An Excerpt From The Guardian

The Minotaur slapped a giant animal corpse onto a stone platform, raised his battleax above his head, and cleanly decapitated the corpse. The animal’s head fell to the ground.

Its lifeless eyes stared at Camryn, making her stomach turn. “That is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen.”

“A hearty meal is hard to come by these days. We must make do with what we have.” The Minotaur ripped a slab of meat off the corpse and tore it apart with his teeth. Then he cut two steak-sized pieces and gave them to Toby and Camryn. “You must eat. We have a long journey ahead and much to prepare for.”

The Guardian

My latest book is a Young Adult fantasy novel. I would like to share the first chapter with you. Feedback welcome.

The Guardian. Copyright by L.M. Nelson, 2017. I own all rights.

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Chapter 1

Reaching across the back seat, Camryn Hunter attempted to retrieve her cellphone by prying it out of her brother’s hand. “If it’s not yours then don’t touch it!” she scolded him.

Toby held it behind his back. “If you want it, come and get it.”

“Give it back!” she insisted, smacking her brother in the arm.

Clouds darkened the moonlit sky while the old car’s windshield wipers slapped torrential rainwaters away. The headlights shone brightly down the backcountry mountain road, but there were no street lamps, no houses, and no other cars in sight; even the stars seemed to be hiding tonight.

Their father turned away from the road to reprimand his children. “Would you two stop arguing, please? Toby, get your own phone and give Camryn’s back to her.”

“The battery’s dead on mine.”

Camryn’s mother released a blood curdling scream. Quick to react, her father turned his eyes back to the road just in time to see a large shadow of a creature blocking their way. He slammed on the brakes. The tires squealed and the car spun out of control. Camryn echoed her mother’s screams as the car began to roll, crashing into the blacktop with each turn. Her arm smashed against the side of the door, and shards of glass hit her in the face. The twirling, spinning motion made her dizzy. Then, with a sudden jolt, the car fell silent.

Camryn moaned, feeling disoriented. Still strapped in her seatbelt, her body hung limp. Pain resonated from her forehead. She reached up, checking for gashes and bumps, but found nothing.

Her younger brother moaned in the seat next to her. Hoping he wasn’t injured, she called his name. “Toby?”

He groaned again.

“Are you ok?”

“My elbow hurts.”

She quickly scanned the vehicle. Her mother was hunched over the dashboard with her forehead flush against the windshield. “Mom?” Camryn called out, hoping to get a response. “Mom, are you ok?”

When her mother didn’t answer, she fumbled around for her seatbelt and set herself free, falling to the ceiling with a thud. Once she regained her stability, she crawled over to the front passenger’s seat and pulled her mother’s body back against the seat. Hoping to find signs of life, she felt for a pulse. Not even the faintest thump was felt.

Afraid to look, she turned to her father, whose lifeless body hung halfway out the broken driver’s side window. “Daddy?”

From the back seat, Camryn’s brother asked, “What’s that smell?”

Camryn took a whiff. Gasoline. Panic-stricken, she climbed back to help him release his seatbelt. “We need to get out of here. Now!” She supported his body as best she could and drug him out the shattered back window.

Toby hit his arm on the door frame. “Ouch, Camryn! That hurts!” he wailed.

“Then help me. Push with your legs.”

With his help, she directed him out the window. Once on solid ground, Camryn supported her brother’s limping body and led him away from the car. The rain poured onto them, and their clothes were soaked. She could still smell gasoline, but because it was so dark outside, she really couldn’t see what kind of condition the car was in or even navigate where they were.

“Are Mom and Dad ok?” Toby asked.

Camryn looked around, trying to figure out where they were. But with only the moonlight to guide her, she couldn’t see much.

“Camryn!” Toby yelled trying to get her attention. “Are Mom and Dad…”

A tremendous explosion lit up the darkness, startling them both.

“No!” Toby lunged toward the engulfed vehicle. Camryn grabbed his arm and held him back, sheltering him with her body. He fought to break free, but it was too late. Flames engulfed the overturned vehicle and black smoke spewed from the underbelly. Toby buried his head in Camryn’s chest, and they both sobbed as they watched the car burn.

 

The temperature dropped rapidly, making them both shiver. If they didn’t find shelter soon, they would surely freeze to death. By now, the rain had let up a bit, and the moon peeked out through the clouds, offering just enough light to guide them. Huddled together, they traversed through the wilderness seeking anything that would provide them with protective shelter for the night.

Several yards into the woods, Camryn spotted what looked like a cave on the side of a hill. “Wait here,” she said to her brother.

Toby didn’t like this situation. Not only was he left alone in the dark, but he also feared that an angry animal might try to attack his sister. “Camryn,” he muttered. “Come back here.”

“Toby, I’m fine.” She approached the rocky structure and peeked inside. The cave wasn’t a huge sanctuary, but it was big enough and far enough out of the elements to house them for the night. “Come on,” she encouraged him. “We’ll be safe here.”

Together, they entered the cave and made themselves as comfortable as possible.

Blood dripped from Toby’s elbow. “You’re bleeding,” Camryn said to him. Hoping to get a better look at his injury, she turned his arm toward her. “Let me wrap it for you.”

She tore a long strip of fabric from the bottom of her shirt and did her best to wipe the blood away. With the cloth, she wrapped his elbow, tying it off with a knot to apply direct pressure, which would hopefully stop the bleeding. “Does that feel better?”

“Thank you.” He pulled his elbow back. With tears streaming down his face, Toby leaned into Camryn. “What are we supposed to do now?”

“I don’t know.” She leaned against the cave wall and snuggled in closer to her brother, putting her arm around him to keep him warm. “In the morning, when it’s light out, we’ll try to figure it out.”

