Another Amazon GIVEAWAY for “I, Hero: The Beginning” by Jason Zandri

Hi Gang – I am running another #AmazonGiveaway for: I Hero: The Beginning (Kindle Edition).

There is no purchase necessary and you can be one of FIFTY prize winners in this give away.

Beginning

This give away campaign (and my prior one) was to specifically link to my past and recent releases. The bigger pushes will be for my upcoming work in the I, Hero series – I, Hero: Phases

I Hero Phases

I am going to be working on this over the spring and I am pushing to release book three of the series on the same date that “I, Hero: The Beginning” released – May 21, (2015).

PLEASE CONSIDER JOINING THE MAILING LIST AND ALSO FOLLOWING THIS BLOG TO KEEP UP TO DATE ON NEW RELEASES AND NEW GIVEAWAYS IN THE FUTURE!

YOU CAN ALSO FOLLOW MY AUTHOR FACEBOOK PAGE AND FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER FOR THE MOST UP TO DATE NEWS AND INFORMATION ON MY PROJECTS AND CONTESTS!

Keep in mind as well that I will be also working on book three of the As Life Goes series – “As Life Goes: The Reunion.” The target for that anniversary date of book one in that series “As Life Goes: Elementary” which was July 31, (2015).

elementary

Book two of that series, “As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence” released November 27, 2015.

Innocence

With a little bit of a stretch, I might have book four, “As Life Goes: The Wedding” completed by then (that’s the goal anyway).

Once again I encourage you to:

PLEASE CONSIDER JOINING THE MAILING LIST AND ALSO FOLLOWING THIS BLOG TO KEEP UP TO DATE ON NEW RELEASES AND NEW GIVEAWAYS IN THE FUTURE!

YOU CAN ALSO FOLLOW MY AUTHOR FACEBOOK PAGE AND FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER FOR THE MOST UP TO DATE NEWS AND INFORMATION ON MY PROJECTS AND CONTESTS!

All time author record in Kindle eBooks –> Romance

With the presale release of As Life Goes: Elementary I had my first title in the Romance genre and category listing on Amazon.

On November 02, 2015 I hit the highest level as an author at a rank of 3,458.

Sales from yesterday and today squeaked me over, just a little, to 3,433, which allowed me to place just slightly higher and closer to #1. An inch or a mile – higher is higher and I’ll take it.

romance

As I outlined in my prior post, “”As Life Goes: Elementary” is at a three month high”, the title and the overall series itself is on a tear.

My own promotion on Twitter and some super assistance from the #RaveReviewsBookClub gang is the bulk of the spotlight focus, that is for sure. If you’re an author and want to get some of that support, JOIN HERE and tell them Jason Zandri / GUNDERSTONE sent you. Even if you’re “only a reader” – the club is a great resource to introduce you to some great (currently) unknown indie author titles.

I am looking forward to some great things with this series and I am planning to have book three “As Life Goes: The Reunion” released this summer (I am gunning for the one year anniversary date of book one – “As Life Goes: Elementary” which would be July 31, 2016).

The further plan would be to release “As Life Goes: The Wedding” before the end of the year (November 27, 2015 was the release of book two “As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence” and presently that is the date I am targeting).

I am planning book five, “As Life Goes: The Funeral”, the final book in the series, for Q1 of 2017.

Thank you so much for following my Facebook author page and my fan page over at Amazon, and of course, this blog – these are the best resources for information on what I have going on and the release dates of my stories.

Thank you for being a great fan and follower!

“As Life Goes: Elementary” is at a three month high

“As Life Goes: Elementary”, which I recently discounted to $0.99, is hitting some higher than normal seller ranking numbers:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#10,253 Paid in Kindle Store
#322 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary
#512 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction > Romance
#1949 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Contemporary

With the planned release of “As Life Goes: The Reunion” slated for this summer, this pop up in the ranking is very encouraging.

“As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence” has been doing decently on and off as well so I am looking forward to great things from this series.
As Life Goes2

AmazonGiveaway for I Hero: The Beginning (Kindle Edition)

Hi Gang – I am running an #AmazonGiveaway for: I Hero: The Beginning (Kindle Edition).

There is no purchase necessary and you can be one of FIFTY prize winners in this give away.

