Title: Killing Me Softly
Author: Devyn Dawson
Genre: New Adult/Young Adult - clean, no hardcore cussing or sex scenes
Hosted by: Lady Amber's Tours
Hosted by: Lady Amber's Tours
Bestselling author Devyn Dawson brings to life this beautiful tale of triumph over disaster.
Life hasn't been easy for Holland. At nineteen she's juggling a job, college courses, and caring for her mentally ill father. When her best friend Andy died, so did her escape from her real life.
Tate enjoys his life as an air traffic controller in the Air Force. When he was stationed at Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City, Oklahoma, he wasn't looking for a girlfriend. His dreams included his guitar and his music being played on the radio.
He's drawn to Holland, and soon the two of them will find themselves wrapped up into their own little world. Tate's determined to protect Holland from the heartache in her life. When tragedy strikes, Tate struggles to keep her from breaking completely in half.
This story is about heartache and love. Holland finds her heart beating again in the arms of Tate. This book is a CLEAN New Adult - No Hard Core Cussing - No Sexual Scenes.
"The author writes a beautiful love story..." Reviewer
"Wonderful book, full of sweet moments and romantic scenes that kept me up all night reading." Reviewer
Author Devyn Dawson is a long time resident of New Bern, North Carolina. She finds herself writing the types of books she enjoys reading. After writing young adult novels, she decided to step out of her comfort zone and write this tale about Caide and River. When she isn’t writing, she binges on Netflix, eats too much chocolate, and makes various crafts.
Find out more about Devyn on her website www.devyndawson.com.
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/
Sam and Bethany share a small ranch house with their other sister Victoria. I learned the moment I met her that she’s bat-shit crazy. I’m not sure how many drugs she’s done, but she’s fried some brain cells. Apparently, she’s like a mad scientist and is always inventing something that will alter the way we live everyday life. When Bethany impersonates her sister, I usually laugh so hard tears stream down my face.
“Are you freakin’ kidding me? Shut the front door, you look SICK!” Victoria shouts at me as I walk in the house.
“You just closed the door and I feel fine,” I say to her. Nuttier than my dad.
Sam laughs as he comes over to hug me. He thinks he’s being European if he hugs and air kisses everyone who enters the house. “You do look sick!”
“If I look that sick, I better go home then.”
“You really don’t know what that means do you? Sick as in amazing. You look amazing and I’m guessing you took her literal when she said to shut the front door. She’s trying not to say the F-word anymore. It’s all part of her plan to get on Ellen with one of her inventions.”
“Oh, okay, that makes more sense. I really was confused about the door.” We walk to the back of the house where Bethany is applying vampire-red lipstick. She’s prettier than average but it’s her humor that takes her to the next level. Bethany is hilarious with her commentary of everything that happens. Give the girl a drink and she becomes the funniest comedian since Eddie Murphy. My dad has made me watch Eddie’s comedy since I was born. When my mom was around, we watched her favorite Eddie Murphy movie, The Golden Child. I haven’t seen it since the stormy night she walked out of our lives.
“Well, if you don’t get a man tonight, they’re blind. I swear you have the best ass for a white girl. Those jeans need to be called your bootie jeans from this day forward,” Bethany exclaims.
Me catching a guy is the last thing I need right now. “Bootie jeans from now on,” I reply. “Are you ready?”
“Honey, I was born ready. Let’s blow this popsicle stand,” Bethany says as she struts her way across the house. “Victoria, don’t blow anything up while we’re gone.”
The Raven Bookstore is on Western next to a trendy sushi bar. We find a parking space on the far end of the rear parking lot. The Raven sells books that appeal to a younger crowd. They carry Manga, Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction, Humor and Poetry. The walls are painted in black chalkboard paint and the shelves are all neon that glows under black-lights. An artist who crushed on Andy, covered the walls in Poe inspired graffiti. He would come into my store to buy vitamins and talk to me about how pretty Andy was. I haven’t seen him since she passed away.
“Oh wow, they finished the stage area, it looks insane!” Sam points towards the stage area that is now covered in drops of neon paint.
Bethany spins around in a circle, which I’ve come to realize is one of her signature moves when she’s very happy. “I can’t wait until you hear him play!”
Her energy is contagious and soon I find myself having a good time.
We pick a table close to the stage, front and center like Bethany wanted. I stop by the poetry section and pick up the book, A Thousand Mornings, by Mary Oliver. The last few times I came to buy the book, they were sold out. Sometimes, poetry speaks to me like music in a book.
Bethany and I both opted for vanilla lattes and organic oatmeal cookies. We’re totally party animals.
“You’re so lame, Beth, how can you drink coffee on a night on the town?” Sam says and sets his glass of beer down. “This is the best IPA, you should try it, Holland.”
“One beer won’t hurt you,” Sam says and sips on his beer.
“Yeah, well I’m not up to explaining to the cops that I’m underage, a lightweight, and reek of beer. I’ll stick to my free lattes. It causes the same amount of pee breaks, so everyone else will think I’m drinking too,” I pick up my coffee and hold it out for a toast. “To us!”
We clink our drinks together and laugh. It’s a good thirty minutes before the first musician takes the stage, but the bookstore filled up with at least another hundred people. Every place on Western is trendy and fills up with the twenty-somethings. The first musician walks across the stage and sits down on a stool with his acoustic guitar. All I notice about him is his pickle sized nose and his crazy curly brown hair. He starts out with a song by the Doors and everyone in the store crowds in to hear him sing. He sang several songs before he stands up and announces his name and promises to finish off the night with a couple of his own originals.
There’s a five minute break between musicians so I get up to use the restroom.
“He was cool, I like what he did with that one country song,” Bethany says as we open the bathroom door.
It’s early in the night for there to already be a line to get a stall. Girls are talking about whose singing next, a guy named Tate who is apparently the yummiest guy ever, per the girl in front of us.
The bathroom is bright compared to the bookstore. The walls are painted with a mural of a fairy tale. I find something new every time I stare at it. Bethany and I freshen up our lipstick and fluff our hair before heading back to our table. Tate had already started playing by the time we get to our table. Bethany grabs my arm and squeezes it too tight. “That’s him,” she whispers to me.
His voice, without the hint of an accent sings a haunting version of, Elvis Presley’s, Love Me Tender. Every strum of his guitar is deliberate, every note in his voice desperate. I can’t help but close my eyes and listen with my soul. The power of his words touch something in me that I’ll never be able to explain. It takes me back to a time when my mother would be at the kitchen sink and my dad would go up and wrap his arms around her and sing Elvis songs. As the song ends, I open my eyes as everyone applauds all around me.
“That was great wasn’t it?” Bethany shouts in my ear. “He’s so good, I’m surprised he hasn’t been picked up yet!”
The singer finally looks up at the crowd and my jaw drops. He’s the guy with the rash on his ass. It has to be him. No, it can’t be him. As if he can hear my inner commentary, he looks my direction. Someone yelps, and I’m praying it was Bethany, because if it wasn’t her, it was me. His face goes from solemn to a half crooked smile. Oh shit. He winks. Bethany’s fingers dig into my bicep as she squeals like a pig. “Beth, back off, you’re going to draw blood if you squeeze any harder,” I say as I pry her fingers off my arm.
“Did you see him wink? