An emotional new standalone novel is out now from author Emma Scott, and I have an excerpt for you.
“Do you play an instrument too?”
She gave my arm a nudge. “Not really usually means yes, but you don’t want anyone to know.”
What difference does it make if you tell her? In about three minutes, she won’t remember anyway.
“I play guitar,” I said. “And I sing a little.” The words flew out before I could catch them back.
Thea stopped walking. “You sing?”
“A little,” I said. Fuck.
“You sing and you play rock music on the guitar. Good grief, Jimmy. You have to know how hot that is, right?”
I coughed. “N-n-no…”
She cocked her head. “Am I making you nervous?”
Inhale. Exhale. Hell, I told her before.
“I have a stutter. It was worse when I was younger. A teacher told me singing can help.”
Thea nodded, then her smile returned. “I’d love to hear you sing.”
I hadn’t sung in front of anyone. Ever.
“No one’s around for miles,” she said. “And it’s so quiet. Please?”
“I don’t have my guitar.”
“A cappella works for me,” she said.
My stomach tightened and my palms got sweaty. “I don’t think so.”
“Are you sure? Because—”
Thea flinched and looked away. I cursed myself, aware of the sheer volume of trust Thea had to place in everyone around her—whether she knew it or not. Except for her sister, everyone in Thea’s life was a stranger.
“Sorry,” I said. “Didn’t m-m-mean to bite your head off.”
“No, it’s my bad. Delia’s always telling me I’m pushy as hell. Guess she’s right.” She slugged my arm half-heartedly. “You’re off the hook. I just feel like…”
“Like it’s so quiet. All the time. Always. I know that doesn’t make sense. Not even to me…”
Just fucking sing for her. Make her happy. Her reset is coming. She won’t remember.
I dreaded singing out loud, but I dreaded the reset more. How it would tear down everything we built. Another introduction. Another request to call me Jimmy. But in these few minutes, she’d have what she wanted. A change from her endless cycles of sameness.
It wasn’t about me anyway. If she really was aware of her situation, deep down, the very fucking least I could do for her was anything she wanted.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll sing.”
“Really?” Thea’s face lit up. “I am so ready.”
“Let’s walk. I can’t do it with you staring at me.”
We began to walk. Years of taunting and bullying nearly changed my mind, but before I could think about it, I began to sing “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” low and rough. A slowed-down a cappella rendering as we walked the silent grounds.
I sang of a woman’s blue eyes that thought of rain, her smile, and the beauty of her face that could make me cry if I stared too long. I lost myself in the words, inhibitions falling away with every syllable because I was singing to Thea. I was singing about Thea and it was the easiest thing in the world…
“Are you kidding me?” Her hand clutched my arm, cutting me off.
Shit. Here it is. The reset.
But gazing up at me, those crystal blue eyes were only full of wonder, awe and—God help me—want.
“You’re so good.” She yanked up the sleeve of her shirt. “It’s a million degrees out but I have goose bumps. Look.”
Her pale, perfect skin was raised in gooseflesh.
“You have a beautiful voice,” she said. “Rough and deep and… sexy.”
I swallowed. Jesus, I wanted to kiss her. Her cheeks were dusted pink, and the sun glinted on her hair. I wanted to bury my hand in it, haul her to me and kiss her. Feel her smile against mine and taste the sweetness of her mouth.
“And you play guitar too?”
She gave herself a little shake and her eyes filled with the desperation I’d seen the other day. “God, if only…”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I feel so comfortable with you. It doesn’t make sense. We don’t know each other. You’re the first person I’ve seen since I came back.”
“Whatever happens, Jimmy, please don’t stop singing to me. Okay?”
I swallowed hard. “What do you think is going to happen?”
“I might go away again,” she said, her voice strangely hollow. She put her hand in mine. “I don’t want to go away again.”
I gripped her fingers hard. “I don’t want you to either.”
Now her eyes filled with tears and she moved closer to me. “Jimmy,” she began, but the rest of the sentence was lost forever. Time was up. Our five minutes was over.
I watched myself disappear in her eyes, then reappear as she glanced around.
“Who… ?” She pulled her hand out of mine and took a step back, brows furrowed.
Remember me, Thea. Please.
Her gaze dropped to my nametag. “Jim?”
I nodded, my breath held tight.
“How long has it been?”
I exhaled all my stupid, baseless hope.
“Two years, Miss Hughes,” I said.
Two years and five minutes.