 

Toby cried himself to sleep that night, and nightmares woke him several times. Keeping watch over her younger sibling, Camryn stayed awake. Their grim situation was not conducive to sleep anyway. Neither was the hard ground. Every muscle in her body ached, and uncertainty flooded her mind with fear. Yet somehow, with the rising of the sun, she managed to muster up the strength to stand on her own two feet.

Toby lay curled up in a fetal position on the ground next to her. His blood-soaked bandage was now dry, indicating that the bleeding had diminished and his wound was healing. Reassured that her brother was alright, Camryn stepped out of the cave and took in a big breath of air. She instantly lost her breath when an unusual sight met her eyes. “Toby!” she yelled, rousing him from his slumber. “Toby, wake up! Come out here quick!”

Toby rubbed his tired eyes and stepped out of the cave to join her. “What is your problem? Why’d you have to…” That’s when he saw why she had made such a fuss. “Where’s the car?”

Camryn scanned the entire area but found no signs of wreckage, no debris, no indication at all that an accident had occurred here. “This can’t be happening.” She raised her hand to her forehead trying to make sense of the situation. Neither of them had called to report the accident. There were no signs of civilization in this area, no cell towers indicating phone coverage, not even electrical wires or mile markers. It was pretty unlikely that anyone had been in the area to see the accident either. How could an entire vehicle go missing, leaving no traces behind at all? “It can’t just disappear.”

She stepped onto the road and stood beside a tree. A metal barrier separated the asphalt from a large ravine, yet the car hadn’t broken through it. It was completely intact. She peeked over the edge thinking she might find the car down there. Nothing but rocks and a few trees.

Toby plopped on the ground near a large boulder and picked at the grass around him. Two shiny, metal objects glistened in the sun. Curious, he rustled through the grass and pulled out a pair of shiny, golden rings.

Camryn drew her attention to her brother. “Where did you find those?”

“Right here in the grass.”

She took one of the rings and examined it carefully, wondering why such a treasure was placed in a secluded area like this. And the boulder next to Toby appeared to have shapeshifted. It was now in the shape of an arrow pointing toward the ravine. “That’s weird. Was that rock pointing that direction a minute ago?”

Toby shrugged. “Of course it was. Rocks don’t just move on their own.”

“Are you sure?”

He stared at the shiny ring in his hand for a minute or two before he slipped it on his finger.

Instantly, he vanished into thin air.

“Toby?” Camryn searched the entire area, trying to figure out where he went. She didn’t like her brother’s sick idea of a joke. “Toby, this isn’t funny. Where are you?” Staring at the gold ring in her hand, she contemplating the meaning of this. Toby was sitting right in front of her, until he put on the ring. “No way. That’s impossible.”

Not sure what to expect, she slipped on the other ring. Within seconds, she was transported right by Toby’s right side. “Where are we?” she asked.

But Toby stood like a statue, gawking at the ravine with his mouth gaped open. Camryn’s eyes focused on the ravine in front of her.

All around her, pine trees clung to the walls of a gorge, bending their trunks upward, and their needles were a strange shade of metallic green. These trees grew among tiny cliff dwellings, each with a thatched roof and small round windows. The leaf-covered branches of the trees hung down low enough to shelter the houses from the elements and protect them from unwanted visitors. Some of these trees appeared to have faces with bright blue glowing eyes and leafy fronds protruding from the top of their heads. Some of the older moss-covered trees had green vines wrapped around their trunks, stretching from the elongated facial features all the way down to the roots.

“What in the world?” Camryn asked, thinking they had stepped into some sort of Oz-like land similar to the one she had seen so many times in her favorite movie.

The cliff village busily buzzed with odd-looking, furry creatures. They were about three-feet high with green-toned skin and floppy jackrabbit-type ears. These creatures had long, skinny arms and legs with oversized toes, able to grasp tree limbs like tree frogs. They walked upright like humans did, but upon closer examination of one of these creatures, it appeared to have pixie wings. Several shrew-like rodents with monstrous feet, and claws too big for their toes, ran around the village making squeaking noises. They had fuzzy striped tails, large eyes, and wore permanent smiles on their faces. When frightened, these creatures curled up like armadillos. Several brightly-colored tropical birds with multicolored plumes extending from the top of their head flew around freely.

A beautiful large-winged Phoenix fished in the river that flowed through the center of the village. This river, in the brightest shade of blue, didn’t meander like water naturally did. Instead, it ran perfectly straight with almost unflawed precision. Many giant beta fish with wispy tail appendages and large goldfish eyes happily jumped out of the water, acrobatically flipped in midair, then dove back in the river with a splash.

Alongside the riverbank, several large trees with retractable suspension bridges draped across the river, each connecting one side of the village to the other. Apparently this was their access across the water. The river itself fed into a small lagoon enclosed by a rock arch, which had a waterfall pouring down from all sides. The waterfall appeared to magically flow from thin air, and the water acted as a wall that blocked any entrance into or out of the village.

The aromatic scent of the sweet-smelling blooms, the colorful array of tropical flowers, and the caws and joyful songs of the local birds added a touch of spark to the entire scene. Camryn awed over the mysteriousness of it all. “Look at this place.”

“Where are we?” Toby asked, having never seen anything like this in the world he knew.

“I don’t know, but we are definitely not in Idaho anymore.” Camryn stepped forward.

“Where are you going? Get back here,” Toby insisted.

“I’m gonna go check it out. Come on.”

Not feeling as adventurous as his sister, Toby didn’t move.

Directing him to follow her, she said, “Come on, Toby.” She stepped further down and trekked toward the village.

