Authors: Kelly Harper
Ruined By You
RUINED BY YOU copyright 2013 by Kelly Harper
RUINED BY YOU is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental. All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author, Kelly Harper
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Table of Contents
Ruined By You
Can one summer change your life?
Maggie Simpson has one summer left before college starts. And the last place she wants to spend it is in Green Falls, TX with her mother’s family. She was annoyed when her mother announced the change of plans at the last moment, but as she reconnects with her cousin Sarah, she realizes a summer away might be exactly what she needs.
Maggie decides to find a summer job to keep herself occupied, and to help pay for college. She is ecstatic when Scottie gives her a job at a local watering hole, The Hill Country Saloon, to find a band to headline the annual Battle of the Bands competition.
One night, Maggie meets sexy and mysterious Haden, and he agrees to help her find a band for the competition. As Maggie and Haden work side by side, secrets are unleashed that make Maggie question everything she thought she knew about Haden, and the reason for her summer in Green Falls.
Secrets, so powerful, that her life may never be the same.
(New Adult Contemporary) **Mature Content** Recommended for ages 17+ due to sexual situations and language.
Ruined By You is special to me for a few reasons. This is the first novel I’ve written that draws significantly on my personal experiences over the last ten years. Don’t mistake me, it’s all fiction. But, there’s a lot of me in here.
As you’ll discover with Maggie and Haden, you’re defined by both the good and the bad. So, I’d like to dedicate this to anyone that’s brought me happiness, sadness, or anything in between.
I hope you enjoy.
Mileage signs mocked me each time they passed. At first, there had just been a few. But soon, it was every one. Some of them crept up fast, and some of them take their time. Some of them like to hide from me, and some of them just plain lied. I’d given up. I’d raised the white flag. I just wanted some peace.
I wanted to stretch my legs. I wanted to eat at a table instead of in my lap. I wanted to sleep on something other than a hard, vibrating window.
Were these creature comforts too much to ask for?
“We’re almost there,” Mom said. She watched the road with a giddy smile on her face.
you’re not telling me,” I said.
“I told you, everything’s fine,” she said. She shrugged. “We don’t need some big reason to come visit family.”
I rolled my eyes. I was getting nowhere with her. It was the same discussion, every time.
“I hope you’re not dragging me across the country in hopes that I won’t go to State next year,” I said.
I rested my head against the pillow, again.
My mom let out a low groan. “I
you want to go to State next year,” she said.
to State,” I corrected.
“I don’t know why you’d want to,” she said. “You don’t know anyone in the city, and it’s so big. You’ll get lost.”
“I’ll get a map,” I said.
She sighed, keeping her eyes focused on the road.
The interstate coasted along, wrapping in and around the gentle slopes of the Texas Hill Country. Slowly, the trees gave way to buildings, and we found ourselves on the outskirts of Green Falls. It wasn’t long before the car slowed, and Mom took an exit. I let out a long yawn and sat up.
“We’d better get some gas,” she said. “It’s still a drive before we get to your aunt’s house.”
A Mom & Pop gas station was just off the highway, and Mom slid the car up to one of the pumps. We had our gas stop routine down to a science. I stretched my legs and gathered trash that had built up since our last stop. I wasn’t sure where all the trash was coming from. It just seemed to keep appearing, and I kept taking it out.
A wooden sign hung outside the door with the word “Welcome” carved into it. The homely decor within made me smile. A man stood behind the counter, and I sensed someone else lingering in the back aisle near the soft drinks.
“Do you have a restroom?” I asked the man behind the counter. He was older with leathery, tanned, skin. He grunted at me and pointed toward the back.
I thanked him and walked to the back. The restroom was cleaner than expected - the first good thing to happen all day. Afterward, I washed my hands and made my way back out to the car. Mom smiled at me as I took over pumping the gas so she could run inside. I locked the handle in the automatic position, leaned against the car. The fuel meter ticked upward at an impossibly slow rate. It had been a long time since I’d been in Green Falls—maybe that was just the pace of things. It wasn’t anything like Jersey, that’s for sure.
A car pulled up on the other side of the gas pump. A guy climbed out and started pumping gas. I couldn’t see him well at first, but after a moment he stepped from around the other side of the gas pump and, seeing me standing there, smiled.
“Hi,” he said, flashing a perfect smile. “Do you know how far it is to Green Falls?”
I stared at him for a long moment before I realized he’d asked me a question. I shook my head, my eyes still wide despite my best efforts.
“Sorry, no,” I said. I didn’t trust myself to say any more.