Beginning

This give away campaign (and my prior one) was to specifically link to my past and recent releases. The bigger pushes will be for my upcoming work in the I, Hero series – I, Hero: Phases

I Hero Phases

I am going to be working on this over the spring and I am pushing to release book three of the series on the same date that “I, Hero: The Beginning” released – May 21, (2015).

PLEASE CONSIDER  JOINING THE MAILING LIST AND ALSO FOLLOWING THIS BLOG TO KEEP UP TO DATE ON NEW RELEASES AND NEW GIVEAWAYS IN THE FUTURE!

YOU CAN ALSO FOLLOW MY AUTHOR FACEBOOK PAGE AND FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER FOR THE MOST UP TO DATE NEWS AND INFORMATION ON MY PROJECTS AND CONTESTS!

Keep in mind as well that I will be also working on book three of the As Life Goes series – “As Life Goes: The Reunion.” The target for that anniversary date of book one in that series “As Life Goes: Elementary” which was July 31, (2015).

elementary

Book two of that series, “As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence” released November 27, 2015.

Innocence

With a little bit of a stretch, I might have book four, “As Life Goes: The Wedding” completed by then (that’s the goal anyway).

Once again I encourage you to:

PLEASE CONSIDER  JOINING THE MAILING LIST AND ALSO FOLLOWING THIS BLOG TO KEEP UP TO DATE ON NEW RELEASES AND NEW GIVEAWAYS IN THE FUTURE!

YOU CAN ALSO FOLLOW MY AUTHOR FACEBOOK PAGE AND FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER FOR THE MOST UP TO DATE NEWS AND INFORMATION ON MY PROJECTS AND CONTESTS!

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence releases; As Life Goes: Elementary FREE until December 1, 2015

“As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence”, the second book of in the “As Life Goes” series released today, Friday November 27, 2015

End of the Innocence

As part of the release event, there is a Kindle FREE e-book promotion for the first book of the series “As Life Goes: Elementary” which is ongoing until December 1, 2015

as-life-goes FINAL cover large

SYNOPSIS and the top review for “As Life Goes: Elementary”

As Life Goes: Elementary (BOOK ONE of the “As Life Goes” series) – Links to Excerpts

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt I
http://bit.ly/1RmOdc6

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt II
http://bit.ly/1NSaAAg

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt III
http://bit.ly/1kKfxm6

——————————————————————————————–

5.0 out of 5 stars Touching and very relevant
By TFLReader TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 3, 2015

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

Today’s society is filled with broken homes and transient kids. While divorce was just starting to become more acceptable as I was growing up, it is now the norm and author Jason Zandri has written a very poignant tale of one family’s experience in “As Life Goes: Elementary”. The story of Mark and his son Matthew, who return to Mark’s childhood hometown to start over after a divorce. The struggles of starting a new school and meeting new people are illustrated as are the pains of loss. This is a great story that I became quickly invested in and that I found very easy to relate to. Definitely recommend.

——————————————————————————————–

“Every new beginning starts from nothing. Understanding that you can have everything in the love of one person, isn’t that worth the risk of personal capital? Isn’t that kind of love worth it?” – Diane Wakeford

“Have I ever told you, you’re the nicest boy I’ve ever met?” – Melissa Bancroft

“I will have the friends I want. I don’t care what boy likes me or what boy I like. You’re an awesome friend. I am not giving you up because we’re going to different schools or for any one person either.” – Elizabeth Wellsworth

Mark Sanford returns to his hometown with his son Matthew in tow to rebuild their lives. Recently divorced, and with the mother totally abandoning her parental responsibilities, both father and son are beginning their fresh start together.

Matthew begins to make new friends in the neighborhood and at school while he tries to find his place among people that have been friends with one another for years at elementary school.

Mark takes over the reins of the former family corner store with the help of a young woman looking for work. The ability to love and trust that woman entering his life is difficult for him because of all he has lost. For Matthew, that “first love” is difficult to understand without a motherly influence and with a father that has been deeply hurt.