Reluctantly, Toby ran after her.

Center Stage – Chapter 1

The fourth and final book in my Scrubs series, titled Center Stage, is set for release April 15th.  While you wait, here’s a sneak peek into the first chapter. This content is under copyright and I own all rights.

Theatre

Chapter 1

Theater is a calling, an art, and the Juilliard School in New York City was one of the most respected and renowned places in the world to perfect this art. Known for its rigorous program and extensive admission requirements, Juilliard only accepted eight to ten new candidates into the actor training program each year.  Ever since she was a little girl, Lauren Hanson dreamed of singing on a Broadway stage. Gaining admittance into Juilliard led her one step closer to fulfilling that dream.

This year’s incoming freshmen had the opportunity to go on an educational tour through various theatres in New York City. While touring the Ambassador Theatre, Lauren and her classmates were invited to act out impromptu or monologue on the stage if they wanted to. But Lauren didn’t do either of those things. Instead, she confidently stood before an empty house and belted out the song ‘Defying Gravity’ from the musical Wicked.

Roger Zellers, a professional Broadway actor, was backstage retrieving his cellphone when he heard Lauren’s heavenly voice echo through the theatre. He roamed onto the stage wing to investigate. Standing center stage, singing her heart out, was an incredibly attractive young woman wearing a Juilliard tee-shirt and jeans. He watched in rapt attention, mesmerized by the intense emotion she projected through her performance. He had to find out who this woman was.

When the class was about to exit the theatre, Roger intercepted her at the door. “Excuse me, Ma’am?”

Lauren turned around. “Yes?”

“I’m sorry. I know you don’t know me, but I just heard you sing, and you have the most beautiful voice I have ever heard.”

She offered him a small, shy smile. “Thank you.”

“I am correct to assume that you’re a student at Juilliard?”

“Yes, I am.”

He extended an open palm and graciously shook her hand. “I’m Roger Zellers, and if you’d allow me, I’d like to offer my assistance.”

“Assistance with what?”

“I would like to provide you with an opportunity that will help you gain exposure and allow you to meet and work with people in the Broadway community.”

She asked for clarification. “What do you mean?”

“I’m an actor currently doing a show here at the Ambassador. I happen to know that the manager of this theatre is looking to hire theatre arts students as interns. You’ll be behind the scenes during productions, you’ll get to work directly with Broadway performers, and you’ll learn a few tricks of the trade. It’ll get your foot in the door, and people will get to know you. I’d like to give your name to the manager. You certainly captured my attention, I know you’ll capture hers as well. You interested?”

The chance to meet and work with Broadway actors and be backstage during shows was a once in a lifetime opportunity toward fulfilling her dream of performing on Broadway. As excited as Lauren was about this opportunity, she was a bit apprehensive because she knew nothing about this man and didn’t know if she could trust him.

Sensing this woman’s reluctance, Roger offered her an alternative. “Tell you what, why don’t you stop by tomorrow afternoon and talk to her.” He pulled a business card out of his wallet and grabbed a pen to write something on the back. “We have rehearsal tomorrow at 3:30. When you get here, go around the back and enter through the stage door. Show the security guard this card and tell him Roger sent you.”

He handed her the card and she carefully examined it. Printed on the front in huge block letters were the words Roger Zellers, Broadway Vocalist/ Actor/ Dancer. A phone number and website followed.

“So will you stop by tomorrow?”

She smiled with satisfaction. “I’ll be here.”

 

After class the next day, Lauren headed over to West 49th Street. She wasn’t sure what to expect and wasn’t totally convinced this Roger guy was telling the truth about who he was or his connections with Broadway. But as soon as the cab pulled up to the Ambassador Theatre, any doubts Lauren had about Roger quickly disappeared. The marque out front promoted the musical Chicago. Larger than life still shots from the show, one of which captured Roger posing in a black suit, were displayed on the walls outside. Obviously he had been honest with her about his involvement on Broadway, and she felt less reluctant about blindly walking into the theatre.

Once Lauren gained access inside, she took a seat in the back and watched the performers rehearse. Roger, dressed in black jazz pants and a tee-shirt with Chicago printed on the front, danced around the stage with a black fedora on his head and a cane in his hand while he sang a song called ‘Razzle Dazzle.’ He had a powerful baritone voice and quite the stage presence. He was incredibly entertaining to watch.

At the conclusion of rehearsal, Roger gulped down a bottle of water and peered out to the rows of empty seats. When he saw Lauren seated in the back row, a huge grin brightened his features. Removing his fedora, he stepped off the stage and strolled to the back to greet her. “I’m glad you made it,” he said. “I told Carmen about your remarkable performance yesterday. She’s looking forward to meeting you. Come with me and I’ll introduce you.”

Lauren stood up and followed him.

The theatre manager, Carmen Hollister, discussed details with Lauren. Job responsibilities included cleaning up props, helping with costumes, and basically running around making sure the performers had everything they needed before and during the show. Carmen was willing to work around Lauren’s class schedule and offered her twenty hours a week during nighttime and weekend performances. After chatting with Carmen for about thirty minutes, Lauren gladly accepted the job.

When Roger found out Lauren took the position, he beamed with excitement. “That’s fantastic. Congratulations!”

“Thank you so much for your help.”

“No problem. When do you start?”

“Monday night.”

He flashed her an irresistibly captivating grin. “I guess I’ll see you on Monday.”

 

On her first day at the Ambassador, Lauren arrived early, eager to get started. Several cast and crew members were already there, including Roger. He leaned against the makeup counter conversing with another man. The moment Lauren walked in, conversation ceased and Roger’s eyes drifted her direction. “Well, look who’s here. Hello, Lauren. It’s good to see you again.” He motioned for her to come closer. “Have you met Jason? He’s our lead dancer.”

