Coming Soon!

About the book:

A marriage, a friendship, a missing child … All three hang in the balance.

Noah and Dana are already facing a difficult time in their short marriage when their daughter, Samara is abducted. The fallout from friends and family, and the harsh judgment of the public, force them to face some difficult truths about their views on love, marriage, and race. As Dana reflects on the road leading to her and Noah’s union, she begins to examine her motives for getting married, consider whether they should go on, and most painfully, question whether they ever really knew each other at all.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

1. THIS IS HOW I LOST YOU

There is a bird sitting in the tree beneath which the Audi is parked. Just as I am opening the rear passenger door to put Samara inside, it craps on the roof, and then begins to sing, a full-throated melody, as if in triumph.

I mutter a curse. I just got the darn thing washed the day before, after a long winter when the effects of snow and salt and mud were all too apparent, making my luxury SUV look more like a work truck. We live in a neighborhood where people judge you for things like that, and one where Samara and I have already become somewhat of a curiosity.

We have become a curiosity because this is very much a two-parent family community and now there is just me and my daughter; and because most of the children are tweens or teens. Only one couple on our block has kids near Samara’s age, and they are, I think, three- and five-years-old to Samara’s eighteen months. People with very young children, like Samara tend to be somewhat young themselves, and younger people cannot generally afford this neighborhood, so I am a curiosity for that reason as well.

As I strap her into her car seat, Samara smiles up at me, and says, “Juice?”

Her tone is mildly inquisitive, and fully expectant that I will be able to supply what she has asked for.

I look at the side-pocket of diaper bag next to her on the seat and my shoulders sag when I realize I’ve left her cup inside. Instead, I hand her her favorite little stuffed toy that she drags around everywhere.

“When we get to grandma’s,” I say.

“Juice!” Samara insists. Her face crumples the way it does when she is getting worked up to deliver a scream.

“Mama will get you juice,” I promise. “Just as soon as we get to grandma’s.”

She stretches out in the car seat in that way she has, making her body as straight and stiff as a board. She tosses her little plush elephant aside in disgust. I can already picture how this will go. I will climb into the driver’s seat and shut the door, she will realize that there is no juice forthcoming, and will have an epic meltdown lasting the entire drive to Noah’s mother’s house. And I will, once again, deliver to my disapproving mother-in-law, a purple-faced, snotty-nosed, hollering child.

This wasn’t the plan. Samara was supposed to stay home today, but her sitter, Francine called late last night and said she wouldn’t be able to make it this morning after all. I had to call Noah’s mother to fill in at the last minute. But I knew that while she would judge me for being a poor planner, she also wouldn’t be able to turn down the gift of almost half a day spent alone with her granddaughter.

“Samara, please,” I say, putting the back of a hand against my forehead. “Not this morning.”

“Juice!” she says yet again.

I realize I am trying to reason with someone who is inherently unreasonable and take a deep breath, shutting my eyes momentarily. I reach to unfasten her from the car seat and then exhale again.

Instead, I smile at her.

“Just a moment, okay? Mama’s going to get you your juice.”

I make sure I have the fob in hand, shut the door with Samara inside and engage the locks. I have a moment’s pause, but only a moment. I look up and down the tree-lined block, then make a mad dash back toward the house, glancing over my shoulder while I unlock the front door, and again when I pause at the panel that will disarm the home security system.

I run back to the kitchen and spot right away Samara’s juice cup sitting on the center island. Grabbing it, I turn and trip over one of her toys, a little supermarket cart, filled with plastic fruit and vegetables, and little boxes printed with pictures to make them look like the real ones of breakfast cereal, rice, and other dry goods.

“Shit!” I yell as my right knee crashes painfully against the travertine floor.

The top snaps off the cup, sending a puddle of apple juice across the floor along with the mass of fake groceries.

I right myself almost immediately and check my pants and top. Thankfully, the juice is only on the floor and not on me. I take a deep breath, blink back the reflexive tears that rise to my eyes from the sharp pain in my knee and half-walk, half-limp over to the sink. I quickly rinse the cup then go to the fridge and refill it.

Kicking aside some of the toys and stepping over others, I head for the front door then remember my keys. Grabbing them, avoiding the pool of apple juice that will no doubt be a sticky mess when I return home that afternoon, I finally head out. I consider leaving without rearming the security system, but then decide that I must. These tiny omissions, because of the fear of a minor inconvenience are what lead to later regret, I remind myself. I shut the door, only for as long as it takes to enter the code to arm all the entry points to the house.

