I can force more out.”
“Helpful,” I say, cringing. The pain seems to be increasing.
“See? I’d do anything for you. Even piss on you to save your life.”
“I’m pretty sure jellyfish aren’t venomous … are they?”
Finley shrugs. “No clue.”
Another guy walks past. He takes a look at us over his shoulder before circling back. He squats beside me.
“Are you hurt?” he asks.
I nod, and Finn answers for me. “Jellyfish. Someone has to pee on it.”
Great. Thanks, Finn.
He bobs his head as if this is an acceptable answer. “All right. I was heading to the bathroom anyway. I’ll just take you with me.”
I shake my head. “Oh, that’s okay. I’m sure it’s nothing. I’ll be fine.”
I’m freaking dying.
I can’t stop the grimace from showing on my face. I am so clearly not fine.
The stranger blinks, not believing me. “Okay. Well, if you’ve got this all under control, I’ll be on my way.” His eyes find mine, and even in my state, I can’t stop myself from thinking about how gorgeous they are. Espresso, accentuated by long, ebony lashes.
He takes a step back, away from me, and I really hope it isn’t his eyes that make me reach up and grab his wrist. “Wait.” Then I look at Finley. “Do you think urine will help?”
The guy doesn’t seem to notice that my best friend is checking out his biceps. Obviously, she has already imagined him naked and thoroughly enjoyed what she saw. Nope. I’m not sure he’s even noticed my best friend, because his gaze hasn’t left me.
“Absolutely. Can’t hurt, right?” She smirks, and I realize her answer has nothing to do with my predicament. She’s thinking about him being my date tonight and my bed buddy after.
“That lady said she’d be back with someone.”
“Just go. I’ll wait here and tell her we already found someone.” She winks at me. I’m suffering, and she winks. I have no response.
“Is that a yes? You want to come with me?” the guy asks, eyes wide and hopeful. Is he actually excited to pee on me?
“Okay, all right,” I say quickly before I change my mind. There is nothing normal about any of this. Finley is crazy. The stranger is crazy. And I’m crazy for agreeing.
Carefully, he slips an arm under my knees, and I wince at the slight brush of his hand against my leg. Even though the wound is lower on my calf, I feel it much higher. I close my eyes and inhale slowly as he lifts me up. I hold my breath, keeping the pain inside my throat at the movement. It’s stupid, but I want to seem stronger than I am to him.
“Sorry,” he murmurs. Then he nods to Finn. “I’ll bring her back in one piece, I promise.”
“No hurry,” she answers, and I groan inwardly. Single-track mind, I swear.
He walks away, and I glance over his shoulder. I flash her a thumbs-up, only half-contemplating the fact that I’m letting some strange man carry me away from my BFF to urinate on me. I’m in too much pain to think about the possible outcomes of this decision. To Finley, there’s only one acceptable outcome, and it has nothing to do with my pain.
My escort must see the misery on my face, because his chest vibrates in a chuckle. It doesn’t register until now that he’s shirtless, his skin hot from the sun.
“Why is this funny?” I ask, because funny is not the word I would use. Humiliating, embarrassing, strange, bizarre, but not funny.
“I’ve never picked up a girl like this before,” he says, grinning. Those gorgeous irises meet mine, and, for a millisecond, the pain vanishes. “I’m Maverick.”
I’m not sure what to say, so I just stare at him. He’s intoxicating in some sexy, masculine way reserved for women who are not me.
He laughs again. “We might as well make introductions, considering, you know, what comes next.”
I blink. “What did you say?”
“Introductions. I gave you my name, now you give me yours.”
My name. Right.
“Alieya,” I answer.
“It’s nice to meet you, Alieya.”
“Yes, you too.” The pain’s returned. Or I finally remembered it was still there.
“Hang on. We’re getting close.”
I tighten my arms around his neck, hoping this small gesture will ease some of the sting. It doesn’t.
“Okay,” he says when we reach a secluded area that’s clearly not a restroom. We’re behind a palm tree and bushy landscaping.
He lowers me to the sand and straightens. I have no clue what the protocol is in these circumstances. Is there one?
“Where is it?” he asks, his voice light, totally not fitting for what he’s about to do. Then again, I’m not sure what he should sound like in this situation.
I twist so that my injured calf is turned toward him. I can’t look at it, not with the jellyfish body parts still stuck to me.
“You ready?” He’s not hiding the smile spreading across his lips.
It really is kind of funny, now that I’m on the ground and he’s about to open the floodgate. I might even remember this moment and laugh about it in the future.
I smile back at him. Then I surprise myself by teasing him. “How’s your aim? Do I need get closer?”
“My aim is phenomenal. I’ve never had a complaint.” He lowers the waistband of his swim trunks, and I automatically turn my attention in the opposite direction. I’m not Finley.
As soon as his stream hits my calf, I have to stop myself from jerking away. It’s warm and wet, and I can’t think about the fact that it’s some stranger’s pee on my skin. The sting travels up my leg, and I hold my breath until he’s finished. I cover my face with my hands, waiting for the pain to subside.
He’s crouched down beside me when he asks. I’m close to tears now, it hurts so bad.
“Yes,” I manage.
I feel his fingers glide over my skin around the area. “It actually looks a little redder,” he says.
“How is that possible?”
“Got a phone on you?”
“No. It’s back with my towel.”
“Think you’ll survive a trip across the beach again?” There’s still amusement in his voice, but there’s concern too.
“Are you my Uber driver for the day?”
