Title: Wings Over Poppies (Over #2)
Author: J.A. DeRouen
Genre: New Adult
Cover Design: Mae I Design And Photography
Perfection. One word. Three syllables. Every reason why I’ll never have the one thing I truly want. I stand dutifully on the pedestal he’s built, waiting for the day he truly sees me.
Then one amazing night, he lets down his walls, only to leave me the next day.
Years have passed, and I’ve tried to move on with my life. But I still dream of him. I still miss himeveryday. The memories haunt me. How can I look to the future when my past remains a mystery? The time has come to find the boy who stole my heart and ran away without a word.
But not everyone who is lost wants to be found.
My name is Alexandra Fontaine, and this is my story of unfinished love.
Wings Over Poppies is book #2 in The Over Series and can be read as a standalone novel.
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I shift closer to him and wrap my arms around his waist. I lay my head on his chest and breathe him in. His shoulders relax, if only slightly. The need to comfort him is overwhelming. I want to wash it all away for him, hold the world at bay while I erase the worry permanently etched in his forehead.
“Everything is going to be okay, West. I just know it,” I lie. I don’t know that everything will be okay. I don’t know anything at all.
We sit in electrified silence, the crackling of dead leaves under us the only sound. I memorize the feel of him, the smell of him, the rhythm of his breathing. I’m lost in the moment, already anticipating the loss that’s to come.
“I leave in a month.”
The words cut through the silence like a judgment. Instead of hurt, I’m filled with resolve. I won’t let him push me away anymore. I’m done playing by his rules.
I rise up to meet the storm brewing in his eyes. His hand wraps firmly around my neck, and his eyes dart hungrily to my lips. I swallow nervously and refuse to look away.
If he turns his head or pulls my hair, I swear I’m going to tackle him to the ground.
I lean in hopefully, somewhat expectantly, and close my eyes. His warm breath dances across my lips, and my every prayer is answered. He presses his mouth firmly to mine and stills, almost memorizing the moment.
That one small touch is the beginning of the most memorable kiss of my life. It’s hello and goodbye, I love you, I’ll miss you, and everything in between.
He sucks my bottom lip, and I inhale sharply, completely overcome. His hands dive into my hair, and his tongue slides against mine just once before he pulls away. He touches my forehead to his and chuckles softly.
“What have we been waiting for all this time?”
“You,” I whisper breathlessly, “I’ve been waiting for you.”
My admission is all he needs. He devours me, a tangle of lips, teeth, tongues, and hands. I don’t know where I end and he begins. I’m exhilarated and relieved all at once.
I run my hands down his arms and grip his wrists tightly. I pull away and look into his hooded eyes.
“Tell me something, West. Tell me something I don’t know.”
He runs a thumb over my swollen lips while he studies me. I’ve never felt more loved, more worshipped.
“I can’t imagine a world without you in it. No matter where I am, I’ll always dream of you. It’ll have to be enough.” He places soft, scorching kisses up my neck until he reaches my ear. “God, I don’t think it’ll ever be enough.”
About The Author
J.A. Derouen lives in South Louisiana with her husband, son (aptly nicknamed "The Professor"), and her furry friend, Scout. She has earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and nursing. When she's not writing or inhaling romance novels by the stack, she works as a women's health nurse. She’s been an avid reader and daydreamer since childhood, and she's never stopped turning the page to get to the next happily ever after.
J.A’S Jezebels: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1554855128084416/
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Hope Over Fear
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Her four-inch stiletto heels click, echoing throughout the gallery with every step on the parquet floors. I’m beginning to wonder if today is a museum outing for the impeccably dressed trophy wife, or if she actually plans on purchasing anything. She’s made at least three laps around the showroom and outlasted all the other patrons, yet she’s expressed no particular interest in any piece.
“This painting is absolutely stunning,” she croons, standing in front of one of my newer works, Wind. I may have spoken too soon.
“Thank you.” I stay a respectable distance behind her, allowing her time to fully take in the painting.
“Are they meant to be angel’s wings?” She continues to examine the painting, facing away from me.