Jason welcomed her with a firm handshake. “Welcome aboard. Always good to have a helping hand around here.”

“Thanks. I’m looking forward to it.”

Roger stood up straight. “Let me show you around.” He said goodbye to Jason then led Lauren back to the dressing rooms. He introduced her to several performers from the show and she met one of the makeup artists. Roger showed her where props and costume racks were stored then guided her back to the main gathering area. Several dancers were now warming up, and crew members busily began to prepare for the show. “Do you have any questions?” he asked her.

She looked around the theatre feeling a bit overwhelmed. “This is a lot to take in.”

“It is, but things run pretty smoothly around here. We’ll help you figure it out.” He checked the time on his watch. “I have to get ready for the show. Have fun tonight.”

“I’m sure I will. Break a leg, Roger.”

“I’ll try not to.”

During intermission, Roger reached into the mini-fridge to grab a bottle of water. As he unscrewed the lid, he caught sight of Lauren. With the bottle in his hand, he moseyed her direction. “How’s it going?”

Lauren looked up. “Busy, but I love it. Everyone has been so helpful.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” He leaned against the wall with his hand in his pocket and gulped down a huge drink. “How are you getting home tonight? Is someone coming to pick you up?”

“I was going to take a cab.”

His eyes widened. “By yourself?”

“Yes.”

He rubbed his hand across his chin. “Traveling alone at night in New York City can be dangerous. Please allow me to escort you home after the show.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“I insist. I won’t be able to sleep tonight if I don’t see you home safely. Meet me by my dressing room after the show and I’ll take you home.”

Grateful that he cared so much about her safety, she agreed. “That’s very kind. Thank you.”

“It’s my pleasure.”

Throughout the week, Lauren worked three evening shows and all day Saturday. Prior to Saturday’s matinee, Lauren tapped on Roger’s dressing room door to see if he needed anything.

“It’s open,” he called out.

She walked in to find Roger clothed only in a pair of black trousers, holding a white button-up dress shirt in his hand. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you weren’t dressed.”

Roger shrugged it off. “It’s alright. Come on in.” He slipped the shirt over his shoulders, leaving it unbuttoned.

In her hand, Lauren held the black fedora Roger needed for his opening number. “You left your hat by the makeup counter again.”

“Did I?” He chuckled at his own forgetfulness. “Silly me.”

She stepped closer and placed the fedora on his head.

“Thank you for returning it. I appreciate the way you keep tabs on the items I’m always misplacing. Keeps me in check.”

“Someone has to.”

“And I’m glad that someone is you.” He turned away and began to button his shirt. “You’re doing a great job, by the way.”

“Thank you.” Gaining his approval boosted her confidence. “Do you need anything before the show starts?”

“No, thanks. I’m fine.”

“Alright. I’m going to check on the others then. See you later.”

During a break between the afternoon and evening show, Roger bounded backstage, rubbing his growling stomach. “My tummy is rumbling. We should do a Schmackary’s run.”

“I’m in.” Jason reached for his wallet and handed Roger twenty dollars.

Several other performers added to the fund.

Lauren overheard the conversation and joined them. “What’s at Schmackary’s?”

“Only the best cookies on the planet.” Roger slipped the wad of money in his pocket. “Do you want to come with me? I could use some help carrying the boxes back over here.”

“How far is it?”

“About half a mile. We have plenty of time.”

Lauren willingly agreed to go with him.

When they arrived at the bakery, Roger ordered two dozen cookies—Sch’mores, Carmel Apple Crisp, Chocolate Chip, and his personal favorite, Peanut Butter Cup. Once the boxes were filled with everyone’s favorites, he asked Lauren, “Any kind in particular you’d like to try?”

She peered into the glass case, eyeing the huge selection of sweet treats. “I want one of those sprinkle cookies.”

“Good choice.” He added one to the box just for her.

On the way back to the theatre, Roger struck up a conversation. “Have you seen much of New York City?”

“My sister and I went exploring when we first got here. We saw Central Park and quite a bit of Times Square.”

“Experienced any nightlife?”

She shook her head. “Other than working in the theatre, no.”

“Some of us are going to 54 Below tonight. Would you like to come with us?”

“What’s 54 Below?”

“A dinner club with live performances and drinks. It’s open stage night, Broadway Sings the Blues. Do you want to come?”

Uncertain, she lifted a shoulder. “I don’t know.”

Hoping to entice her, he offered, “I’ll pay your cover and buy you dinner.”

“That’s really not necessary, Roger.”

He did his best to convince her. “C’mon, Lauren. Come cabaret with us. You’re in New York. You need to get out and experience what this city has to offer.”

“Are you sure the others won’t mind?”

“Of course not. We’d love to have you.”

After a bit of persuasion, she agreed to go.

Around 11:00 P.M., Roger, Lauren, and two other Chicago cast members strolled over to West 54th Street. As soon as they arrived, they descended a narrow wooden staircase, enclosed by walls plastered with red-patterned wallpaper. At the bottom of the stairs, they were greeted by a 54 Below doormat. The maître d’ met them at the entrance and graciously invited them inside.

This intimate and classy restaurant was full of sophisticated New York City glam. The décor was stylish and inviting—leather backed chairs, archival pictures, and a central stage complete with grand piano. The entire place had a 1920’s ambience. Every detail from the wallpaper to the molding to the art was reminiscent of a speakeasy.

The group was led to a four-person banquette table. Lauren took a seat next to Roger.

“Do you want a drink?” he asked, hanging his jacket over the back of a chair. “They have a ginger lemonade that’s pretty tasty.”