He picks me back up, and I secure my arms around his neck. “You can pay with a date later.”
“How do you feel about jellyfish cuisine?”
I make a face. “Not good, honestly.”
“Ah, come on, now. What better way to get revenge on those bastards?”
“By eating them?” I cringe, thinking about the slimy little suckers sliding down my throat. Then I consider the rest of the eating process, and suddenly revenge by digestion doesn’t sound too bad. “I guess you might have a point.”
He smirks. “I have much more than that.”
Crystal: When you are not busy writing wonderful stories to keep us lucky readers entertained, what do you like to do? Do you have a hobby?
D. Nichole: Yeah, like I said before, I’m kinda boring. We do Friday night movie nights. In the spring, summer, and fall, we grill out and hang out in our backyard a lot. We like gathering around the fire pit, and the hubby and kids make smores. I just like partially-burned marshmallows. I like playing card games and board games, sitting in front of the fireplace, and cuddling with my kids.
Crystal: Do you have a favorite background noise you like to have going while you write?
D. Nichole: Ah, yes. I always have my Spotifiy going on. Each of my books has a playlist which starts off with over 30 songs, and I narrow it down to under 20, only keeping the songs I go back to. If you’d like to follow me or any of my playlists on Spotify, here’s the link: https://open.spotify.com/user/12181662287
Crystal: Thanks for visiting. It’s been a pleasure having you visit today. Can you think of anything else you would like to share with us today?
D. Nichole: Aw! Well, thank you for inviting me! I love to write and share my stories, and it’s all because readers like you love them as much as I do. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you! I can’t tell you how much your support means to me.
Every life is made of thousands of them, each one strung together with the next. Some are yellow and happy, some are blue and sad, and some…
Some wipe out color altogether.
“I love you,” is what I should have told Maverick.
“I’m still fighting.”
Instead I just watched him leave.
Now my husband, my everything is battling for each breath, and all I can do is stare at the machines as the clock ticks off precious minutes.
The doctors said the first twenty-four hours are critical—but every moment is critical.
You never know which will be your last.
This is our story, and I’m not ready for it to end.
Release Date: Feb. 9, 2017
Genre: NA Contemporary Romance
CLICK HERE TO ADD THE BOOK ON GOODREADS
— PURCHASE LINKS —
Available on Kindle Unlimited!
— EXCERPT —
I’m cold sitting in one of the waiting rooms in the ICU. Maverick is still in surgery, the nurse tells me. They’ll come get me once he’s in his room. It shouldn’t be too much longer. No one else is close by. It’s just me and my thoughts.
It’s strange the things you think of to distract yourself from the real reason you’re sitting here. Me, I focus on the oil painting on the wall. Wonder how many people have stared at it and wanted to tear it down. How many liked it. Has anyone noticed that it leans a little to the left or that there’s an inconsistency in the corners of the wooden frame? Did anyone deliberate why this painting?
I’m sure it’s meant to calm the people who look at it. Doesn’t everyone find a lake dotted with sailboats calming? But the colors are all wrong. They don’t soothe me. They’re bright and bold and demanding. There’s too much crimson, too dark of navy.
I have to turn away from it. There’re magazines on the tables, but they scream at me too. Loud headlines of celebrities with large divorce settlements, jail time, and plastic surgery. The science ones boast of the newest medical advances and archeological finds. What they don’t realize is that in here, life beyond these walls no longer exists. In here, there’re only three things that matter: life, death, and the battle between them.
I shiver again. I should have brought warmer clothes.
Hugging my knees to my chest, I focus on the fake plant in the corner. There are no windows in this area, which is how I know it’s fake. It might be a fern of some sort, I don’t know. The leaves are long and skinny, but again, the color is wrong for this place.
I shift my attention to the hallway. In here, the lights are dim, but out there they’re on full and reflecting off of the cream floor. There’s a nurse at the nurses’ station, sitting behind a computer. She’s different from the one before. A moment later, another walks up to the desk. They keep hushed voices, and I hear nothing. The one at the computer lifts her eyes to me and when she meets my gaze, she offers a sympathetic smile. I don’t smile back.
I lower my head until my cheek rests on my arms, and I close my eyes. My skin is ice against my face. Cold is what it means to be alone, and right now, I’ve never felt more alone. Alone, but not lonely. No, because being lonely is different than being alone. Lonely is a fleeting state that ends. When Finley gets here, I’ll no longer be lonely, yet without Mav, I’ll still be alone.
I think about the happy moments Mav and I shared. Our time in Cancun. The dance under the stars. His smile. His silly pet name for me.
That was us. The whole, take-on-the-world, in-love us.
The us before we broke.
— ABOUT THE AUTHOR —
D. Nichole King was born with a book in her hand. During her school years, she’d hide books inside textbooks, read during recess, changing classes, and while walking home from school. She wrote her first book at the age of 11, and the re-worked version of that book is her debut novel, LOVE ALWAYS, KATE.
Her YA urban fantasy series, THE SPIRIT TRILOGY, along with her NA contemporary series, LOVE ALWAYS, was acquired by Limitless Publishing and includes a total of six books. BREAKING THROUGH, an NA science-fiction romance, is her first self-published novel.
d. Nichole King currently resides in a small town in Iowa with her supportive husband, four amazing kids, a dog, a cat, a fish, and a turtle.
Enter to win a SIGNED PAPERBACK of THE STORY OF US by d. Nichole King! OPEN INTERNATIONALLY!a Rafflecopter giveaway