December 23, 2019

Sweet Dandelion First Chapter Reveal

First off, thank you guys SO much for the excitement I’ve received already. This book is new and fresh for me, out of my comfort zone, and words cannot express how in love with it I am. I keep saying this, because it’s true, that I’m not just writing this book–I’m living it, and that right there makes it so incredibly special. Sweet Dandelion might be a “student/teacher” romance but it’s much more than that and I hope even if you think this trope isn’t for you you’ll give it a chance.

The following excerpt is unedited and subject to change prior to release.

Dandelion Meadows is cursed.

Horrible name.

Horrible luck.

At eighteen she should be headed off to college, all smiles and naivety.

Instead, a victim of a school shooting, she’s starting her senior year in a new city and living with her brother.

Nightmares of that terrible day haunt her, affecting her daily life and the relationships around her.

Forced to meet with the school counselor, Dani finds him chipping away at the walls she’s built around herself, and even her heart.

Lachlan Taylor doesn’t know what to make at first of the broken student he’s tasked with helping. She’s survived a trauma he’s not sure he can save her from, but he knows he has to try.

The more time they spend together, the more they learn about what it really means to live.

Some things are forbidden.

Some things are necessary for survival.

Their love is both.

Prologue

“My sweet, Dandelion. May you always be as free as the birds, as wild as the flowers, and untamed as the sea.”

I close my eyes, feeling my mother’s fingers glide through the strands of my hair.

It’s a familiar sensation.

“I love you,” she whispers, pressing her lips gently to my forehead.

Her tears fall onto my skin.

I love you too.

Shots ring out again.

A thump.

And then nothing.

Chapter One

I pick at the chipped yellow nail polish left on the edge of my fingernail.

I can’t even remember when I painted them. There’s barely any left.

Across from me there’s one window in the room. It should open easy enough, and if not I can throw the chair against it, hopefully shattering it quickly.

There’s a door at my back, but the window … that’s where I would escape.

“Are you listening?” My brother’s tone is nothing if not exasperated with me.

I feel bad for him.

He’s only twenty-five.

And now he’s my guardian.

“S-Sorry,” I stutter, forcing my eyes away from the window.

Clearing his throat, the principal leans forward. “This is your schedule.” He slides the paper to me and I rub my finger against the smooth surface. He’s an older man, his face lined with wrinkles but the kind like he’s laughed and smiled a lot. His hair is speckled heavily with gray, but with the underlying hint of brown still there. He laces his fingers together, laying them on the wooden table in front of him. The gesture disturbs the perfect straight line a stack of folders was in. I itch to perfect it once more. “We’re aware of your situation, so we’ve made provisions for you to spend your fifty minute daily period with our school counselor, Mr. Taylor.”

I look at the wall, at the thick-framed college diploma, the icky dull colored painted vase of flowers. What a dull room to have to work in. I would lose my mind.

“Dani,” my brother prompts, desperation in his tone. “Is that okay with you?”

It’s not, but in the last nine months I’ve learned to do what makes everyone else feel better. I don’t think anything can heal me, but if it’ll make Sage happy I’ll do it. Even if all the therapists and counselors I spoke to in the hospital didn’t help at all. They tried, but they didn’t know how to get through to me, while I didn’t know how to tell them I didn’t think it was possible.

I nod, resting my elbow on the arm of the chair.

“That’s fine.” My voice is soft, deeper than it used to be. There’s something missing from it and I haven’t been able to figure out what it is.

Perhaps it’s innocence. 

The principal, Mr. Gordon according to the plaque sitting dangerously close to the edge of his desk, starts going over more things but I’m not listening.

It’s not that I mean to ignore him, but I find myself retreating more and more into my head. It feels safer here, but it’s not. It’s not safe anywhere. My brain is full of terrible memories. The world is full of terrible people who do horrible things, every single day.

Principal Gordon finishes his speech and holds out a stack of papers to me.

I don’t lift my hand to take them.

Sage grabs them instead, shaking the principal’s hand. He stands and I follow suit.

“We hope you’ll enjoy your time here at Aspen Lake High.”

I don’t respond. I don’t even force myself to give a tiny smile. Frankly, I don’t have the energy to.