——————————————————————————————–

—- As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence —- ON SALE NOW —-
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017TBSD42 —-

—————————————————————

SYNOPSIS for “As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence”

—- SEQUEL TO “As Life Goes: Elementary” http://www.amazon.com/Life-Goes-Elementary-Jason-Zandri-ebook/dp/B00ZXVB7SK/ —-

——————————————–

—- BOOK TWO OF THE “AS LIFE GOES” SERIES —-

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt I
http://bit.ly/1knbsVe

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt II
http://bit.ly/1MycCaG

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt III
http://bit.ly/1M4duT0

As Life Goes: Elementary (BOOK ONE) – Links to Excerpts

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt I
http://bit.ly/1RmOdc6

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt II
http://bit.ly/1NSaAAg

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt III
http://bit.ly/1kKfxm6

“You have to let things happen and be there for the ones you care about. When they slip, you try to catch them to break their fall. You can’t always be there for everyone; when you’re not and if they should fall, you help them back up.” – Matthew Sanford.

“Now and for the rest of my life, I want to spend the time trying to make you as happy as you’ve made me.”

“There’s no way to know all things with absolute certainty. If you want to love that much, if you want the chance to be Matthew’s entire world, and have him be yours, you’re going to have to risk everything.” – Diane Wakeford.

The one constant in the universe is change.

Matthew, Tim, Melissa, Liz and the gang come to the end of their youth as they turn eighteen and prepare to leave high school.

Old friends and new come together as their lives shift from the moment they are in to the future that is coming at them.

One love is discovered and then lost. Another is never fully revealed. Others are put forward to stand against the tests of life, time, and circumstance.

At a time of letting go, they do their best to hang on, realizing that yesterday is gone and what they have to look forward to is everything that tomorrow offers.

 

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – now available for pre-order

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – now available for pre-order
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017TBSD42

“As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence” is now off to the editor and I expect to have it available just before the Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales right after Thanksgiving. It is the second book in the “As Life Goes” series; As Life Goes: Elementary is already available.

Excerpts for the books in that series are available via:

As Life Goes: Elementary – Links to Excerpts

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt I
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-i/

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt II
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-ii/

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt III
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-iii-author-jason-zandri/

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Links to Excerpts

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt I
http://bit.ly/1knbsVe

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt II
http://bit.ly/1MycCaG

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt III
http://bit.ly/1M4duT0

as-life-goes FINAL cover large

End of the Innocence

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt III

“As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence” is now off to the editor and I expect to have it available just before the Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales right after Thanksgiving. It is the second book in the “As Life Goes” series; As Life Goes: Elementary is already available.

Excerpts for the books in that series are available via:

As Life Goes: Elementary – Links to Excerpts

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt I
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-i/

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt II
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-ii/

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt III
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-iii-author-jason-zandri/

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Links to Excerpts

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt I
http://bit.ly/1knbsVe

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt II
http://bit.ly/1MycCaG

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt III

Matthew pulled away from Tim’s place on Valley Street and turned left up the steep hill to West Side Field. He took the right turn onto East Street and looked up in the mirror at Melissa who never came up front once Tim got out as she always did.
Matthew looked at the time on the clock, which read a little past nine and turned into the parking lot.

Melissa barely looked out the window and grabbed at her things around her seat. “Are you planning to make me walk down to Carlton Street from here?”

“Of course not,” Matthew answered, shutting the van off and turning to the side in his captain chair seat in order to look directly at her. “What’s going on with you today? You’ve been bi-polar all day. Happy half the time and upset the other half.”

Melissa fidgeted and tugged at her pull over. She then fussed with her hair. She tried to look up in the rear view mirror quickly and then fished through her bag for her brush.

“I presume you’re coming tomorrow and not seeing Paul tonight,” Matthew said looking at her affectionately, watching her combing out her hair.

“No, I’m not seeing him tonight. I have to comb out this rat’s nest of sand and salt water or I’ll look like hell tomorrow too,” she said, sounding agitated.

Matthew looked at her hair, “I get it, I suppose. You look fine. At least I think you do.”

“Ugh!” Melissa huffed pulling more of her hair with the brush.

“What?” Matthew responded defensively. “I meant that.”

“Of course you did; Matthew can do no wrong.”

“What the hell is going on with you?” Matthew said.

Melissa looked up at him, half mad and half upset. She dialed it back because she knew she was out of line. “Forget it. I’m sorry. Long day… it was fun and I want to go tomorrow but I’m tired a little and cranky. Too much sun and then too much pizza…”

“Anything else?” Matthew asked quietly.