“Possibly,” I say noncommittally. “My focus while painting this piece stayed solely on the idea of flight. Wings outstretched. Soaring. I didn’t give any thought to who the wings belonged to … they could belong to anyone, given the right circumstances.”
Her expression makes it clear that she’s unsatisfied with my answer, but she lets it go. She steps closer, examining each brush stroke as her hand skims delicately across the canvas, without ever actually touching it. The action seems almost reverent, and I swell with pride. I may not need the validation of others when it comes to my artwork, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t feel good.
She leans forward to examine it more closely and turns to me with a confused look. I know her question before she opens her mouth.
“Why is this feather broken? Come to think of it, there’s something like this in each of your paintings. Why would you deliberately put flaws in your work?”
Her question feels curious without malice, which is the only reason I answer. If she didn’t like my previous answer, she’s sure to loathe this one. Her perfectly coifed hair, expertly applied makeup, and designer clothes assure me of that fact.
“Nothing in this world worth having is perfect.”
She laughs softly and raises her eyebrows. “Oh, I don’t know, Ms. Fontaine. Perfection has served me well in my life.”
A sad smile plays on my lips as I tell her the only truth that I know with any amount of certainty. “It’s been my experience that perfection is forgettable … expendable.”
I see equal parts pity and irritation in her eyes before she turns her attention back to the painting. I didn’t mean to offend her. However, while I appreciate the respect of others when it comes to my artwork, I won’t lie to achieve it.
She doesn’t cast a glance in my direction as she reaches in her clutch and produces a credit card. Never taking her eyes off the painting, she dismissively hands me the card.
“I’ll take it.”
Six Years Ago
“Enchanted” by Taylor Swift
My lips turn up in an uncontrollable grin the second my toes hit the dew-covered grass. I steal a quick look over my shoulder, making sure Momma doesn’t see me making a break for it. A lady should never leave home without looking her absolute best. Lipstick, Alexandra—never leave home without it.Whatever! She would just die if she saw me running down the fairway barefoot and in my nightgown. I tuck my sketchpad and pencils under my arm, pushing her antiquated notions to the back of my mind.
It’s Sunday morning, so Steeple and Plantation courses are closed until noon. Only Melrose is open because Daddy insists that one course is more than enough for the heathens who don’t attend Sunday service. That suits me just fine, because my oak tree will be deserted for the morning, and I’ll be free to sketch until it’s time for church.
Blades of fresh cut grass stick to my ankles and the rim of my cotton nightgown is drenched with dew and bright turquoise fertilizer, but that doesn’t stop me; however, Miss Anna hollering my name from the parking lot stops me in my tracks.
“Alexandra Marie Fontaine, what are you doing, girl? Your momma would tan your hide if she saw you out here like that. Practically naked, gallivanting down the fairway!” Miss Anna’s exasperation is nothing new when it comes to me. Her hands are on her hips, signifying she means business. Unfortunately, I see the small smile playing on her lips that she can’t hide from me.
“You know she doesn’t whip me, Miss Anna,” I taunt.
“Well, maybe she should. Cover yourself, girl!”
“I’ll be home before she knows I’m gone. I promise. I wanna draw the pond at sunrise. Please don’t tell,” I beg as I turn and run in the opposite direction. She mutters to herself as I giggle, knowing she’ll always keep my secrets. Miss Anna loves me—rebellious streak and all.
I climb my oak tree with little effort and settle on my favorite branch that stretches and curves as it kisses the ground, making it the perfect spot to recline and observe. The bark pinches my back and feet in a familiar and pleasant way as I settle in to draw. The sun hasn’t quite risen yet, and fog hovers along the surface of the pond. It feels heavy and dank, blurring my subject, but helping me see things in a different light. This is what I want to draw. An old stomping ground with a new perspective.
I quickly lose myself in the lines of the trees, the branches sagging under the weight of the Spanish moss and the shading of the fog. I’m completely oblivious to the crackling leaves behind me. I never hear his approach, and I jump as he passes right by me without noticing. I draw my knees tightly into my chest and duck my head in a ridiculous attempt to make myself invisible.
I’ve never seen him before, but he acts as if he belongs here. How can that be? I know everyone who works at my daddy’s golf course, and I certainly would have remembered him.
