Happy #TeaserTuesday! Below is Chapter One of Repaired, ready for your viewing pleasure! I’m so excited about this book that I am also giving away an ARC copy to one lucky reader who comments on this blog post! So be sure to let me know what you think so far 🙂
Release day is June 23rd and be sure to keep an eye out for the cover reveal on June 17th!
Ten Years Ago
Sorting through the pile of trash sitting next to the dumpster outside a local car repair shop, I tried my best not to make any noise. Having spent the last two weeks living off the money I made selling salvaged parts, I’d learned the fine art of keeping quiet. It was a skill that kept me safe for most of my time in that place. Shaking my head, I pushed those thoughts – and all the reasons I ran away from there – deep down to a place from which I’d hope they’d never resurface.
Running my bruised forearm across my forehead, I swiped at the sweat dripping into my eyebrows. It was the middle of July and the oppressive heat and humidity was overwhelming, even when it was close to nine o’clock at night. Though I tried my best not to think of how my arm had become bruised in the first place, the sharp intake of breath, the abrupt wince of pain reminded me of exactly how it’d gotten that way.
Surveying my stash, I figured I’d salvaged about a hundred bucks worth of scrap metal and used car parts. If I kept digging, I might be able to manage some more money. And it was money I desperately needed. Even though it was closing in on ninety-five degrees, in a few months, I wouldn’t be able to sleep outside. I wouldn’t be able to sneak onto the beach after the lifeguards and state patrollers had left for the day. I wouldn’t be able to rig up some kind of makeshift tent in the park and sleep under the night sky.
Soon the trees would change colors, setting a cool autumn breeze loose in the air. Winter would show its hideously harsh face, burying the southeastern tip of Long Island in a blanket of snow. So before all that happened, it was clear I needed to accumulate as much money as possible. Not only did I need to eat – and as any seventeen-year-old boy will tell you, you’re starving on even a good day – I also needed to find a job. One that would allow me to earn enough money to start over.
That was exactly what I was doing out here in the bumfuck middle of nowhere. Starting over. The ninety-mile bus ride out to The Hamptons forced me to use up all of my money. Like a fool, I thought I could walk into one of those high-end catering halls and get a job, maybe not as a waiter right away, but a busboy or a dishwasher. After being laughed at for the third time, I cut my losses and tried to come up with some kind of plan B.
Picking through trash hadn’t exactly been what I’d envisioned when I ran away. Hell, this wasn’t anyone’s dream come true, but it was far better than the nightmare from which I ran. When I felt as if I had no hope left, this shop appeared as if from nowhere. Having recently completed an auto repair shop course during my last semester at school, I figured I would know enough about what car parts would be worth anything. The ritzy newer models that I’d seen driving around didn’t hurt either. A bent tire rim from a Benz, hell, even a few beat-up spark plugs, would earn me more than a few bucks.
Adding up my would-be money in my head, I froze on the spot as a pair of headlights lit the driveway next to the building. The pile I’d made was too large to take away in one trip and fear froze me to the spot. The jarring sound of the car door slamming shut only amplified my fear. Stumbling backward, I tripped over a hubcap. Spinning, it ricocheted into the rest of the scraps. There was nowhere to go. The area behind the shop was a wide-open parking lot, reserved for moving cars around during the day. Even though the shop was on a quiet stretch of the road, there were no trees to run toward, to hide in. My best bet was to hide behind the dumpster and hope to get away unscathed.
“Who’s there? What are you doing?” a loud, booming voice called out from the blinding light of the car. If the size of the shadow was any indication of the man to whom it belonged, then I was in some serious trouble. Shaking nervously, I kept myself concealed, waiting for an opportunity to escape. His footsteps were heavy, making a loud thudding noise with every movement. “Fucking scavengers,” he cursed, kicking the pieces of metal in frustration. “Can’t trust anyone,” he barked, seemingly at no one and everyone at the same time.
He walked closer and closer still. My choices were limited: stay put, and risk being caught, or run as fast as I could, and chance getting away.
So I did what I do best. I ran.
This time luck wasn’t on my side. I’d only been out from under the cover of the dumpster for about two steps before he caught sight of me. Though I only glanced over my shoulder for a split second, I knew I was in trouble. The man was gigantic. He was solid muscle and easily stood over six-feet tall. The clunky weight of his work boots didn’t slow him down any either. Unable to tell if it was the humid air flowing past me, or his breath threatening at my neck, my mind refused to accept the possibility that I’d be caught.
