Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Louder Than Words Excerpt + Giveaway

"A Painful Game of UNO"

A game of Uno is the perfect antidote to pent-up frustration, and soon I have three other children gathered around a card table in a take-no-prisoners game, which is shockingly cutthroat for six-year-olds. We're loud and boisterous, and my mood lightens. Soon, we've attracted a few observers. I offer my hand and seat to Carlton, taking a spot behind him to offer a few strategy tips.

That's when I first notice the bruises rising slightly above the neckline of his shirt. My eyes drop to his arms where a set of older bruises would have been invisible had I not been alert for them. I make a mental note to check his legs when we go outside. A litany of reasons for those bruises present themselves as I try to avoid the one I don't want the answer to be.

We've been coached on the signs to watch for. Many of the children who come to the rec center are here because they've no place else to go. They come from families that can't afford daycare or other types of camps. Some of those families rest on nests of dynamite.

Carlton must sense something because he turns to look at me over his shoulder. In doing so, he hitches his shirt a little higher and the bruises slip out of sight. The deep sadness in his big brown eyes, however, can't be hidden under a T-shirt. I recognize it for what it is because sometimes I see it in my own eyes when I catch my reflection in the mirror.

His head back in the game, he levels an accusatory finger at Monica. "You didn't say Uno. Draw five cards, sucka!"

"Nuh-uh," Monica protests.

"He's right. You didn't say Uno." Mikaela jumps into the fray. "Draw five, draw five."

Monica, stubborn to the end, insists she said Uno, but the other children pick up the scent and begin to circle. "Miss Ellen. Tell them I said Uno," she says.

"I'm sorry, sweetie, but I didn't hear you say it, so I'm afraid you're going to have to draw the five cards."

With a loud groan and sidelong glare at Carlton, she takes her penalty cards. Carlton plays his card and the game continues drama-free for the next ten minutes.

"Uno!" Carlton yells in unison with Mikaela as he slaps down his second to last card.

"Draw five cards!" Mikaela says.

"Nope. I called it." Carlton wears a smug grin on his face.

"You were too late."

"Was not."

"Was too."

After a few more volleys in the was-not, was-too game, Carlton launches to his feet, breathing heavily. He growls out “was too,” draws back his fist, and punches Mikaela in the face.

"Carlton!" I rush in to separate them, but not before Mikaela unleashes a banshee-like howl that nearly has the windowpanes vibrating.

I pull the boy away. Procedure requires us to split up any fighting children and put the aggressor in a solitary activity away from the other child for the rest of the session.

"No! I wanna play Uno! I wanna play Uno! I was winning. Not fair!" He jumps up and down, stomping his feet onto the industrial carpet atop cement. His face turns an ugly shade, and as I take a firm hold of his skinny arm, he winces then kicks me in the shin.

I run limping after him. He breaks away, angling toward the exit.

"Somebody block the door!"


Louder Than Words
by Iris St. Clair 
Release Date: 09/16/14
Publisher:Swoon Romance
Disappointment has been on speed dial in Ellen Grayson's life lately. Her dad died, her mom numbs the grief with drugs and alcohol, and her so-called friends have slowly abandoned her. 

Trusting a popular teacher with her troubles should have been safe and should NOT have led to an unwelcome seduction attempt that made her desperate to escape the final moments of Junior year. Lesson learned. Best to keep all the sordid details to herself and trust no one.

Enter Rex Jacobi, a cocky boy, recently transplanted from New York City and fellow summer camp employee. Though his quick wit and confidence draws her in, she can't let him get too close. And summer is just long enough and hot enough to keep a boy like that at arm's length.

But by the time Rex's charm wears down her resistance, it's too late. He's put Ellen on the "just friends" shelf and has shifted his romantic attentions to the impossibly annoying and perky anti-Ellen. Even worse, the teacher who tried to get her to sleep with him is still at it, preying on other girls while Ellen struggles to come to terms with what happened.

With her ability to trust as shaky as a chastity vow on prom night, Ellen must decide if she has enough remaining courage to speak up about the well-liked teacher and risk retribution, tell Rex how she really feels about him and risk heartbreak, or hold all her secrets inside. After all, it's the only safe place she knows when the only thing louder than words is the fear of being rejected.

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About the Author 

About the Author
Iris St. Clair is the pen name for a long-suffering cubicle worker by day, a Walter Mitty-like dreamer by night. (Her alter ego Tatiana Ivanadance also choreographs gravity-defying routines in those fantasies, but that's another bio.)
No matter what genre she writes, she prefers witty, insecure heroines and kind, persistent heroes able to break through to the gooey heart inside.
In high school she was voted most likely to win at Monopoly and Clue, but least likely to throw a ball anywhere near a target. Thank goodness writing requires less hand-eye coordination, punctuation errors notwithstanding.

Iris believes in the two-year "fish or cut bait" dating rule and has a 20+ year marriage and two teenaged sons as proof of concept. She lives, writes, dreams and dances in the rainy Portland, OR area.
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