He walks to the edge of the pond and drops a backpack at his feet. He toes off his tennis shoes and reaches around to grab his shirt and pull it over his head. He bends down and grabs a net that I failed to notice sticking out of his backpack and slowly wades in the water. Suddenly, I feel like the trespasser, the Peeping Tom, but I can’t look away. Instead, I silently turn the page of my sketchbook and start a new project.
I can’t get a good look at his face, but his profile and back grab my attention all on their own. His hair is inky black and unruly, like he just rolled out of bed. Considering the time, that’sprobably the case. His shoulders are broad, but his muscles haven’t quite caught up with his frame; like a boy on his way to becoming a man, he isn’t quite there yet. He’s deep golden tan, presumably from heritage rather than the sun, because he has no tan lines that I can see … and make no mistake, I’m looking.
I go unnoticed for a while as I draw, watching him collect golf balls from the bottom of the pond, tossing them on land. He’s amassed quite a pile when I feel a pesky tickle in my nose. Oh, please, no!
“Achoo!” I sneeze loud enough to wake the dead, and I hold up my sketchpad to hide myself from view. To my utter dismay, a small notebook does not have the ability to shield an entire human being from sight.
His body tenses at the sound of my sneeze. He whips his head around and his blaming eyes land firmly on me.
“Hey, what are you doing up there? Are you spying on me?” he shouts with an irritated scowl as he exits the pond and storms toward my tree.
“I was here before you, so how could I be spying? Maybe you were spying on me!” I holler back with an equal amount of irritation.
“I didn’t even know you were there. You could’ve let me know I wasn’t alone. What if I had taken off my pants?”
Well, that would have been interesting … and I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. I can’t help my smirk as I chuckle softly to myself.
“You think that’s funny, huh?” He glares indignantly.
“I don’t know, maybe. You tell me. Would I laugh if I saw you naked?”
My natural tendency toward smartass seems to break the dickhead dam this guy is attempting to build, and he lets out a sharp laugh. He looks down and shakes his head, continuing to laugh.
“A sassy Peeping Tom. I think I like it.” He smiles, and my heart drops at the sight. Seriously, this guy could stop traffic. His eyes are as dark as his hair, a complete contradiction to my crystal blue.
Staring into his eyes for much longer than appropriate causes an awkward silence to settle between us. It also gives him a moment to size me up and notice my sketchpad. He raises his eyebrows suspiciously.
“Well, what do we have here?” He shoots me a devious grin to distract me right before jumping up and swiping my notebook off my lap.
“Hey, give that back! That’s private.” I climb out of the tree as quickly as I can and race toward him, fists clenched. He’s running away, holding the notebook high above his head, well out of my reach. He stops and turns toward me. His laughter quickly dies in his throat as his eyes rake over my body.
“Fuck me.” He runs his hand down his face and gives his head a sobering jostle.
I glare at him and place my hands on my hips. “Hey, watch your damn mouth! I’m a lady.”
Laughter finds him again, and he throws his head back, completely overtaken. He finally catches his breath to find me still seething.
“Sweetheart, I have no doubt you’re a lady. In fact, all of your lady parts are on full display. I’m just enjoying the show.”
What the hell is he talking about? Realization washes over me like ice-cold water in the face. I look down, and my breath hitches in complete mortification. The sunlight filtering through the tree branches has turned my nightgown into full-on peepshow attire. I quickly raise my hands to cover my panties and my braless chest. Yes, braless.
“Polka dots become you.”
“Shut up! And stop looking!”
“I can’t help it. It’s kind of like a wreck on the highway. I just can’t look away. Well, not exactly like a wreck. This is good, where a wreck is bad … very bad … what were we talking about?”
“Oh my God! Just give me my sketchpad so I can go. This is embarrassing enough without you ogling me.” I stamp my foot for emphasis, but since he’s laughing again, I’m fairly certain I’ve missed the mark.
“Just hold your horses, Polky. I’ll give you my shirt to cover up, okay?” He grabs his shirt off the ground and tosses it my way. “See, I’m a good guy. Totally makes up for the ogling, right?”
