May 22, 2015
We are so thrilled to be able to share Chapter 3 of
Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry!
I am so excited for this book. I love everything Katie has written, and I’m positive this one will not disappoint.
You can check out chapters 1 and 2 at:
An unforgettable new series from acclaimed author Katie McGarry about taking risks, opening your heart and ending up in a place you never imagined possible.
Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she’s curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn’t mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.
Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They’re the good guys. They protect people. They’re…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club’s most respected member—is in town, he’s gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it’s his shot at his dream. What he doesn’t count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.
No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.
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I’ll admit it. I’m freaked.
Freaked that the flight from Florida to Kentucky was nothing more than a turbulence-ridden nightmare. Freaked that the man beside me on the plane puked three times. Freaked that June in Kentucky means severe storms. Freaked because I’m sweating through my favorite black dress and it’s dry-clean only. Freaked because I’ve been in this poor excuse for a cab for over an hour, with no air-conditioning and a driver who refuses to speak. Or maybe he’s mute.
Or maybe he murdered the real cab driver, picked me and my parents up at the airport, and is taking us to our final destination before he chops us into Kibbles ’n Bits. Maybe…but probably not. We entered the small town of Snowflake a few minutes ago and if this guy was a mass murderer bent on a little fun, he’d find somewhere more original than here.
“Did you say Richard’s Funeral Home?” the cab driver asks. Wow, the man talked.
“Yes,” Dad answers. We flew into Louisville in order to be relatively close to Snowflake. The rental-car company botched our reservation and paid for the taxi.
The cab driver eases into the left turn lane and stops at the red light. Blood pounds at my temples in the rhythm of the car’s blinker when I spot the funeral home. It’s no different than the ones at home in Florida, except this one is surrounded by oak trees instead of palms and is one stiff breeze away from being condemned.
“You’ll be okay.” Dad squeezes my hand and I wrap my fingers around his before he can withdraw. “Keep breathing and try not to overanalyze it.”
Easy for him to say. “Did you get a hold of Eli?”
“No, I’m still going straight to voicemail.” Dad probably has to force the patience into his voice. It’s the fiftieth time I’ve asked since we disembarked the plane. Eli must have powered off his phone. Dad attempted to contact him, but I don’t blame Eli for not answering. I’d be devastated if my mom died.
Dad offers me a reassuring smile. “Eli will be thrilled to see you.”
I release a sigh…. “What do I say when he asks about Mom?”
Dad’s smile fades and he lets go of my hand to readjust the watch on his wrist. “Tell them that your mother is sorry for their loss, but that she isn’t feeling well. She’ll try to attend later if she’s feeling better.”
Mom morphed into an unnatural shade of blue when she spiraled into a panic attack the moment we left the airport. Dad decided, since the viewing ends at eight this evening, that he and I would pay our respects first. Then if, after a rest, Mom was able to walk and breathe at the same time, he would go with her again.
Mom protested, but Dad, with his smooth doctor way, won. So she’s holed up at the sole motel in this dump of a town and I’m heading to a funeral home. I tried to throw myself into a panic attack in order to get out of this hellish event, but evidently holding my breath on purpose doesn’t count.
The light changes, the driver makes the turn, and I press a hand to my stomach. Oh, God. Dad has way too much faith in me.
The cab driver pulls into the funeral home, but is stuck behind two cars. Neither car shows signs of moving as they chat to the people on the sidewalk. The driver taps his fingers on the steering wheel in a ticked-off thump. I totally understand the feeling.
“My daughter and I will get out here,” Dad announces.
The cab driver assesses a group of men standing in a semi-circle outside the entrance. “You sure?”
“It’s not a long walk,” Dad answers.
I open the door and the driver freaks. “Are you sure this is where you want to be?”
Dad maintains his superhero calm. “Yes.”
“Snowflake’s not exactly Disney World.” The driver waves his hand toward the men. If Dad won’t listen to me, maybe he’ll listen to our now talking driver.
I lean so I have a better look at the men standing around. They all have Eli’s style: redneck with a hint of grunge. Sort of like if Linkin Park fashioned their own clothing line inspired by L.L.Bean: jeans and T-shirts covered by flannel shirts. Some wear blue University of Kentucky baseball hats—just like Eli. A couple even have his…well, my dark brown hair.