A small grin stretched over her lips. “Well, I’m feeling a little crampy ahead of my monthly visitor…”

Matthew playfully winced. “I have to be the only male that gets subjected to this. Alecia and Carrie are getting to be TMI with me too.”

“What can we say,” she said softly and slowly moving up to the front seat. “We trust you. You’re a nice guy. You defend us. You never judge any of us.” She sat in the passenger captain chair sideways to face him and dropped her bag forward.
Matthew looked at her and just stared casually.

“Nothing to say?” Melissa asked. “I figured you’d chime in with one of your pearls of wisdom. We are going to have to start writing them down. Sanfordisms or something like that.”

Matthew shook his head. “No, I was waiting to see what you were going to say next.”

“You’re pretty humble, generally,” she quipped. “Did I miss something pertinent?”

“No,” he answered naturally, leaning backwards part of the way.

“Oh, no” she said in a mischievous tone and raising her right eyebrow upwards. “I am invoking friendship rules. You have to come clean with what you’re thinking…”

“You have to know the rule number,” Matthew said playfully.

Melissa scrunched up her nose and then rested her hands on her knees. “Four,” she said simply. “Unless divulging would break a trust, friends must speak what’s on their mind.”

“That rule can only be invoked once a day,” Matthew said glancing over at the clock. “Time limit?”

“Next five minutes,” she said boldly. “Communication; just the facts and no hurt feelings – go!”

“Okay,” Matthew said with a slight sigh. “I was thinking about the way you and the girls…”

“The guys do too; you’re like their rock,” Melissa quickly added.

Matthew held up his hand, “Okay.” He moved in the seat a little. “I was thinking about just the girls and two things dawned on me.”

“Go on,” Melissa said anxious to hear the rest.

“I realized that as nice as it was to hear, that you and the girls appreciate me and how and where I stand, it dawned on me at that moment that your opinions of me were the ones that mattered the most.”

Melissa smiled warmly. She started to reach over and then hesitated when she thought of Paul.

“Paul,” Matthew said, noticing her movement and then her stopping short. He looked into her deep brown eyes. “It’s okay, I understand.” Matthew looked to his left and casually out the windshield and then back to her. “So what were you so miffed about today?”

Melissa breathed in to respond but Matthew jumped back quickly. “And you can’t simply say, ‘dumb bitch Liz’ like you always do. I want you to tell me specifically what about her tagging along pissed you off today because I know that’s what it was in general.”

Melissa deflated her lungful of air and mulled over what she wanted to say. “Okay… honestly? No holds barred? No guilt involved? I speak my free mind and… you keep me as your best friend?”

“Yes,” Matthew said without hesitation.

Melissa flinched a little. She had tossed in the last part of her comment on a lark and it didn’t faze Matthew at all; he answered it wholeheartedly.

“Okay,” she said sitting upright. “It really pisses me off the way Liz is. Donna and Marie go to school with her at Lyman Hall and they hate how she is. She is conceited and inconsiderate. You made plans with Donna for tomorrow…”

“I made plans with everyone,” Matthew defended casually.

“Yes,” she retorted, tipping her head, “but you asked her in the vein of having her come specifically. Yes, you’d go if she couldn’t and she could have tagged along with Liz, but you asked her specifically so it’s sort of like a public date.”

“I wouldn’t presume to debate your point,” he said playfully smug.

“You would lose,” Melissa responded in kind with a smile. “I mean, you literally just finished asking her to go and Liz had to follow you all the way out to the water. Good thing when you came back out to cozied up to Donna. You scored back lost points…” Melissa trailed off in her comments as a brief unsettled look crossed Matthew’s face. “What happened out there anyway?”

“Oh you know, just chit chat; you know Liz,” Matthew said quickly.

Melissa pointed to the clock. “It’s never just chit chat with her; not since seventh grade when she was kicked out of Dag Hammarskjold Middle School for making out in the stairwell. You’re inside the five minutes.”

“No holds barred? No guilt involved? I speak my free mind and… you keep me as your best friend?” Matthew repeated Melissa’s ask.

“Yes,” she responded nervously. “Or course… to the end of our days.”

“She made a pass at me,” Matthew said quickly. He looked at Melissa’s blank stare. She really didn’t want to hear the rest; he could tell by looking at her.

“How?” she asked Matthew.

“Are you sure…” he started.

“How?” she repeated to him.