“Not even close!” I shout.
“Hey, I could have kept my mouth shut and let you parade around like my own personal burlesque show, unbeknownst to you.”
“Well, there is that.” I shrug my shoulders, giving him that small concession.
Once I throw on his shirt and cover all my unmentionables, I peer up at him flipping through my drawings while calling out random compliments. He gets to what I assume is my last drawing and looks up at me questioningly.
“I’m right in front of you, shirtless … in all my glory … and this is what you choose to draw?”
“I didn’t realize you had glory,” I mutter sarcastically.
“Oh, I have glory, Polky. Or at least I thought I did before this crushing blow to my ego. I may never recover. Do you want that type of guilt on your hands?”
“I have no doubt you’ll recover just fine. Anyway, I wanted to draw the pond this morning, and when you walked into the water, you changed it.”
“The pond. The ripples started where you walked in, but they kept going, reaching out all the way to the edges.” I look over at the drawing, showing his hand reaching down, with only the tip of his finger touching the surface of the water. From that small touch, the pond is transformed. The waves, the mirrored light, the reflections—all exquisitely altered.
“So my presence changed things, huh?” His lips turn up into a conceited grin.
“Disturbed things is more like it,” I grumble under my breath.
“Whatever. I rocked that pond’s world.” I wonder if we’re still talking about the drawing.
“You know, there is something you can do for me. One small favor and I’ll forgive your pervy tendencies.”
“Oh, yeah? What’s that?”
“You could let me get a closer look at your hand. I mean, you were so far away when I sketched it I couldn’t get much detail. It’s no big deal if you don’t want to do it.” I shrug, trying to appear nonchalant as I roll my charcoal pencils in my hands.
“Hey, no problem. Small price to pay, right? Wait, that came out wrong. I didn’t mean to sound like I was paying for the show.” I roll my eyes and shake my head as I sit down on a patch of grass. “Anyway, I’m almost done with my work. The course pays me per ball, so I’m just making some extra cash. I just started working at the pro shop.”
Although I keep my focus on my drawing, I can feel him looking at me expectantly. I’m not in the sharing mood this morning, so I stay quiet and keep drawing.
“So that explains why I’m here.” He pauses, but I do my best to ignore his questioning tone. “Do you care to explain how you came to be here, on this morning, in your night clothes?”
“I live near here.” I never lift my head from my sketchpad. I’m purposefully vague, especially now that I know he works for my dad. “I like to come here to draw on Sunday mornings.”
Since my attention is divided between my drawing and our conversation, West does most of the talking. Oh, that’s his name. West—not Weston—just West. I like it. One syllable. Direct and to the point. Strong. Anyway, since he’s carrying the conversation, I take the opportunity to soak up everything I can about my Sunday morning stranger.
He’s a year older than me, so he just graduated from high school. He grew up not far from here, but our paths never crossed, seeing as he attended public school, and I’m sentenced to a thirteen-year term at Riverside Preparatory School.
He’s starting school at Cedar Ridge Community College next month, and is one of the newest members of their golf team. That’s how he got the job at the club’s pro shop. His scholarship from CRCC and his job here at the club are helping to pay his tuition. Although he doesn’t offer many details, he implies his baby sister’s health is poor, and her medical bills eat up a big portion of his family’s money. He doesn’t specifically mention his father being absent, but I get the feeling that it’s just him, his mom, and his sister. He keeps his comments a bit vague.
I’m immersed in the curves and planes of West’s hand, completely focused on my task when his thumb brushes across my bottom lip, startling me.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to surprise you. It’s just that you have something black on your lip.”
“Oh, it’s nothing. It’s a bad habit of mine.” I wipe my lips and turn away, embarrassed. “I tug on my lip when I’m drawing. I know it sounds stupid, but it helps me think. The black is from my charcoal pencils.”
What respectable young man wants to call on a young lady with soot on her face? Really, Alexandra, you look like Little Orphan Annie. My eyes shift downward, and I fidget with my pencils.