Finally, I am walking down the cobblestone path from the front door and back to the Audi. I am only a few feet away when I realize I can’t see the top of Samara’s head with the ash-blonde curls. I move faster. I think only that she has managed to unfasten herself from the car seat. Kids are smart, and at her age, little sponges. Having seen me do it a million times, she has probably figured out how to do it on her own.

All these thoughts go through my mind in the mere seconds it takes me to get to the car. All these thoughts immediately disappear, replaced by other more panicked ones when I get to the car and realize that Samara is not inside.

I drop the juice cup, and grab the door handle, tugging frantically at it and not understanding why it won’t open. It is locked. For a moment, I don’t know what the keys in my hand are for. I look at them, uncomprehending. I hear nothing except for the blood rushing in my ears, feel nothing except for my heart crashing in my chest. I yank the door one last time, then remember. I use the fob to disengage the locks then practically dive into the backseat.

Samara is gone.

Her car seat is empty.

I look—irrationally—under the seats, and in the front, down at the passenger and driver’s side floorboards.

She isn’t here! How could she not be here?

My mind splinters like that of a panicked animal. My hands are shaking uncontrollably. I get out of the car and look under it. I look up and down the street. And then, I begin to scream her name, over and over again. I am still screaming her name when one of my neighbors comes out of her house.