“Under the water…” Matthew said looking down and then away. He was somewhat embarrassed to tell her but it was what they both agreed. “I wanted to stop her and say ‘no’ but the second she touched me…”

“You had sex with her in the ocean? In plain sight of everyone?” Melissa said with a roar.

“No, no, no!” Matthew quickly defended. “No,” he continued squirming in his seat. “Firstly, I’ve never done that… I’m still… well… you know.”

A look of relief washed over Melissa’s face.

“She reached for my swim trunks under the water and touched me. I was excited. As much as I wanted her to stop, I wanted her to keep going. And she did. She reached inside.”

“And?” Melissa asked.

“And eventually I couldn’t take what she was doing anymore and I… well… you know.” Matthew said with a slight smile.

“Eeeww. In the water?” Melissa said puckering up her face.

“What?” Matthew said. “It’s the Atlantic Ocean, not a pool. There’s a ton of salt in the water already, and all the marine life, large and small, do far more than what I did in there.”

Melissa burst out laughing and Matthew was happy to have the tension broken so he laughed along with her.

He glanced over at the clock as it went past the five-minute mark.

“So have you ever?” he asked her. “You know… with a boy?”

“No,” she answered looking at the time as well. “Second base is as far as I let them go. If I touch them when we kiss it’s always on the outside of their pants, if at all.” She looked over at him and then at the clock. “So never?”

“No,” Matthew said. “I never tried entirely so I don’t know if I could have or not. I never went in prepared, you know, carrying a condom or anything, so I don’t know.”

“Third base?” she asked.

Matthew turned up the corner of his mouth slightly and Melissa asked nothing further.

“So I know we’re past our time and all, but why does my interest with Liz bother you?” he asked starting the van and turning around to face forward. “At some level it’s always bothered you. You’re the one with the steady boyfriends since ninth grade; what’s the big deal who I am infatuated with?”

“I don’t know really,” she said softly, moving to sit forward herself. “Maybe because I know it’s an infatuation and risky that I don’t want your feelings hurt… Maybe I think you’re this awesome person that deserves someone that can really appreciate all of you and what you offer to them.”

“She doesn’t?” He asked, dropping the van into drive.

“Hell no,” she answered loudly. “I supposed there’s someone for everyone but she doesn’t deserve you.”

“And you do?” he blurted out quickly and looked at her.

Melissa turned red and quickly responded “I never said I did. And I am seeing someone.”

“You never said you didn’t either,” Matthew said. He waited for her to follow up more but she stayed quiet the remaining two blocks to her house.

Once there Matthew turned off the van and hopped out. He grabbed the left over pizza for her to take in and she grabbed her things. The two of them walked toward the door of her mother’s apartment. Matthew looked up quickly to see the curtains move and come to rest. He smiled a little and then turned to Melissa.

Melissa opened up the front door and dropped her things inside. Matthew stepped inside to set the pizza carry out box down.

“So tomorrow then?” he said.

“Yep,” she responded brightly.

Matthew stood at the door and looked down into her eyes. He caught himself in the pause and taking half a step forward. He immediately stepped back.

“Okay,” he said leaning toward outside. “I’ll see you then.”

“Matthew,” Melissa said calling out quickly.

He turned around, looked right into her dark brown eyes, and only stared.

“We were talking just before, when I said how we girls thought of you. You said ‘two things dawned on me.’ You only told me one. I’d really like to know what the other thing was.”

Matthew breathed in deeply and turned to face her. “Do you remember fifth grade when we first met?”

“Yes,” she said, fondly recalling some of the memories that quickly flooded her thoughts.

“I was thinking of the kind things you were saying about me, that you and the girls thought. And then I thought about how it really only mattered to me what you thought.”

“Yes, you told me that,” she said softly. “What was the other thing?”

“I though how nice and warm it made me feel that you thought those good things of me. Like in fifth grade when you used to tell me I was the nicest boy you ever met. I realized suddenly that somewhere along the way, in middle school I think, you stopped saying it. I realized I missed it and I hoped I still was that ‘boy’ to you.”

“You remember that?” A flood of emotion poured over Melissa and she struggled to keep herself in check. “I still feel exactly that way about you.”

“It’s nice to know that.” Matthew smiled softly, took two steps backwards, and called out. “See you tomorrow.” Matthew hustled around the van and got in. Melissa closed the front door, pressing her right hand on it, leaving it there, and just stared at it.