West gently touches my chin, raising my eyes to him. He smiles sweetly and flips a lock of my hair in his hand, leaning in closer. “I think it’s adorable. Wild, wavy blond hair, blackened lips, and unmentionables worth mentioning? That’s the stuff dreams are made of.”
Wow. Just wow. I nervously close my notebook and collect my pencils. With just a few words, he’s got me flustered and fumbling.
“It’s, um, getting late, and I have to go to church with my family.” I stumble on my words, as well as my feet, and I reach out to grab West’s shoulder for balance.
“Okay, well … what would you say if I came back next Sunday? Would you draw me again? Maybe next time you could pick a more … glorious body part.” He raises his eyebrows suggestively and effectively breaks through my nervous fog.
“Yeah, I’d like that. Is it okay if I keep the shirt until next week?” I ask as I’m walking away. Truth be told, I’m a little bit worried that time has slipped away from me and I’ll have an irate mother on my hands.
“No problem. I have a spare in my bag.”
I hardly hear his response since I’m already out onto the fairway, making my escape. I can’t help myself. I steal a look back at him, secretly hoping he makes good on his promise to meet me next week. My heart skips a beat when I realize he’s watching me, too.
“Where in the world have you been, Alexandra? And look at you! You are not a little girl anymore. This type of behavior is not cute!” My mother is already fully dressed in her church attire, only serving to bring extra attention to my state of disarray.
“I’m not trying to be cute, Momma. It’s not a big deal. I’ll be ready in a few minutes.” I try to keep my voice calm to placate her, but my temper is quickly bubbling to the surface. When it comes to my mother and me, it’s safe to say our fuse for one another is not just short, but almost nonexistent. It’s hard to believe two more different people have ever walked this earth.
“I’ll decide what’s a big deal, Alexandra!”
“Why do you have to keep repeating my name? Is it for emphasis or condescension?” I stare her down, refusing to give an inch. It’s always this way between us. No bend. No stretch.
“Don’t you dare speak to me that way, young lady! We are meeting Tripp and his parents at the church hall for coffee before the sermon, and here you are, looking like a mess!”
“And here we go with the Tripp discussion. He is not my boyfriend, and he never will be, no matter how many times you try to push us together!”
“Enough!” My father’s booming voice serves to straighten my spine and lower my gaze as he strides into the foyer with purpose. “Get upstairs and get dressed, Alex. I don’t want to hear another word.”
“Yes, sir.” I turn and take the stairs two at a time. My father is the peripheral parent, preferring to let my mother handle the day-to-day hassles of child rearing. His love is unquestionable, but his respect is earned, and it’s clear I’ve disappointed him.
Emmett is leaning against his bedroom doorframe as I pass down the hall. He, of course, is ready for church in his expertly pressed suit and tie. Only a year separates us, and although I’m older, Emmett has always been the more mature sibling. Or maybe he’s just the more compliant one.
“You are going to send that woman to an early grave, Alex.” He shakes his head and chuckles.
“Whatever, Emmett. We can’t all be ‘yes men,’” I taunt as I make air quotes and roll my eyes, walking past his bedroom. He’s on my heels, and I choose to ignore his presence as I set about choosing a suitable church outfit. None of that vintage nonsense, Alexandra. Vintage is just code for secondhand, and the Lord deserves better than old hand-me-downs. I don’t imagine God cares what we wear to worship Him, but what do I know?
“That’s where you have it all wrong, big sister. Sure, I’m the ‘yes man’ all day long in front of their faces. But when their backs are turned, or when it really counts, I’m the ‘do whatever the hell I want’ man. Everyone’s happy. You have to lose some battles to win the war. It’s a concept you have yet to embrace. And you know I’m right,” he sing-songs as I slam the door in his face. I roll my eyes at the sound of his laughter filtering through the closed door.
As I ready myself for Sunday services, I don’t waste one minute thinking about mothers, battles, wars, and what not.
My mind stays permanently fixed on West. The unspoken strength of his broad shoulders. The dark waves of his tousled hair. The intoxicating smell of sweat and his laundry detergent in the shirt I confiscated. The boy who made ripples in my Sunday morning ritual.
Little do I know, those ripples will grow and swell over time into a tidal wave that will forever change me.