Being adventurous, she decided to give it a try.

Once everyone was situated and the waiter took their orders, Roger updated the group on the latest news. “Holiday Inn premiers in a few weeks.”

“Yes, I saw that,” Jason said. “I’m surprised you aren’t involved in that.”

“Don’t have time right now. With eight shows a week, benefit concerts, and recording sessions, I barely have time to breathe.”

“Recording sessions for what?” Lauren asked, curious about Roger’s activities outside the theatre.

“A collaborative benefit Christmas album. It occupies a lot of my time, but it’s for a good cause. That alone makes it worth the hours I devote to it.” He took a sip of his wine then set the glass on the table.

While they ate, several performers took turns singing, each entertaining the crowd with their own rendition of various classic blues songs. When it was Roger’s turn to take the stage, he sat at the piano and began pounding away at the keys with effortless eloquence. He boisterously sang ‘Walking in Memphis’, pouring his heart into every word. The intensity of his performance gradually increased until it reached its powerful crescendo. He ended the final note with his eyes fixated right at Lauren.

The restaurant patrons applauded, and Roger slowly rose from the piano bench and shuffled off the stage.

When he returned to the table, Lauren praised his performance. “I had no idea you could play the piano.”

“A little something I do in my spare time. It helps me unwind.”

At closing time, Roger offered Lauren an escort home. When they arrived at Lincoln Center, he walked her up to the main building of the Juilliard dormitory. “Did you have fun tonight?”

“I did. Thank you for inviting me.”

“Thank you for joining us.”

She pulled her keys out of her purse. “I appreciate you going out of your way to walk me home.”

“It’s my pleasure, and it’s not out of my way. My apartment is only a few blocks from here.” Hoping to get her to mingle with some of his Broadway connections, Roger suggested, “Some friends and I are meeting at Tavern on the Green for brunch tomorrow morning. You’re welcome to join us.”

“I appreciate the offer, but my sister and I made plans to hang out tomorrow, and I have some studying to do.”

“Alright. I just wanted to throw the invitation out there, help you meet some new people.”

“Thank you for being so welcoming.”

“It’s not a problem. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Lauren.”

“You too. I’ll see you on Monday.”

He smiled charmingly then stepped away from the entrance, whistling as he made his way home.

Beyond the Hardwood- Chapter 1

I completed the third book in my series this week, Beyond the Hardwood.  This book carries the story of Scrubs and Sand & Sutures into the next generation, focusing specifically on Randy’s son, Nathan.

bth-final-paperback-cover-5x8-1Synopsis is as follow:

From the time he was old enough to hold a basketball, Nathan Hanson dreamed of playing in the NCAA. Now a senior at Lake Washington High School, Nathan is a top-notch athlete with aspirations of attending medical school. Well known for his skills on the court, Nathan’s name and face are plastered across every sports page in Seattle. When a college recruiter catches wind of his stats, Nathan receives a visit from the head coach of the University of Washington, bringing him one step closer to making his lifelong dream a reality.

But sometimes pursuing your dreams comes with a hefty price.

 

I now present you with Chapter One of Beyond the Hardwood.

 Chapter One

Surrounded by family and friends, Nathan Hanson eyed eighteen candles flickering on the cake in front of him.

“Happy birthday, Nathan,” his mother said. “Make a wish.”

Nathan thought about this for a minute before he blew out the flames.

His father pulled a set of car keys from his pocket and handed them to Nathan.

Bemused, Nathan stared at his father. “What are these for?”

“Go look out front.”

Nathan gripped the keys in his hand and dashed out the door. A cherry red 1969 Ford Mustang Mach One was parked in the driveway out front. Nathan’s jaw hit the ground.  “Are you serious?”

“Happy birthday, Son.”

“Oh, sweet! Thanks, Dad.”

“Why don’t you take it for a spin?”

Nathan gazed at his girlfriend with an enticing smile. “Wanna go for a ride?”

She nodded, full of anticipation.

He unlocked the car and presented his hand to her, helping her ease into the passenger seat.

Once she was secured, Nathan walked around to the opposite side of the car. He sat in the driver’s seat and revved up the engine, letting the car idle for a minute so he could hear it purr. “Listen to that engine, Gab.”

“I can’t believe your dad bought you a car.”

“My dad is awesome.” He gripped the steering wheel with one hand and held Gabriella’s hand with the other. Then he glanced over his shoulder, backed out of the driveway, and drove down the street.

“You’re so lucky your dad is a doctor,” Gabby remarked.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because you and your family go on cool vacations, you live in a nice house, and your parents bought you a car for your birthday. They do all kinds of things for you.”

“Your mom does things for you too.”

Gabby shook her head and snorted. “Not like your parents do.”

He signaled to turn right, checked the rearview mirror, and switched lanes. “She sends you to cheer camp. That counts.”

“I guess.”

Gabby’s despondency led Nathan to believe something was bothering her. “What’s the matter?”

Not wanting to burden him with her problems, she stared at her hands with a dejected expression on her face.

Nathan pulled into the closest parking lot and put the car in park. He turned to face her, insistent that she talk to him. “What’s wrong?”

Gabby sighed. “My mom lost her job, and she pretty much told me she won’t be able to pay for any of my college expenses. Either I live off loans and work my way through school or I don’t go.”

“When did she lose her job?”

“Last week. And she refuses to let me work. Aside from my college problem, I don’t have any money to get a dress for the winter dance, so I won’t be able to go.”

Offering support, he took both of her hands in his. “We will get you a dress. That is not a big deal.”

“Really?”

“Of course. There is no way I’m going without you.”