I don’t know her, but she is holding a coffee mug and wearing a summer suit. Her eyes are wide in alarm. She can tell from the sound of my wails that I am not just calling to my child in the way that parents often do to get them to come. Her expression, which I register dimly, tells me that she knows right away that something very, very bad has happened.

~~~

I am sitting on the sofa in the living room and the house is crawling with uniformed officers when Noah arrives. Next to me is the neighbor lady whose name I should know since she told it to me at some point. But it flitted immediately out of my head, and I would not be able to retrieve it if my life depended on it. She is holding my hand and I am digging my fingernails into her palms though she doesn’t complain.

I have stopped making any sound, at least outwardly, but inside my soul is screaming like a banshee. Standing over me, is Detective Lewis. I retained his name, because he is important. He is the man who I need to believe will find my baby.

“Dana!”

Noah’s suit-jacket is still on, but his tie looks askew, like he’s tugged at it. His tan face is drawn into a worried and horrified scowl. His sandy hair—always rakishly long in front—is disheveled.

“Dana!” he says again, shoving past the detective. “What … what … where’s Samara? Where’s …”

“Mr. Farris?”

The detective steps between us. He looks Noah over.

I see his eyes taking it all in—Noah’s thirtyish all-American blonde and athletic good looks, and his frantic, frightened blue eyes. If he is at all surprised that we are an interracial couple, it is not apparent in Detective Lewis’ eyes. He probably guessed as much when he looked at the picture of my blonde-haired girl with a complexion that is light desert-sand, in contrast to my much tawnier brown.

“Yes.” Noah looks at the detective impatiently, then back at me. “Dana …”

The neighbor lady releases my hand, and though I am not looking at her, I can sense her watchfulness. I can almost feel her holding her breath, waiting for what comes next.

“Noah,” I say, reaching for him. “She’s … she’s gone.”

My face begins to crumple just as his does. But instead of crying, he raises his voice.

“What do you mean?” he demands, grabbing me by the shoulders. “What do you mean?”

“I went … She was in the car, and …”

“Mr. Farris …”

Detective Lewis tries to interject, but Noah is shaking me now, and I am flopping backward and forward as he does, unresisting. Someone pulls us apart, and I don’t see Noah because I am sobbing and looking down.

“Mr. Farris.” The detective is speaking again. “It appears … Your daughter is missing, and at least right now it seems as though she may have been abducted.”

“How could that have happened?” Noah’s voice is lower now, but not by much. “Dana! How the fuck …?”

“Your ex-wife was inside when …”

I look up, and Noah is staring at me in horror.

“How could you have been … Where was Samara when you were inside, Dana?”

“Your daughter was in the car,” Detective Lewis answers for me.

“In the car?” Noah repeats the words as though he’ll need someone to translate them for him.

“Mr. Farris.”  There is stony emphasis in the detective’s tone. “If we’re to find your daughter, I’m going to need both you and your wife to answer some questions for me.”

Noah finally tears his accusing gaze from me. His face is almost blood-orange. I hear him breathing, labored and uneven breaths.

“What … what do you need to know?” he manages.

“You and your ex-wife have been …”

“My wife,” Noah says. “We’re just … we’re separated, not divorced.”

“Your wife. Yes. You’ve been living apart for how long now?”

“What the fuck does that have to do with anything?” Noah asks, looking pained. He glances at me again.

“I told him six months,” I offer.

“Six months, yes. Six months,” Noah says.

He glances up as a uniformed officer walks by, his radio squawking.

“What’re they looking for? Why are they even here when Samara …?”

His voice cracks, and my heart does as well. He looks at me.  His eyes are brimming with a look of betrayal.  “Dana,” he says, his face crumpling again. “You lost her? How could you do … how could you lose her?”

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’

Miri3 promo flat

About ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’:

Coming from a large Dominican family that takes their gender roles very seriously, Miri Acosta has always enjoyed the protection of her three older brothers.

Until now.

Almost twenty-three, and just graduated from university she is finally on her own instead of living with her parents. Eager to experience every bit of what she’s missed her whole life living in the most exciting city in the world, Miri decides to buck her family’s wishes and become a modern, single woman. ‘Modern’ means clubbing, dating, and … casual sex.

Just so long as her brothers don’t find out.

As she’s about to put her ‘modern woman’ plan into effect, Miri meets Eduardo Cruz, the newest player on her brother’s MLB team who is exactly what she’s running from—a bossy, overbearing, traditional Dominican walking bundle of machismo.

Miri isn’t sure what to make of Duardo … but she can’t stay away from him, either, so she decides that he’s just the right man to get her started with the whole casual sex thing.

But Duardo isn’t interested in a ‘modern’ relationship. If Miri wants him, she’s going to have to learn how to become a more traditional Dominican girl. And once he gets her, whether she wants to or not, he’s playing for keeps.

FROM ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’ – COMING SOON!

Though she kept her eyes down, Miri couldn’t help but listen. Eduardo had the kind of voice that made you want to listen. It was deep and hoarse, confident and steady. His English was vaguely rather than heavily accented, and there was even the hint of an American accent to it. He spoke Spanish like someone who had been bilingual all their life, and not just recently.

When he paused in the middle of his description of his home, Miri looked up and saw that his eyes were on her, as though he had been focused on her all along. Next to him, her brother Matt noticed the mutual staring and tilted his head to the side, his eyebrows lifting. Matt would no doubt tease her later about her obvious and naked attraction to Mark’s new teammate.

He was very handsome, so how could she not be attracted? And every time she looked at him, he was looking at her too, so the feeling might even be mutual. But that didn’t mean she was going to do anything about it. If she wanted to do something about it, she wouldn’t have known how.

Her inexperience with men embarrassed her. Especially when she was around her friends. Only Marisol knew she was still a virgin, and thankfully, she kept Miri’s secret from Nessa who probably would have taunted her mercilessly. Nessa, who reported her every conquest with R-rated detail, could not possibly understand what the hold-up was, and why Miri would be “saving herself.” But she wasn’t saving herself exactly; she just hadn’t met the man who made her want to give herself.

It was probably because she’d been raised in the Church, and from the time she was a toddler had been taught by the nuns to envision the sad face of the Blessed Virgin when she was about to sin. While her brothers went to public school where they were raised in the Bronx, Miri had gone to Saint Francis, where nuns clad in brown hammered into her all the various punishments for different types of sin. The sin of fornication was a bad one. Now, older and wiser, Miri wasn’t sure she believed everything she’d learned at Saint Francis, but those lessons were ingrained in her and all she could do was modify them … not flout them altogether. She might fornicate, but only if the urge to do so was overwhelming, and so far it hadn’t been.

