This week I warmly welcome author Shannon Thompson, with an extract of her book Minutes Before Sunset, which was awarded Goodreads book of the month in July 2013.
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“She didn’t look too happy,” Eric spoke suddenly, breaking our silence.
I turned my eyes away from the road. “I think the teacher loved our project.”
“I meant Crystal.”
My brow furrowed, and I fought desperately to remain silent, but I couldn’t. “She’s not sure about you, Eric.”
“I know,” he said, completely unfazed. “I heard.”
My stomach sank. “You eavesdropped?” But how?He wasn’t even in the room when we were talking about him. Yet I believed him. His tone was too serious.
He nodded, his lips twisting into a grin. “One of my many hobbies.”
“Not many people would consider that a hobby.”
“Fair enough,” he laughed. “It’s one of my many talents.”
I glared at his sarcasm. “What are your other talents?”
His green eyes lit up, but they remained on the road. “That’s not fair, Jessica,” he said. “I’ve told you one of mine; you should tell me one of yours.”
My stomach twisted. He wanted to know more about me. “Fine,” I began hesitantly, wondering what he was thinking. “I’m good at telling if people are lying or not.”
I nodded. “You don’t believe me?”
His shoulders dropped. “Care to test your talent?” he asked, barely speaking, and I tensed.
“Go for it,” I dared, and he tapped his steering wheel.
“My favorite color is silver, I’m seventeen, and I wish I was still a kid.”
I watched his face, but his expression never changed. His eyes never flickered, his throat never tensed, his hands hardly moved. He was impossible to read. His solid expression suggested one thing: all truth or all lies. And he couldn’t be telling the truth. “They’re all lies,” I said.
He shook his head, and his brown hair shifted along his brow. “None of them are.”
I swallowed. Hadn’t his childhood been horrible?I didn’t understand.
“It’s not much of a talent if you’re not good at it,” he said, returning to his cynical self.
“I’m good at it,” I argued, tightening my hold on my bag. “You’re just intimidating.” The words left me before I knew them.
He smiled. “Intimidating?” he asked. “I’ve never heard that one before.”
My jaw dropped. “You must be joking.”
“Lying actually,” he said, barely glancing over. He illuminated. “Another one of my talents—which, by the way, you didn’t catch. Again.”
My teeth grinded. “I can do it.”
“I’m sure,” he chuckled as he turned the steering wheel, missing the shortest route to my house. Did he do that on purpose?“I believe this means you owe me two of your talents.”
I bit my lip, positive he was two steps ahead of me. Arguing with him was not only impossible, it was a trap. I turned away and glared out the window, wishing he hadn’t missed the side street.
“You look mad,” he said, quieter this time.
I wouldn’t look at him. “I am.”
“Because I don’t get you,” I admitted. “I have no idea why you’re acting this way, and it makes me feel like I don’t know you.”
“I didn’t realize you wanted to know me,” he said, and I turned around, meeting his eyes momentarily. They were dark, shadowed by an expression I hadn’t seen before.
“Why wouldn’t I?” I asked, feeling heat crawl over my neck. “We’ve already spent a lot of time together.”
“For a project that’s completed, Jessica,” he said, and he shook his head, driving silently through my neighborhood. I waited for him to speak, but he didn’t, and, soon, we were at the end of my driveway. Eric shoved his gears into park, and I reached for the door, but he locked it.
“Why are you so interested in my life?” he asked, and my heart pounded. I didn’t say anything, and his eyes met mine, filled with an intensity that made me shudder. “It’s not that great.”
“I know,” I managed. My voice was shaking.
His face reddened. “But you ask questions.”
“And you answer them.”
His mouth opened, but then it snapped shut. He sighed, turned away, and grabbed his steering wheel as if he were driving again. We remained park. “I’m Eric James Welborn,” he stated, his voice wavering into an awkwardness I’d never heard from his normally confident and cocky attitude.
James? His middle name felt personal—like he had opened up a side to him he’d forgotten about. But I didn’t feel intrusive. I felt comforted, like I already knew the answer before he’d spoken it. But I hadn’t.
“Your name doesn’t tell me who you are,” I said, surprised by my fluidity.
He barely smiled. “Maybe I like it that way.”
His head dropped, and he ran a hand through his hair. “You don’t always get what you want, Jessica.”
“Most of the time, you do,” I debated stubbornly, knowing my desperation was evident. I didn’t even believe my words.
His face scrunched, and he peered at me through his hair. “I don’t know what world you come from, but I can’t relate.”
“What do you mean?” What did he want that he couldn’t have?I wanted to know.
His lips thinned. “That’s a different story for another time.”
“A different story or a different lie?”
“I don’t know.” He smirked. “Use your talent and tell me.” His eyes darted behind me, and he straightened up. “I think your mother wants you inside,” he said, and I spun my torso.
My mother was leaning out an upstairs window, waving her hands wildly. “Jessie!” Her shout broke the barriers of the car, and my entire body tensed.
Eric chuckled beneath his breath. “Jessie?” he asked.
“Don’t,” I said, raising my hand to him as I grabbed the handle with my free one. He unlocked it before I even remembered to check, and I opened it, stepping out. “Thanks for the ride.”
“Thanks for the conversation,” he said. “See you later, Jessica.”
“Bye,” I said, shutting the door to our conversation and my embarrassment. He drove away, and I watched his black car zip through the street. What had gotten into me? I didn’t know, but I hated to admit the truth: I liked it, and I hoped he meant his words.
I wanted to see him again.
Minutes before Sunset can be purchased from Amazon.
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