Those were the exact words she wanted to hear. “Thank you.”

“We’ll figure it out. We always do.” He drew her closer and tenderly kissed her on the lips.

 

Nathan came home a little after 10:00 P.M. that night.  He removed his letter jacket and slipped his car keys in the pocket of his jeans. “It’s cold out tonight,” he said to his father as he draped his jacket over the back of a chair.

Dr. Randy Hanson looked up from the medical article he was reading. “Is it?”

“Yeah.”

He set the medical journal on the coffee table and focused his attention on his son. “Did you have a good day?”

“I had an awesome day. That car is amazing. Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome. I had a Mustang when I was your age. It’s a nice ride.”

“It is,” Nathan agreed, taking a seat on the couch next to his father.

“How was the movie?”

“It was good. A few parts scared Gabby. She jumped and spilled popcorn all over herself then wouldn’t let go of my hand for the rest of the night.”

“Scary movies are good for that.” With a more serious tone, Dr. Hanson looked his son in the eye.  “Nate?”

“Yes, Sir?”

“You’re a senior now. You have important decisions to make about college and career choices.”

“I know. We’ve already discussed this.”

“Yes, but you haven’t told me what you’ve decided,” he insisted on knowing.

“Gabby and I are going to UW together.”

“And have you made any other decisions?”

Nathan knew exactly what his father meant. “Biology I think, with emphasis on pre-med.”

Dr. Hanson grinned, thrilled that his son showed an interest in pursuing a medical career. “Have you filled out scholarship applications?”

“Yup. Found a few I qualified for.” Nathan had something else on his mind that he wanted to discuss with his father, but since it was a sensitive subject, he wasn’t sure how to bring it up. “Dad, I need to talk to you.”

“About what?”

“Gabby and I have been talking.”

Dr. Hanson bobbed his head. “Talking is good.”

“You know, we’ve been together for over a year now.”

“I know. I like Gabby. She’s a nice girl, and I think she’s good for you.”

Nathan sat up to instill more confidence. “Gabriella and I…we…” He breathed in deeply before he said, “We want to have sex.”

Dr. Hanson knew his son was old enough to think about this, but wasn’t expecting Nathan to be quite this open about it. Seeking clarification, he asked, “She wants to or you want to?”

“We both do,” Nathan affirmed.

Dr. Hanson wasn’t convinced. “You’re not pressuring her, are you?”

“No, I’m not. She’s actually the one who brought it up.”

He snorted under his breath, not believing Nathan’s claim for one second. “Oh really?”

“Dad, I know what you’re thinking.”

“No you don’t,” he scoffed. “You have no idea what I’m thinking.”

“Then what are you thinking?”

Nathan’s father was an obstetrician who saw young pregnant girls in his office on a weekly basis. Nathan was convinced his father was about to lecture him about teenage pregnancy, or even worse, give him the abstinence speech. But his father did neither of those things. Instead, he simply said, “I understand. I was eighteen once.”

That was not the response Nathan expected.

Hoping his son had considered every aspect of this decision, Dr. Hanson threw him a thought-provoking question. “Have you considered what that means for Gabby?”

“What do you mean?”

“Son, once a girl loses her virginity, that’s not something she can ever take back. It’s done. And have you thought about contraception?”

Nathan knew the whole pregnancy issue would pop up sooner or later. “You mean condoms?”

“Yes, condoms. Be smart about this, Nate. Protect yourself, protect her. And for god’s sake don’t get her pregnant.”

“Dad.”

“I’m serious, Nathan. Use a condom, all the time, every time,” Dr. Hanson insisted.  “Is she on the pill?”

“No.”

“If you two are going to have a sexual relationship, she should be. I’ll be more than happy to get her a scrip for birth control pills, but I’m not going to do it without her mother’s consent,” he sternly stated. “Has Gabby talked to her mother about this?”

If Gabby’s mother knew they were even considering having sex, she would throw a conniption. Panic-stricken, Nathan replied, “Dad, she can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because. Her mom isn’t the most understanding person in the world, especially with sensitive issues like this.”

“Gabby should discuss this with her mother.” Dr. Hanson reached for a cup of coffee. “We’re going to get you a box of condoms. I want both of you to be safe.”

Nathan could see the seriousness in his father’s eyes. Dr. Hanson wasn’t about to let his son be the reason for another teenage girl having a baby. With a nod of understanding, Nathan replied, “Yes, Sir.”

 

Scrubs-Free First Chapter

In this blog, I am posting the first chapter of my book, Scrubs, for anyone who may be interested.  Feedback welcome.  Disclaimer: This is my original work and I own the copyright. (c) 2015 by L.M. Nelson

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Chapter One

“Alright!” Randy cheered as he high-fived his best friend, Jim Ryan.

“And another one down. That’s kickass, Bro.” After their third consecutive volleyball game win, Jim spun the ball on his finger and set it down in the sand.

The warm summer sun beat down on the beaches of Santa Cruz where several college students gathered for their last big beach blowout before the start of a new academic year. Randy and Jim had played several games now and were taking a break before meeting their next opponents. Hot sand permeated his bare toes as Randy took off his shirt, exposing his muscularly toned chest and abs. He tossed the shirt onto a pile of sand beside his sandals then reached into the cooler on the side of the makeshift volleyball court and grabbed a blue, berry-flavored Gatorade. Dressed in his tropical print red and orange swimming shorts, he took a big swig before he sat down in the sand to take a breather while contemplating the upcoming year. The slightest drop of sweat fell from his brow, and his chest was moist with perspiration, causing him to glisten in the hot summer sun. He held the Gatorade bottle in his hand with his forearms rested on his bent knees.