Once she couldn’t hear the sound of the engine anymore because the van pulled away and around the corner, she burst into uncontrollable tears.

as-life-goes FINAL cover large

End of the Innocence

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt II

“As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence” is now off to the editor and I expect to have it available just before the Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales right after Thanksgiving. It is the second book in the “As Life Goes” series; As Life Goes: Elementary is already available.

Excerpts for the books in that series are available via:

As Life Goes: Elementary – Links to Excerpts

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt I
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-i/

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt II
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-ii/

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt III
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-iii-author-jason-zandri/

In the meantime I’d like to remind folks that As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt I is available and I would like to introduce the next free excerpt below:

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt II

The August summer sun moved high into the sky and Michael, Tim, and Matthew moved from the water back over to the blankets where everyone was sitting and laying out.

Liz sat up next to Marie and Donna. “How was the water?” she asked pulling her red hair back tighter in the pony tail and glancing over at Matthew who was still making his way up.

“Not too bad really,” Tim answered taking a seat next to Patti. “It’s never super warm but it’s a good break from the ninety plus degrees… HEY SANDMAN!” Tim yelled over to Matthew who was still lagging behind.

Matthew looked up at him. “We should come again tomorrow with whoever is off,” Tim shouted. “It’s going to be hot again and the summer is nearly over.” Tim looked back over at everyone nearby. “Anyone in?”

Marie looked at Donna. Marie shrugged, “Wouldn’t kill me to come again. Liz, can you drive again?”

Liz paused for a moment. “I’m not sure, maybe.” She looked up at Matthew who finally came all the way over. “Matthew,” she began, leaning in a little further and allowing her suit top to hang, “I like the idea of all going in one car; is there enough room in the van?”

“Mike,” Matthew said looking over and stretching his arms up over his head. “You said you were out for tomorrow… you have to work?”

Michael looked on while Lesley chimed in. “Me too. Well, not work, but I have to help my mother with some stuff during the afternoon so I’m out as well. But I’m in the next time for sure.”

Matthew looked over at Donna whose attention he was hoping to get, “Can you come with us tomorrow? I could come by and pick you up?”

Donna was pleased that Matthew asked her directly, which drew Melissa’s attention.

“Um… I think so,” Donna responded, trying to sound reserved and holding back a grin. “I would have to double check with my mother but I can’t think of a reason why I can’t go.”

Matthew grabbed his wallet from inside his sneakers, which were next to his bag on the beach. He took a pen out of the bag, but then tossed it back, and pulled a business card from his wallet. “This is my number at home in my room. Give me a call when you get home tonight; I’ll take your number then and we can square up the details for tomorrow.”

“You have your own line in your bedroom?” Donna asked looking at the business card.

“Well, I pay for it with the money I earn mowing the lawns,” he said proudly. “Speaking of which,” he said turning to Tim, “we can bag the lawns tomorrow to come to the beach again but it’s supposed to rain over the weekend. I’m going to need your help on Friday to finish up all the work.”

Tim flashed a ‘thumbs up’ and leaned in and kissed Patti, playfully tipping her over. Melissa watched the two of them kiss.

Liz glanced over at Matthew’s business card in Donna’s hand. She slowly slid over to Matthew. “Can I have one? I didn’t know your father set you up with a business already.”

“Oh no,” Matthew defended, “It’s nothing that formal. I started cutting lawns and I bought a trailer to hook up to the van to haul the mowers around. I got cards made because people kept asking for my information and that was easier. I pay the insurance for liability and such, and then the insurance and fuel for the van; the rest is just for whatever.”

“He’s being modest,” Tim said pulling away from Patti.

Michael looked over and chimed in. “He is,” he said standing up and taking Lesley’s hand. “He’s made more since April with Tim helping him than some people make all year at a fast food place.” Lesley brushed the sand off the back of her thighs and wrapped her arm around Michael as he continued. “He could probably get a couple of leaf blowers for the fall and a plow and blower for the winter…”

Matthew waived his hand in the air a little, “no, no, no… for the extra money it’s great but I don’t think I want to do this the rest of my life.”

“What do you want to do?” Liz asked, holding out her hand casually for her card.

A quick look of contempt came over Donna’s face once Liz began to monopolize the conversation with Matthew.