What probably messes with the driver is that almost every man here sports over their T-shirts or flannels a black leather biker vest with the words “Reign of Terror” in white lettering. On the back of each vest is a large white half skull with red flames raining down. Fire blazes out of the eye sockets. I bet the guys who designed the emblem pat themselves on the back for the play on words.
“This is not a place for a young girl,” the driver exclaims.
He’s off on the young part. I just turned seventeen. And despite my previous hopes, Dad doesn’t share the cab driver’s, or my, assessment of the situation. “We’ll be fine. Right, Em?”
The driver rotates in his seat, reminding me of a possessed person in one of those horror movies. “Those are bikers.”
In his dark suit, deep blue tie and clean-cut blond hair, my father could be a model on the cover of a business magazine. He screams competence and authority and all that’s good in the world. So the next words cause the driver’s mouth to slacken. “My daughter is a relative.”
While the driver continues to gape in disbelief, I inwardly cringe. related to . More specifically, I’m most likely related to the men with the patch on the front of their vests stating “Mother Chapter.” Which, according to Eli, means the founding chapter of their club.
I’m a relative by blood and blood alone. We are not family in the ways that really matter. I may share genetic code with the people inside the building, but that’s where our relationship ends.
Dad and I climb out and the cab backs up, leaving us alone. Well, sort of alone. The side entrance of the funeral home opens and a woman with dark hair hurries out with a toddler on her hip. The baby’s hacking the type of deep coughs that cause chills to run down my spine.
Without missing a beat, Dad starts toward them and I follow. The woman sets the blond girl with pigtails on the ground and the little thing is a combination of red face, tears and coughs. The woman rummages through her oversized purse, tossing receipts and pens and other crap onto the ground.
“Excuse me,” broaches Dad. “Can I help? I’m a pediatrician.”
The woman’s head jerks up and her eyes have a wild spark. “I can’t find my phone. I need my phone. I can’t get her to take the medicine. I can’t get her to take this.”
She shoves an inhaler into my father’s hand and he reads the prescription. “Asthma?”
The woman nods profusely. “Yes. We have that machine at home with the mask and that works, but this was for emergencies, and she won’t use it.”
Dad gestures to the child, who is now hacking out more air than she’s taking in. “May I?”
“Yes. Please. Help us.”
Dad kneels next to the toddler. With a few calm words and an expression that makes every toddler relax, he has the inhaler in the child’s mouth. It’s not working exactly like it should. I mean, the child is young and doesn’t suck in as much as she needs, but with Dad’s help, she’s inhaling some of the medicine and, more important, she’s no longer crying, but breathing.
The woman strokes the child’s hair as Dad continues to talk to both of them in his calm voice. He peers over his shoulder at me and my chest tightens. “Emily, I want to stay with them. Why don’t you go in, find Eli and pay your respects, and I’ll be in shortly to pay mine.”
I fidget with the purse in my hand, clasping and unclasping the magnetic strip that keeps it closed. Um…no? “I can wait.”
Dad inhales deeply and the disappointment is clear on his face. “Five minutes. That’s it. Find Eli, say hi, tell him we’re sorry for his loss, and then we’ll return to the hotel, get your mother and go out to lunch.”
It’s dawning on me that Dad doesn’t want to be here any more than I do and that he’s ready to return to Mom. His words from yesterday as he was trying to explain why he was allowing us to take this hellish trip float in my head: it’s our job to support Mom.
Got it. This is the first time Mom has visited her childhood state in over seventeen years. If we check the “we attended” box then life can return to normal.
Dad excuses himself and walks over to me. “Sorry for snapping, Em. It’s been a rough morning. Go in and pay our respects, and I’ll be in shortly. And so you know, it’s okay if you want to stay longer and talk to Eli.”
Yeah, not going to happen. I pivot away from Dad, tug at the hem of my black dress to confirm nothing rides up and start for the entrance with my purse in hand. I whisper to myself, “No worries.” Even though I have a ton.
As I step closer to the entrance, I hear several conversations at once and someone always seems to be laughing.
“…nothing larger than a 10-gauge…”
“…take a Ford over that foreign crap any day…”
Everyone stops talking and stares at me. Great. I meet the eyes of the guy that called me out. He’s part of the group, yet not. He doesn’t wear a leather vest like everyone else, but somehow he appears just as dangerous.