“Yo, Randy!” Jim hollered. “I’m gonna grab the sunscreen out of the car. I’ll be right back.”

Randy flashed his hand in acknowledgment, and Jim headed toward the parked car. Girls all over UC Berkeley knew Randal Hanson, or Randy as all of his friends called him, and they adored him. He was charming, witty, and intelligent. At six feet tall, he was good looking, muscular, and athletically built with a firm body and broad, strong shoulders. His brown wavy hair, with bangs slightly dangling over his forehead, deep brown eyes, and sexy smile gave him the power of seduction, which always made the women swoon. He prided himself with the fact that he was a ladies’ man. He had the reputation of being romantic, and rumor had it he was an exceptional lover. Besides enticing the ladies, his undeniable boyish charm also won him many friends. Everyone he ran into seemed to like him.

While Randy gulped down his Gatorade, out of the corner of his eye something captured his undivided attention. Looking up from his drink, he caught glance of a thin, femininely curved woman with long, flowing, light brown hair. She had on very short denim shorts and a bright yellow bikini top that tied behind her neck. She was staring at him, but he didn’t mind. He was staring at her too. Then the young woman made her way toward him. She walked with a delicate, yet confident gait. Rounded hips, slender waistline, silky legs, toned muscles, sun-tanned skin—she had a perfect figure. As she got closer to him, Randy was more able to see the appealing facial features she had. Her eyes were a beautiful shade of emerald green and her full rounded lips were luscious and very kissable. She had sexy hands, soft and feminine, with her long fingernails painted in a French manicure. Her estimated C cup-sized breasts filled out her bikini top perfectly, and with those sexy feminine curves, he couldn’t keep his eyes off her.

Jim came back with a bottle of sunscreen in his hand just as this woman stood crosscourt in front of them with her hands on her hips and looked Randy straight in the eye. Randy ogled over her with a devilish grin. Jim knew that look. “Oh, Jesus. Here we go again,” he said, knowing Randy was sitting right there and could hear every word. But Jim Ryan knew his friend well. Randy was a sweet talker and knew exactly how to get what he wanted out of women. This poor girl was tempting his friend’s exceedingly hungry appetite.

Randy flashed her a friendly, charming smile.

She returned the gesture, with what Randy thought was the most beautiful smile he’d ever seen. Then, to Randy’s surprise, she offered a challenge. “You guys up for a match or what?” she asked.

She was sassy and had a bit of feistiness in her tone. Randy liked it. He stood up, put his empty bottle back in the cooler, and confidently replied, “Why, you have something to prove?”

“Maybe.” Again, she challenged him. “You game or not?”

Randy peered over at Jim, wanting his opinion. Jim shrugged, not really caring what Randy decided to do. All attention turned back to this woman, who now had a pretty blonde girl standing next to her. Randy glanced at the blonde, then drew his eyes back to the brunette. “Alright. If you think you can handle us, you’re on.”

She smiled again, picked the volleyball up from the sand, and took her side of the court with her friend. Randy stared at her butt as she walked. It was round and firm, and her tight shorts accentuated every curve of it.

Jim chuckled as he watched his friend lusting over her. “Why does this not surprise me?” he questioned in his usual smartass manner.

“What?” Randy pulled his eyes away from her.

“You know exactly what I’m talkin’ about, Bro. Two babes?”

Randy flashed that devilish grin of his. “Oh, yeah. Pretty girls in bikinis.” His head turned to the brunette again, staring in lustful delight. “Jim, do you see her?”

“Yeah, I see her.”

“She…” Randy checked her out from head to toe, “is amazingly hot. Wow,” he added, trying to contain his uncontrollable desire for this girl. “Oh, man, this is gonna be fun.”

“Should be an easy win.”

But Randy had other thoughts. He stared at the beautiful brunette with ravenous eyes. “Winning isn’t what I was thinking,” he said, raising his eyebrows lustfully.

“That’s what I’m afraid of.” Jim saw the look on Randy’s face and knew what he wanted. That’s all Randy ever wanted.

Randy confidently approached the court. “Whenever you are ready, ladies.”

And the game was on.

He intended to prolong the game as long as possible so he could watch these women in bikinis play in the sand. He took it easy on the women at first, missing the ball on purpose several times to get the score up to 14-13 with the girls in the lead. He figured he’d pour it on at the last minute.

However, despite his very careful planning, things did not go as he anticipated. Jim served the ball, and it volleyed a few times. Then, unexpectedly, this dark-haired, green-eyed, luscious-lipped, gorgeous girl jumped up and spiked the ball right at Randy’s face. Randy dove face first but landed flat on his side, throwing sand all over himself. He completely missed. In fact, the ball hit him smack in the head.

The brunette grinned smugly then turned and gave her friend a high five.

Jim strolled over to Randy, trying not to laugh. “Happy, Hotshot?”

Randy got up and dusted the sand off himself. “Damn.”

“Is that what you were thinkin’? Gettin’ wiped out by bodacious babes?”

Randy glared at him. “No.”

Jim peered over at the girls who were staring at them, giggling. “Guess you really impressed them. Nice job, Romeo.”

Randy smiled sheepishly.

Jim checked the time on his watch. “Man, I better go. Trina will go postal on my ass if I hang out here all day.”

Katrina Rogers had been Jim’s girlfriend for many years and was rather possessive of his time. She had a bit of a temper when she didn’t get her way and blamed many things on Jim, even though most of the time he had nothing to do with them. Randy hated that Trina treated Jim that way, and the sad thing was Jim did nothing about it. Randy didn’t understand why his best friend put up with that. He wouldn’t. But it was Jim’s life, so he didn’t interfere. “I’ll catch up with you on Monday,” he said to his friend.