If I was caught, he’d find out who I was.
Then I’d have to go back.
And going back was not an option. No matter who I’d left behind.
“You scrawny, punk-ass kid.” His words hit my ears at the same time as his hand wrapped forcefully around my arm. Twisting it behind my back, I heard a pop. The searing pain knocked the wind out of my lungs. Either he hadn’t heard my arm pop out of its socket or he didn’t care. Shoving me down into the concrete tore the skin from my knees. Struggling was pointless. The more I moved, the harder he pulled my arm, and the more forcefully he shoved his knee into my lower back. “Thought you’d get away with it, didn’t you?” he sneered, sounding somewhat proud that he’d caught me.
I made a noise, nothing more than a garbled sound of pain and it must have been enough for him to realize he was really hurting me. Standing, he pulled me up with him, my lungs functioning again. Between running and the heat of the night, the blood trickling down my leg actually felt cool. Still keeping my arm in a vise-like grip, he pulled my downcast face up to meet his.
“What’s your name?” he demanded.
The pain in my arm kept me from speaking, but even if I had been capable of saying anything, I wouldn’t tell him who I was. That was not going to happen.
“You deaf?” he asked, thick sarcasm coating his words. Slapping my cheek less than gently, he made me focus on him. “I asked you a question, son. Who are you? What are you doing here?”
Those three letters angered me more than anything about our encounter had. I could deal with my arm – it had recently healed from last month – the cut up knees, the bruise that I was sure would be on my back. Physical pain was something to which I’d grown accustomed. It was something I could suffer, grit my teeth, clench my fists, and put on a brave face. But when he called me “son,” it was as if all the scars on my body, the ones that had been put there over the years, linked together, covering me in some sense of bravery rather than weakening me.
“Don’t call me that.” My words came out like staccato bursts of anger, volcanic eruptions of pent-up hatred spawned by three simple letters. Spurred on by the emotions I didn’t want to feel, I twisted myself out of his grip. Pain lanced through my arm, forcing tears to burn my eyes. Sure, I was skinny and scrawny, years of being abused and depressed will do that to anyone, but I wasn’t weak. Twisting my arm from him, I took a deep breath and applied pressure to the shoulder joint. In a flash of heated pain, my joint was shoved back into place. With my good arm, I swung out in defense. One glancing blow on the solid rock of his shoulder was all I managed before he grabbed my good arm.
“Whoa, calm down there,” he coaxed. There was a kindness in his voice that hadn’t been there a few moments ago. We had moved a few feet from where our scuffle had started. The light of his headlights shone on his face and though he scared the shit out of me, his eyes crinkled softly in the corners. A look of compassion softened the hard roughness I had seen at first. And while he looked at me and spoke to me a bit differently than he had when he first caught me, he wouldn’t let go of my arm. “Come with me,” a less angry, but stern voice demanded.
He dragged me into the shop, angrily flicking on the lights as he pushed equipment out of the way. “Stay here,” he growled, pointing to an imaginary spot on the floor. Through the glass separating the garage from the reception area, I saw him grab two chairs. Before reentering the garage area, he pinched the bridge of his nose, shook his head a few times, and took a deep steadying breath. Pushing a chair to me, he prompted me to sit down; a demand to which I complied with a huff of annoyance. “Let’s try this again.” His arched eyebrow played up his own frustration, and if he hadn’t just displayed the slightest bit of compassion, I’d be possessed by more fear than I already was. “What’s your name?”
“Nothing,” I shrugged, rolling my eyes.
He laughed. “Nothing?” Folding his massive arms across his chest intimidated me more than I cared to admit. “Listen up, kid,” he half sneered, half pressed on. “You were rifling through my spare parts at my shop after hours. Who’s to say if I hadn’t come back for my stupid wallet, you wouldn’t have broken into the actual shop?”
Quietly, I muttered, “I wouldn’t have.”
“Sure,” he mocked with derision.
“Whatever, believe what you want to believe. I would not have broken in. I only wanted…” Letting my words trail off, I thought better of saying anything else for fear of giving away too much. The last thing I wanted was to be sent back. Not ever. The only way I’d ever go back was by choice. And only to make things right and save…
While the silence vibrated between us, I looked around the shop. Cars had always fascinated me. What little boy didn’t love to play with Matchbox cars and dream of one day driving as fast as he could? Maybe that was what made me gravitate toward scavenging for spare parts when my initial thoughts of making tons of money at ritzy catering halls hadn’t paid off. The shop had all the high-tech equipment you’d expect in a modern garage. There was a sparkling silver Range Rover in the middle bay. Inwardly, I scoffed thinking its owner had probably taken better care of that car than he had taken care of me.