The guy leans against the corner of the brick building as if he doesn’t have a care in the world. He’s around my age, has black hair, is definitely ripped and he has suck-me-in blue eyes that wander over my body like he’s seeing me with my clothes off.
I cross an arm over myself and his lips edge up in response. My mom’s warned me about bad boys and I trust that she understands the world here better than I do.
I appraise my black high heels. Nice, they’re scuffed already. “I’m looking for Eli McKinley.”
Smoke rushes out of the mouth of the older man standing beside the guy my age. I’d wager he’s in his sixties and he scares the hell out of me. Well…everyone here frightens me, but him more. While the style here is stepped-out-of-a-trailer-park, he maintains the cliché of 100% pure biker thanks to his black bandanna, black leather vest and gray beard with matching ponytail. I attempt to ignore that his patch states “Mother Chapter” and “President.”
He keeps eye contact while taking a drag off his cigarette. “Eli’s inside.”
They continue their conversation and I open the door then steal a glimpse over my shoulder. The older man angles his head and his mouth moves as he mumbles something to the guy my age. The guy nods and pushes off the wall. Not wanting to be caught spying, I slip inside and the moment the door shuts behind me, I freeze.
Let’s get one thing straight. I hate funeral homes. Hate. I hate the smell of them. I hate the look of them. I hate the thought of them. Hate. And what I hate more than funeral homes are dead things. Dead bugs. Dead dried-up worms on the sidewalk. Roadkill. And since that ill-fated stroll in the woods at the age of eight when I fell into a hole and spent the night with a corpse, I hate dead people’s bodies.
I force myself forward on the red velvet industrial carpeting of this outdated house of death and rethink this entire situation. Badly painted landscapes hang every few feet over the black-and-white peeling wallpaper. My muscles twitch as if a million spiders crawl over my skin. And the smell! I cup my hand over my nose to smell something other than tragically scented potpourri and wilting lilies.
Thankfully, there’s only one viewing room, which means only one dead person to avoid. The fine hairs on my neck prickle as if eyes are trained on me. I glance back and my heart stutters when I spot black hair and a dangerous grin. The guy who called me out hangs near the door and he’s watching me. His jeans ride a little low. Low enough that his boxers peek out and it’s hard to tear my eyes away, but I do.
Not eager for anyone to touch me, I tuck myself in tight as I duck through the crowded hallway. If anyone runs into me, I’ll recall being eight and enclosed and the feel of cold skin, and me spazzing out is not part of the plan.
“…playing at the bar tonight. Plan on taking the girl…”
“…hit that hard…”
“…and she said I don’t want that trash on my property and I said I ain’t trash, bitch…”
Trash bitch woman wears skintight jeans, a tank top that exposes her midriff and, holy mother of God, flip-flops. She steps back and nearly knocks into me. I sidestep her, but I collide with someone else.
Cold skin with black markings grazes my arm and my heart lodges in my throat. I flinch and suck in a sharp breath while twisting my feet. I stumble back, completely off-balance, and my arms flail in a poor attempt to stay upright.
A warm hand grips my elbow and halts me from ramming into anyone else. My head snaps up and I’m greeted by dark blue eyes. The guy who was watching me is now touching me. Yes, he’s pretty, but bad things come in gorgeous packages—at least that’s what Mom says.
“You okay?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I whisper and immediately return my attention to the guy I crashed into. He’s not dead. He’s very much alive and he’s taking a swig from a beer. Wait. A beer? My gaze switches from him to the bottle.
“Would you like one?” He motions to a cooler full of ice on the floor.
I shake my head. Major WTF.
Black hair guy releases me and motions with his chin to the left. “Eli’s in the viewing room.”
Viewing room. Right. I mumble a thank-you, but he doesn’t notice as he’s bumping fists and accepting a beer from the guy with the tattoos.
The viewing room is beyond crowded. Like the-fire-marshal-should-be-notified crowded, which means it will be difficult to find Eli. People laugh, shout and talk as if they’re attending a pep rally instead of a funeral.
I rise to my tiptoes and clutch my purse. I haven’t seen him in a couple of months, but Eli always looks the same: dark brown hair cut short, plugs in both ears, T-shirt, jeans and a smile that, for some insane reason, can make me smile.
My stomach sinks like the as I catch sight of him. Just no…why-does-it-have-to-be-so-difficult no. His back is to me, but I know it’s Eli. A tattoo of stars runs the length of his arm. Like most of the other men here, he wears the black leather vest. And of course he stands next to the one spot I want nothing to do with—the casket.