She had been passionately kissed, had a couple times been felt up under her clothes, and had only once gone further than even that; but the ultimate act had never happened. Marisol on the other hand, also raised Catholic, said she had rid herself of her virginity at the first opportunity, which came freshman year in college. She told Miri that when her boyfriend pushed himself inside her, her body had resisted as determinedly as though he had been trying to press his thumb through the palm of her hand.

And the blood, Marisol said shaking her head. I don’t even want to tell you about the blood.

The thought of it almost made Miri swoon. She wasn’t completely innocent, and knew that some—maybe even most—women bled the first time, but she had heard very few firsthand accounts of what The First Time was like. A couple girls at Saint Francis had boasted of being sexually-active, but at the time, Miri wasn’t much interested. She wasn’t part of that crowd. She was one of the studious ones, more interested in her lessons and books than in parties and boys.

And why was she even thinking about that now?

Que precioso.”

Eduardo had ended his colorful description, and her mother was practically swooning, her father smiling as well.

“My mother thinks it’s madness to come to New York when you can live back home,” Mark said. “Even though I can’t persuade her to let me buy her a house there.”

“No. You save your money,” their mother said. “I am used to living here now. Maybe when I am old …”

Miri and her brothers exchanged smiles. None of them dared tell her that at almost sixty-five, they thought she was at least approaching old age. And certainly no one would bother reminding her that Mark now had more money than he knew what to do with. Relative to his wealth, the small things their parents accepted—some home remodeling, new appliances and a car—were akin to trinkets.

“You mustn’t encourage your mother to come here, Eduardo,” their mother continued. “Life here is very different … aislado … very isolated. Not very much …” She struggled with her English. “Not very much … comunidad.”

“Mom, that’s his and his mother’s business if she should come,” Miri jumped in, embarrassed.

Her parents always wanted to adopt the new Dominican ball players, treating them for a time like one of their own children, doling out unsolicited advice and even scolding them on occasion. One guy who had wound up in the papers for driving intoxicated, her mother had grabbed by the ear when he came over for dinner one Sunday, telling him he had shamed his family.

“No, but I’ve considered that,” Eduardo said. “I would not want her to be unhappy. She has friends in San Pedro. And her church.”

“Yes. Very important. Do you go to Mass, Eduardo?”

“Mom,” Matt groaned. “Stop. Bad enough you strong-arm the rest of us into going.”

“I shouldn’t have to … what do you say … strong-arm you into church, Mateo. But …” Their mother threw up her hands in defeat. “But … you meet your Maker at the end. So it is your choice whether you meet him in a state of grace or not.”

“I go on holidays,” Eduardo said, smiling politely. “Not much more than that, to be honest. And usually, I was strong-armed as well.”

“You young people today …” Standing up, her mother looked at Dylan who also stood. “Time for our chaca, Dylan?”

Her mother and sister-in-law headed for the kitchen and the little ones followed, lured by the promise of a sweet dessert. Her brothers and father continued talking among themselves and Xiomara leaned in to finish what remained on her plate now that she was freed from coercing Pedro into eating his own meal.

“How about you?” Eduardo asked.

Miri felt her face warm when he addressed her directly. The heat spread down her neck and to her belly. “What about me?”

“Do you often go to Mass?”

“No.” She shook her head. “Not often.”

Eduardo smiled, and she couldn’t figure out what that smile meant. What conclusion was he drawing from the fact that she too, had to be forced to Mass? Although why she should care about the conclusions he drew was beyond her.

“Are you staying tonight, Miri?” Mark asked from the head of the table.

“No. Too difficult to get to work on time from here.”

“God forbid you should be a little late to your high-powered job as a proofreader,” Matt smirked.

“High-powered or not, they expect me to be on time,” Miri snapped.

She hated it when her brothers treated her like she was a flibbertigibbet. She was doing what most people did after college—working at a job that paid the bills until she could figure out her next move. But she supposed the fact that her job didn’t actually pay the bills was part of what caused them to ridicule her.

After she graduated, Mark had continued depositing almost fifteen-hundred a month into her checking account. Of all her brothers, he was the one who would have had standing to inquire about when she was going to “get serious” about her life, and yet he did not. Matt and Peter on the other hand were relentless in their quest to prove her a spoiled brat. Like either of them had a leg to stand on.

Mark had bankrolled Matt’s new venture, a baseball camp for Little Leaguers; and Peter’s auto body shop that specialized in tricking-out luxury cars for irresponsible athletes and hedge-fund millionaires with too much disposable income on their hands. And just because both businesses were doing well, they conveniently forgot that it wasn’t their own ingenuity that had led to their success, but Mark’s money and good reputation. Although Acosta was a common name, the family resemblance to their famous brother opened lots of doors.

“So I’ll take you home after we’re done eating,” Mark said, smoothly avoiding yet another sibling squabble by bringing the conversation back to the matter at hand. “I need to take Duardo anyway.”

“Or you could take us to the train,” Eduardo suggested, unexpectedly. “I’d like to see what that’s like.”

Mark hesitated. “I think Dylan would kill me if I dropped you at the train station, man.”

“I would prefer it,” Eduardo said, more firmly this time. “So long as …” He looked at Miri. “So long as I have a guide to make sure I am not lost.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Miri saw that Matt was smirking again.

“Sure,” Miri said, feeling a tremor in her voice that she hoped no one else could hear. “I’ll be your guide.”

No-Sample Sunday

Afterburn cover2aBecause ‘Afterburn’ is here, and AVAILABLE NOW on Amazon!

This one was both fun and challenging to write, I definitely wanted to do justice to the love story between Chris and Robyn, but also the love story between a man and his children, as he grows into a love of fatherhood after living a life of studious non-attachment.

I can’t lie–I’m eager to hear what you think! So as you read, feel free to stop by with comments to this post and let me know what moves you, disappoints you, makes you think … whatever your reaction, I’m open to hearing it.

Some writers write for money or fame (and don’t get me wrong, those things are probably great) but I want to know I made you feel something. So tell me if I did. I’m listening.

Happy Reading!

N,