Keeping my eyes averted from the owner, I took in the rest of the -work area. Next to the massive Range Rover sat an old Camaro. It was a classic muscle car, laying half in ruin. He must have noticed my attention drawn to the car. Clearing his throat, he stood, the chair screeching across the concrete floor.
“68 SS,” he mentioned absentmindedly, strolling over to the heap of metal. Pulling back the tarp covering the rear half, he ran his paw-like hands along the sleek lines of the hood. “Got her for a steal from this guy. It was his father’s and after he’d passed away, the man didn’t want it. Had no interest in restoring it and he wanted it out of his driveway.” Disbelief saturated his words as he leaned against the beast of a machine.
“Why?” I mumbled. “I’d never let a car like this go.”
“Yeah? You into cars?” he asked, leaving the end of his question hanging for a moment too long, waiting for me to supply my name.
Shrugging, I offered nothing more than a half-sincere answer.
The slump in his shoulders at my continued silence was an outward sign of his growing frustration, but I had to give him credit. He’d gotten me to say more to him in the fifteen minutes I’d been with him than I’d said to anyone in the last few days.
“Not sure I’ll keep her,” he announced, patting his hand onto the roof. “Seems like she might not be worth the trouble. Too many dents and dings.” He began pulling the tarp back over the less-than-perfect body. “Besides, it’s only me and two other guys here. There’s not enough time in the day to keep up with the regular work as it is. Add in a project like this and I’d never leave. If only…” He scrubbed a hand over his face, leaving the end of his sentence open for me to fill.
“What?” I asked anxiously. There was no mistaking the fact he was dangling a job out there for me to take. The hidden meaning of his words weren’t nearly as hidden as he’d intended, if he’d intended to hide it at all. Moving to the other side of the car, I helped him with the tarp. “You can’t get rid of it.” The volume of my own voice startled even me. As I began to ramble off specs on the car, he stood there in amazement.
“You really know your stuff, huh?”
Maybe it was because it was the second time in as many minutes that he sounded like he was waiting for me to supply my name that I did. “Liam,” I answered quickly, but hopefully not too quickly. “The name’s Liam and if you need help, I could use a job.”
Yes, the ridiculousness of me asking for a job from a man from whom I was stealing wasn’t lost on me. But desperate times called for desperate measures.
“Okay, Liam.” He crossed his arms once more, reclaiming his imposing posture. As I walked over to his side of the car, he rested against the door again, scratching the scruff on his chin. “But first tell me why I should hire you?”
“You said it yourself,” I challenged. He furrowed his brow, looking at me in confusion. “You need help and you’re clearly understaffed,” I explained, some semblance of confidence fortifying my words. Mimicking his position made me look puny in comparison to his beast-like stature.
Not knowing what he wanted from me, if he was waiting for me to beg, I stood there, anticipating some kind of response. He contemplated the proposition, turning his head this way and that. Narrowing his dark brown eyes, he scoured over my thin body. Whatever he saw there seemed to push him toward his answer. “Okay, Liam,” he said, extending his hand to me. “Looks like you’ve found yourself a job.”
It took considerable effort on my part to conceal my excitement over finally landing a job. On his end, it looked like it took just as much effort for him to conceal his uncertainty about giving it to me.
Not wanting to act ungrateful, I pumped his hand. “Thank you so much –” Crap. I’d accepted a job from him and I didn’t even know his name.
“Paulie,” he supplied, as he released my hand. “Come on. We’ll discuss the details over some food. You hungry?”
“Nah, I’m good.” My rejection of a late dinner was not because I wasn’t hungry. I’d gnaw my left arm off if I thought it would fill the gaping void of my hunger. I’d turned him down simply because I had no money to pay for my half.
He eyed me up and down, chuckling quietly to himself before wrapping his arm around my bony shoulders. Stifling the pain in my shoulder joint, I smiled through it. “Come on. My treat. I’m starving.”
Though I was proud and stubborn, almost to a fault, I wasn’t dumb enough to turn down a free meal. Especially when I hadn’t eaten in almost two days.
We walked out of the garage in silence. The drive to a local diner was just as quiet. In fact, it wasn’t until I had devoured half of my double bacon cheeseburger that Paulie said a word.
“You’re not in trouble with the law, are you?” They may have been veiled behind concern, but his words had a singular purpose – to get to the bottom of my situation.