Reminding myself that I’m here for Mom, I squeeze through the mob. Eli stares at the body. The body I’m trying desperately to avoid, but it’s kind of hard to so I focus on my biological father.
He doesn’t seem to be upset. He’s not crying or anything, but it’s not really Eli, either. His hands rest in his jeans pockets and his typical grin doesn’t grace his face. He appears…thoughtful.
Until he does something that makes me shiver. He touches her. The dead body. My grandmother. The one I’ve never met. Eli gently readjusts the blue scarf covering her hair, or where her hair would have been. Oh, God…cancer.
What’s odd—other than that he’s willingly touching a dead person—is that the casket is open. Completely open. Legs and all. Weird. Very weird. Now that I’m looking, I take a deep breath and permit myself to study the woman that brought me to the outskirts of nowhere.
My grandmother is dressed in blue jeans and a white silk sleeveless top. A sad rush of air escapes my lips. She’s young. A lot younger than I expected. Why this surprises me, I have no idea. Mom and Eli were young when they conceived me. Teenagers still in high school.
I hurt for Eli. I’ve never lost someone I was close to. He must have loved her and she’s dead. Gone. I’d die if I lost Grandma or Gramps or Mom or Dad. “I’m so sorry.”
His head whirls in my direction and my dark eyes stare back at me. “Emily?”
Yeah, I forgot. This visit is unexpected because he didn’t answer his phone. “Hi.”
He’ll say “how are you,” I’ll say “fine,” and we’ll be done with conversation for the year.
Eli flicks out his arm, pulls me closer to the casket and him, lifts me off the floor and hugs the air out of me. “How did you know? What about school? Does Meg know you’re here?”
Wow. A lot of questions in a short timespan. He kisses the side of my head and shakes me from side to side like a rag doll. My leg bumps into the side of the coffin and I swallow a dry heave. “Um. Dad, it’s over, and duh.”
“What?” he asks, still hugging and shaking me.
I pat his shoulder and my nonverbal put-me-down works. The moment my feet hit the ground, his hands go to my shoulders as if the only way to confirm I’m here is by physical contact.
“You sent Dad the obituary, school’s done, and I wouldn’t go anywhere without telling Mom.”
“You have no idea how much this means to me,” he says. His head jerks back and he squints. “Did you say obituary?”
“It means a lot to me, too,” says a woman’s voice to my side.
I scream. And scream again. And it doesn’t stop. I can’t make it stop. It’s one long, agonizing scream, and I’m tripping over myself to get away. It’s not just hysterics. It’s my mind ripping in two. Into pieces. Multiple pieces. It’s my worst nightmare.
The dead woman. She’s sitting up and blinking and the scream stops for a moment as my body forces in air and the next sound is a sob. I must have hit a wall, because I can’t go back any farther and I need to get back. I need to get away and run. Run as far as I can.
But I can’t move to the side, either. I’m trapped! Now it’s getting out of the coffin. One leg after another. It’s climbing out and moving in my direction. Hands out. Head swaying from side to side and it’s saying something, but I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want it to touch me.
“No!” It’s the first word I can articulate, but it’s hoarse and slurred through the sobs.
“It’s okay.” It’s Eli. He’s behind me and I realize I’m not against a wall. Eli’s arms have locked me against him. “She’s not dead, Emily. She’s not dead. Stay back, Mom.”
Two feet from me, it halts its advance. The arms slowly drop to its sides. “I’m sorry. I thought you knew.”
I’m struggling, though I didn’t know it until now. A monster wouldn’t sound so nice and feminine. I press back against Eli, not trusting what I’m seeing. His arms hold me—a reassuring hug to confirm he’s on my side. It glances behind me to Eli.
“Emily,” says Eli, “this is your grandmother, Olivia. Mom, this is Emily.”
I suck up the snot in my nose, but I can’t end the tears. They’ll keep coming until I can understand that my mind is still intact. She smiles and it reminds me of Eli’s smile, but hers is a little hesitant. “Let’s take this somewhere a little more private.”
I clutch Eli’s hand and a blast of heat races along my body. She stares at me. I stare at her and as I attempt to respond, dizziness disorients me, and warmth rushes from my toes to my head. My mouth opens and the pathetic breakfast I ate on the plane lands squarely on Olivia’s shoes.