Tim smiled at Liz’s question and walked away with Patti toward the water and away from the group.

Carrie nudged Melissa, who then sat up and switched over to a kneeling position closer to where Patti was standing prior, taking up her space.

“Honestly?” Matthew said while handing the card to her and then closing up his bag. “I really wanted to be an on-air DJ on the radio. I even looked into the broadcasting school up in Bloomfield. It’s not terribly expensive and after the courses are done they offer job placement services.” He stood up and Liz followed his frame as he took a step away. “But I also looked into the future track of that career in the overall job market with Michael, sharp as shit he is with stuff like that, and what we figured out is that the career is in a decline. So… I guess I’ll have to look into something else.” Matthew took a few steps backward toward the water and looked over at Donna. “Of course I have all of senior year to think about it. Right now?” he said smiling at her. “I’m just looking forward to tomorrow, the warm weather, the beach, and the company.”

Lesley tugged at Michael and the two of them walked away and towards the parking area in the direction of the ice cream trucks.

Donna watched Matthew as he turned and headed over to the water. She watched him casually jog away, hoping he’d turn around to look at her one more time. He slowed a little and turned his head partly but never fully turned around. That was good enough for Donna as she noticed it.

Melissa watched Matthew head away as well. She let her thoughts drift only for a minute before Donna spoke up.

“What the hell, Liz,” Donna said moving closer to her.

“What?” Liz asked looking as innocently as she could come off.

Carrie and Alecia stopped what they were doing to pay attention, since it was now just the five girls on the blankets.

“Robert and Stan aren’t enough? Matthew shows some interest in me and you have to twat block me?” Donna exclaimed.

“Wow,” Melissa whispered to Carrie and Alecia, leaning in quickly. “A second ago I was pissed at Donna for getting Matthew’s attention and now I’m on her side.” Melissa leaned back and watched Matthew enter the water at the shoreline as light waves from the Atlantic Ocean crashed in.

“You know what Donna,” Liz said standing up quickly, “if he had a solid interest in you, I wouldn’t be able to pull his attention. Clearly it’s equal or at least divided,” she said tugging down on her own top. “The question you need to ask yourself is ‘how far am I able to go to get and keep his attention’?”

Donna couldn’t respond more than just opening her mouth. Liz smirked, turned, and followed Matthew’s path to the water.

Marie touched Donna’s shoulder while Carrie moved over to close up a tighter circle.

“You know what Donna?” Marie said quickly. “If Matthew is that easily swayed by her, you don’t want to waste your time with him.”

“Oh!” Donna exclaimed. “Yes I do. He’s a nice guy… mostly. He’s like everyone else when it comes to Liz. She’s like this siren that none of them can resist.”

“That’s because she’s a huge slut whore,” Alecia responded adjusting her sunglasses.

“She’s going to go out there now and just pull him into her web, you watch,” Donna said somewhat upset. “By the time she’s done with him, he’ll take her to the beach tomorrow and he won’t even remember to call me back,” she said looking at his business card.

“Look,” Melissa said, mustering all the confidence she could considering the emotional conflict she was having. “Matthew tends to “walk the walk’ as they say. He showed an interest in you; he’s going to follow up. Liz is going to be a challenge for him; he’s been infatuated with her since the first day he ever laid eyes on her, but that infatuation is the only power she has on him. He’s otherwise level headed.”

“Ah…” Carrie said, flipping her short brown hair. “But which head is more level!”

The girls were quiet for a second and then they all screamed and giggled at the comment.

***

Matthew swam out deeper into the ocean to a point where he was upper chest deep in the water when standing. He turned to look back to the shore when he saw Liz coming out toward him.

He stared at her wet, slicked back, red hair and was mesmerized looking into her eyes. She stopped a little further back from where he was so she could stand in the shallower water.

“Are you going to come back in a little?” she asked playfully with her back to the shore.

“I guess I could,” Matthew said innocently and looking around. “Other than the jet skiers way out there,” he said pointing across the way, “and the ones on the boogie boards, we’re the farthest out.”

Liz was pleased when he came in somewhat. She took two steps out toward him.

Matthew looked back over to where the girls were sitting. They were huddled up and talking. Liz glanced back at them. “They are talking amongst themselves.” She reached under the water and touched Matthew on both hips. “I’m right here and you have my full attention.”