“See you in class, Dude.” Before Jim headed to his car, he gave Randy a fist wave with his pinky and thumb sticking out, better known as the shaka sign. A shaka sign was the ultimate symbol of aloha in the local surfing culture of Hawaii. Interpreted to mean ‘hang loose’ or ‘right on’, the shaka was a constant reminder that it was not the norm to worry or rush. Although Jim was not a native of Hawaii, the shaka salute was used as a standard greeting for him.

After Jim left, Randy began to clean up. When he leaned over to pick up the ball, he heard a sweet voice behind him say, “Impressive.”

He turned around to find the brunette staring at him. “You talkin’ to me?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Nice move, but warn me the next time you try to take my head off.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I thought you looked kind of cute down in the sand like that,” she quipped, trying to hold back a laugh.

This woman was a bit of a tease and seemed to find great joy in poking fun at him. Yet, he found her bantering adorable. He returned a smile and held out his hand in greeting. “I’m Randy.”

She shook his hand. “Nice to meet you, Randy. I’m Jane.”

Turning away from her, he walked over to the pile of sand to grab his shirt.  “You’re a good player. Do you play a lot?”

“I play a little.”

He hesitated for a minute as he slipped his shirt over his head. “You live around here?”

She shook her head. “No. I’m just down here for the weekend enjoying the weather with my friends.”

“Me too.” He sat down, wiped the sand off his feet, and slipped on his sandals. “Where you from?”

“San Francisco. I’m a student at Cal.” She sat down cross-legged by the cooler and made figure eights in the sand with her finger.

“Cal Berkeley?”

“Yup.”

This sparked his interest. “I’m a student at Berkeley too. How long you been going there?”

“This is my third year. I’m an Alpha Phi.” She beamed with pride.

Randy’s eyebrows rose to this statement. “An Alpha girl, huh?”

“You have a problem with sorority girls?”

“No, not at all. I love sorority girls.” He was even more intrigued by her now, so he probed further. “What are you studying?”

“Psychology,” she answered.

He pondered this for a second. Psychology—the study of the brain, seekers of deep thoughts and feelings. Captivating topic. “Interesting,” he mused. “You’re a brain analyzer.”

She was quick to correct. “Not exactly.”

This woman was energetic, she was amazingly beautiful, she had the most incredible body Randy had ever laid eyes on, and he enjoyed carrying on a conversation with her. He found her fascinating. Even though he was interested in what she had to say, he tried to appear nonchalant by packing things into his grey athletic bag.

“What about you?” she asked curiously as she watched him.

“What about me?”

“What is your major?”

Uh oh. There it was. The question Randy hated women to ask him. The question he always hesitated to answer when they did ask. Every woman that ever asked him that tried to get him to commit to something serious. Even though he loved the attention this gave him, the prospect of having to settle with one woman made him want to run away screaming. He thoroughly enjoyed the company of women, but avoided love, relationships, and commitment of any kind at all costs. He liked having women around at his convenience, when it served his purposes. He was dedicated and hard-working and would let nothing, especially a woman, stand in the way of accomplishing his goals.

There was no doubt he was proud of the education he was receiving at University of California, Berkeley. Throughout his five years at Cal, he had taken pre-med classes as an undergrad while he worked toward his Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health. He graduated summa cum laude. He continued his 4.0 grade point average throughout his first year of medical school. Now, excited and ambitious as ever, he was ready to begin his second year. However, medical school and relationships did not mix, in his opinion.

After some thought, he decided to tell her the truth. “I’m a medical student.”

This girl’s reaction was different than any other he had ever encountered. She didn’t seem that interested in what he did and didn’t give him the flirty eye he usually received when a woman found out he was studying medicine. She simply said, “Oh, I see how it is. You call me a brain analyzer when all along you are a brain dissector. Wow, there’s a combination. Think of the damage we could do.”

This comment made him laugh. Randy was awestruck by this woman—this beautiful, witty woman with an attitude unlike any he had ever witnessed.

She curled her lip in disgust. “You don’t dissect dead bodies and rip apart tissues and stuff like that, do you?”

“They’re called cadavers, and no, I don’t rip apart tissues. We analyze them, examine them. It takes a very steady and gentle hand to…”

Her mind momentarily drifted. “Mmm, chicken,” she blurted out. “I’m hungry. Are you hungry?”

Where did that random comment come from? How did this conversation turn from tissue ripping to food? He raised one eyebrow. “What?”

“Aren’t you hungry?” She stood up and dusted the sand off her legs. “I don’t know about you, but playing volleyball in the heat makes me hungry, and chicken sounds really good.”

Ok. Maybe he was hungry. Chicken actually did sound good. Her mind was drifty; she was spontaneous and fun, and he loved it. The more this woman spoke, the more enthralled by her he became. Every word that came out of her pretty mouth intrigued him.

Just then they heard, “JANE!” She pivoted her head to find her friends signaling her to join them. “Let’s go!”

“I’m coming!” She turned to Randy and said, “I have to go.”

“I heard,” he replied. “Maybe I’ll see you on campus sometime.”

“Maybe.” She stared at him for a minute before she said, “It was nice meeting you, Randy.”

“You too, Jane.”

She flashed a beautiful smile then waved at him and ran to join her friends.

He laughed under his breath. Where did she come from? Even though it had no intellectual content whatsoever, he found their conversation more stimulating than any he’d had in a while. What a fascinating girl. Beautiful, fun-loving, sexy, conversation that held his attention, which wasn’t easy to do, and the most amazing smile he had ever seen. He would definitely have to track her down. As he packed up his car to head back to Berkeley, he whistled a cheery tune.