He flashed another smile and he glanced over his shoulder back at the highway. His long brown hair fluttered, lightly when he looked back. It would have come down to his shoulders if his neck weren’t so long. He was wearing a tight gray shirt, and his arms were covered in tattoos down to his wrists. He looked like he was a few years older than me, and he had a lean, muscular frame. But one thing stood out above all others. His eyes burned a bright emerald green. I was drawn to them like a moth to a flame. I’d only seen those intense fires in one other person.
“Me too,” he said. “Just passing through and thought I’d stop.”
An awkward silence passed between us.
Say something. Talk to him.
I smiled, trying to make it cute and sexy, but it probably came off as desperate. He moved his mouth, as though to say something, but he never got the chance.
“Maggie,” a voice called out, sharply. “It’s time to go.”
I glanced over. Mom was standing a few steps away at the front of the car. Her eyes were narrowed, staring between the two of us. Heat rushed to my cheeks as I stared at her, disbelievingly.
Does she even realize what she’s doing?
“Let’s go,” she said, turning back to me before I could say anything. She climbed into the car and I jumped as the door slammed. “Let’s go,” she yelled, from within.
I turned back to the mystery man.
“Sorry about that,” I said, squirming my hands toward the door handle. “It looks like I have to go.”
“Looks like it,” he agreed.
My hand found the latch, and I managed to get the door open on the second tug. I gave him an awkward smile.
“You might want to finish that,” he said. I frowned, not realizing what he was talking about.
Then I saw it. The gas pump was still hanging from the tank on the car.
I cursed myself and finished pumping it as fast as I could. I twisted the nozzle tight on the tank, and returned the pump to its place. I spun around and realized he’d already returned to his own car, and he wasn’t paying attention, anymore.
Well, you blew that one.
Mom yelled, again.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” I said and climbed into the car.
Mom didn’t take any chances, once I’d sat down. She sped off before I’d even had the door all the way shut, and before I knew it, the gas station was fading away in the rear-view mirror.
“Way to embarrass me, Mom,” I said, turning on her.
“Who was that?” she asked, her tone betraying her contempt.
“He was just asking how far Green Falls was,” I said. “You didn’t have to go all psycho on us.”
“You have to be careful around boys like that,” she said. “You know they’re only after one thing.”
“I know, Mom,” I said. “If I just don’t trust any of them, everything should be fine.”
She looked at me, her eyes narrowing. “This is no joke, Maggie. You have to protect yourself.”
“You know I’m always careful,” I said.
Probably too careful
“Still,” she said. “You can just never tell these days. The good ones and bad ones all look the same.”
We drove the rest of the way in silence. I closed my eyes and leaned my head back, but I couldn’t shake how he’d smiled at me. His whole face had shown bright. But, nothing was so bright as those eyes. There was only one other set of eyes I’d ever seen that were that bright.
* * * * *
“Where are we?” I asked, looking around, curiously, as Mom pulled into the driveway of a familiar looking house.
The front yard was massive, and the long driveway curved from the street around to the front of the house where it led all the way to the front door and continued on to the street again. It reminded me of the drive-through at a fast food place. A brick porch extended out from the front door to the other side of the driveway, like you’d see at a fancy hotel with valet parking, and a shiny Corvette sat beneath the porch—its white paint glistened with the midday sun.
On the side of the house, there was a detached garage with a couple cars parked outside. A small gate connected the garage to the main house, and I could see another building sitting behind the garage. The lawn was well cared for, and small bushes bloomed their flowers along the base of the brick house.
“I barely recognize it, either,” Mom said. “This is your aunt’s house. Grandma’s been living with them for about six months, now.”
Memories clicked into place when I thought of my aunt. Instantly, I was able to reconcile my memory of the house with what I saw in front of me.
“It looks so different,” I said.
Mom laughed. “I think Uncle Larry only works so hard so he can afford Aunt Denise’s constant remodeling,” she said.
It suddenly struck me just how long it had been since my last visit. The detached garage used to be a small guesthouse. And where the garage had been was now part of the house. The driveway had never wrapped around the front of the house, and there certainly hadn’t been another building sitting in the backyard.
“What’s back there?” I asked, pointing behind the fence.
“That’s the house they built for Grandma,” Mom said.
My eyes widened. “They had space for another house back there?”
Her mouth quirked to the side, and she nodded.
We pulled in behind one of the cars nearest the garage. As I climbed out of the car, the gate creaked open and a girl came sprinting out. She had long flowing brown hair, and even longer legs. She crashed into me with a massive hug.
“Oh my God, Maggie, it’s been so long,” Sarah said. She squeezed me tightly, and I returned the hug.