Matthew flinched at her touch. Despite the fact that they had been familiar and friendly with one another, innocently, over the years, each time Liz touched him, it was like a static shock and he never could prepare himself for it.

“I’ve always meant to tell you,” she said with a slight tone of mischief in her voice, “that I am always turned on by your response to my touch.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” Matthew responded genuinely.

“All of you boys… well… I guess you’re all men now that you’re over eighteen… you all collapse when I touch you. You come at me and take me. You think I am all yours but you’re all really mine.” She smiled at him. “Not you though. Oh you want to give in,” she said lowering her hand across the outside front of his bathing suit under the water and tightly feeling exactly how excited he was. “But you resist… why.”

“I’m not like all the others,” Matthew said as best he could to maintain his composure. “I won’t be put into a box with everyone else.”

“No you’re not like everyone else,” Liz said in her playfully evil tone. “Still,” she said, loosening his drawstring and slipping her hand inside his suit, “you’re only so far removed.”

Liz tightly wrapped her right hand and played. She used her left hand to part her two-piece top and expose herself.

Matthew grunted. He partly took a step backward but Liz matched with a forward step.

“It’s pretty clear you’re excited,” she said. “You’re underwater. To the whole beach it looks like we are two people out here talking.”

Liz sped up her movements as Matthew’s resistance completely failed and he was captivated by what she was doing to him. Matthew tried to look back at Donna but Liz simply moved herself back into his view.

“You want her?” she said playfully. “She wants you; you can have her tomorrow. Right this moment, you’re all mine. I will have you.”

Matthew couldn’t look away anymore. His attraction to Liz was always very strong and with her right in front of him, doing what she was doing, he couldn’t break away. He also realized that even if he could, he really didn’t want to. What she was doing felt so wonderful and it was more than he ever imagined he’d have with her.

He swallowed hard and his breathing became short and shallow. Liz curled up her lips more at his response. She stepped forward and kissed him, still moving her right hand rapidly. With her pulling her top left and away with her free hand, and then touching her chest to his, it was more than Matthew could stand. He lost control and let go. Liz stopped kissing him and touched her forehead to his; she looked down into the water and squeezed her right hand in response and rhythm to him. She listened to him huff a couple of times and groan. He reached out with his hands and pulled her in from her hips.

“You can go now,” she whispered quietly. “All I wanted was your response… today. I have it. You can go back to Donna now.”

Matthew drew back as Liz let go of him.

“I love and hate the way you make me feel… you know that right?” Matthew said sounding irritated.

“I know,” she said. “And right back at you.”

Matthew slowly backed away and looked at her. “I don’t do what you do… the taunting and teasing. You do that intentionally.”

Liz said nothing and only smiled a little. She drew her right hand up, out of the ocean, and over her tight belly.

Matthew stopped walking away. “That’s it, isn’t it?”

Liz stopped and lowered her hand into the water and stared at him blankly.

“What you do to me intentionally… you do that ‘back’ to me. There’s something I do, or it’s just me in general, that invokes an emotional response from you.” Matthew stepped forward half a step. “Look, I didn’t mean to… I mean… we’ve known each other forever. Some feelings are tough to get away from. However, I never abuse it… I know what we mean to one another; friendship wise and then some.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about Matthew,” she said quickly becoming irritated. “I enjoy exciting you and getting a response from you… and other men. Beyond that, it’s mainly meaningless.”

Matthew quickly studied her. He decided on what his thoughts were on the matter and knew she’d never confess or own up to anything more. “Of course,” he said with a smile. “And my response was…”

“A handful,” she said, with some of her prior emotional response returning. “Luckily,” she said, tracing both of her hands across the ocean surface, “I didn’t have to go far to wash my handful off.”

Matthew smiled at her and she returned it.

“Shall we meet out here again tomorrow?” she said playfully.

Matthew dropped his playful look. “As much as I enjoyed your attention, if I am formally here with Donna tomorrow, no.”

“You can say no to me?” she said playfully.

“Honestly?” Matthew asked, watching Liz. “Probably not. Given that, I’ll have no choice but to keep my distance.”

Liz initially didn’t know how to take his comments or how to respond but a slow and sly smile crept across her face.

Matthew smiled, turned away, and headed back to shore.

as-life-goes FINAL cover large

End of the Innocence