“No,” I answered immediately and with conviction. It was the truth after all. Dropping the other half of my uneaten burger on the plate, I wiped my greasy hands and leaned back in the booth. “I’m not in any trouble and I doubt anyone will come looking for me. But if you’re looking for my life story, you’re not going to get it.”
Paulie scrubbed a napkin over his face before locking his hands together in front of him. After a loud huff, he said, “Okay, then what can you tell me, Liam? That is your name, right?”
“It is,” I replied quickly. And it was. Maybe not entirely, but partly, and that would have to be good enough for now. Sighing, I took a sip of my Coke, and said, “I can’t tell you much.”
His face twisted into a look of confusion and concern.
Holding up my hand to keep him from saying whatever was on the tip of his tongue, I interrupted him. “Listen, Paulie. I’m a hard worker and a fast learner. I love cars and I need this job more than anything. I promise not to be late and I’ll even stay after hours. Give me two weeks and if it’s not working out for you, you can let me go, but please, give me this chance.”
I held my breath waiting for him to respond. I’d poured more sincerity into those words than any I’d ever spoken. That was because they were true. I needed this job more than anything. If he didn’t give it to me, I only had two choices.
Both had a similarly grave fate.
Neither options were appealing.
At that point, I’d lick his oil-covered work boots, begging him to let me keep the job he’d so freely offered before. But luckily for me, he had no such task in mind.
“You’re eighteen, right?” he asked, a hint of tolerance in his words. His question told me that if I was eighteen, the job was mine, but if I lied to him, I’d find myself back out on my ass.
“No, I’m not.” There was no room for fucking up at this point. If he refused me the job because I lied, I’d have no one to blame but myself. But if he kept it from me for his own reasons, then at least I could place the blame on him.
Honesty it was, then.
“I’m seventeen. Won’t be eighteen for another ten months.” Pausing, I looked up at the ceiling, hoping it would offer me some kind of strength to get through the rest of what I had to say. “Look, I have no ID. I can’t give you any references, and I won’t be able to fill out any paperwork for you. If you let me work for you, it’ll have to be off the books.”
He hung his head, letting his shoulders round into a frustrated slump. Running his fingers through his hair, he pulled hard on the ends as he digested what I’d told him. Opening and closing his mouth a few times, it looked as if he couldn’t settle on what to say. In the end, he’d settled on, “Why?”
“I can’t tell you why,” I deflected. “But I promise from here on out, I’ll be honest with you.”
“No more stealing,” he directed pointedly and I nodded. I’d have no reason for it if I had a steady stream of income.
After a few more minutes of silence, broken up only by the sound of Paulie angrily chewing on the rest of his meal, he finally said, “There are probably a hundred reasons why I shouldn’t hire you. I’m risking my ass on this, you know?”
Afraid my words would somehow fuck things up, I nodded again and sat there, anxiously awaiting his final response.
He said nothing more as we finished the last few bites of our food. The waitress dropped our check on the table and he covered it with two twenties, giving her a rather generous tip from what I could see of the bill.
Who knew such a thing existed.
I sure as hell hadn’t seen much proof of it in my seventeen years.
And if someone would have told me it came in the form of a gruff and angry giant of a shop owner, with grease on his clothes and grime under his nails, I never would have believed them.
But there I was, standing in a diner parking lot, bathed in the hot pink florescent lights adorning the side of the building, praying for Paulie’s generosity to take pity on me.
He reached into his back pocket once more, pulling out his wallet again. “Here,” he said, handing me a few bills. “Be at the shop at eight tomorrow morning. Get some bagels for me and the guys on your way, okay?”
“Yes, sir,” I answered excitedly.
Maybe it was a test to see if I could be trusted. Maybe it was his way of ensuring I’d have breakfast in the morning. Maybe he’d only wanted me to run an errand so he wouldn’t have to.
One way or the other, I wasn’t going to screw it up.
I’d fight tooth and nail to keep the job.
It was my chance to start over.
In a matter of a few hours, I’d been given the opportunity to create a new life, to forget about the nightmare I’d been living in for so long.
With Paulie’s money crumpled in my pocket, I watched him pull out of the lot and into traffic. A million crazy thoughts raced through my head – all of them exciting and vibrant.
An odd bubble of some foreign emotion filled my chest. Disconcerting at first, I couldn’t exactly figure out what it was.
It wasn’t until I was about three blocks away from the diner, the neon lights fading away as the subtle sparkle of the stars took over that I realized what it was.
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