Out in the empty hall Sage shuffles through the papers, reading them over. His light brown hair is longer than normal. He hasn’t had time to get it cut because of me.

I’ve often wondered what he thought when he got the call I was in the hospital and our mom was dead.

She died protecting me and other students, doing what she could to save lives. She was a teacher and in her final moments she went above and beyond what a teacher is supposed to do.

We lost our father when we were young to pancreatic cancer. I don’t remember him much, but Sage is older than me so I’m sure he does.

In less than eighteen years four has become two.

I don’t know what I’d do if I lost Sage too.

“Looks like your locker is this way.”

“I probably won’t use it.” I toe the dirtied white edge of my red pair of Converse against the tile floor.

His exhale echoes through the hall. “Do you want to see where your classes are?”

“I can figure it out on Monday.”

His hazel eyes are tired when they meet mine—nearly the color of his, though mine are more green and his more gold.

“Dani, I’m trying here.”

I know he is. He’s trying so hard. The problem is I hate him trying so much when I know he has a life.

He moved to Salt Lake City, Utah for college, stayed for a job and a girl. The girl didn’t work out, but he says he likes the job. I don’t believe him, not when he comes home looking weary and older than his years. We grew up in Portland, Oregon and I had plans to stay there, until someone else with a gun decided my fate for me.

Now I’m the girl who survived a school shooting. Who walks with a limp. Who barely speaks.

“I know you are, but you’re missing work.” I barely give breath to the words, my eyes reluctantly meeting his.

He softens, grasping a piece of my long light brown hair and giving it a playful tug. I used to get mad at him for pulling on my hair when we were little, but now I relish in the familiar gesture.

“I’m right where I want to be. Come on.”

As much as I want to protest, I know he’s trying.

My fingers twist in the bottom of my shirt as I follow Sage. He looks intently at the schedule, then the map, before heading off in whatever direction he thinks we need to go like some bloodhound.

I think this helps him feel in control.

While I was in the hospital there wasn’t much he could do to help me other than to encourage me not to give up.

God, I wanted to.

I often got angry, wondering why God took my mother but not me. Why did I have to endure the pain of getting shot and nearly being paralyzed?

I wasn’t sure I’d ever walk again.

The doctors, too, were doubtful.

But Sage … he was determined to see me walk again.

But running?

I think running is out of the question for me.

Once upon a time it had been my life. I thought I’d go to college with a scholarship. But things change and now I walk with a limp. I try not to let it bother me, after all I’m very lucky to be on my own two feet, but sometimes I feel like a bird with a broken wing, destined to never fly again and it hurts all over again.

It takes the better part of an hour for Sage to locate every classroom and point out the quickest routes there.

Back at our starting area at the front of the school next to the administration section, Sage clears his throat. “Do you remember where everything is?”

I don’t. “Yeah, I’ll be fine.”

And I will be.

I always am.

Fine seems to be my permanent state of being anymore. I’m growing quite comfortable with its dullness.

Sage blows out a breath, rubbing his fingers over the golden stubble on his jaw. His brown locks have always had that caramel-golden tint and his facial hair matches. My brown hair on the other hand has always been lighter, a little duller compared to his.

“I want this to go well for you.” His voice lowers, shoulders drooping. “You … God, Dani … you’ve been through so much.” His hazel eyes glisten with unshed tears. My big brother has had to keep his shit together for so long, to be the rock to protect me against the storm, and the wear of it is beginning to show.

I take a step forward, wrapping my arms around his middle. “We both have.”

I might’ve had to heal physically, but we both had to deal with the grief of losing our mother and in such a tragic way.

He hugs me back, his arms warm and strong. I don’t think he’ll ever know how grateful I am for him coming to my aid. He stayed with me in the hospital, able to work remotely so he could be there, before I healed enough to come to Salt Lake City.

“You could’ve died, Dani.” His gruff whisper tears at my heart, especially when my thoughts spear through me.

Sometimes I still wish I had.

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Welcome!

Micalea SmeltzerHi. I’m Micalea. Ma-call-e-uh. Weird name, I know. My mom must’ve known I was going to be odd even in the womb. I’ve written a lot of books. Like a lot. Don’t ask me how many, I don’t remember at this point.

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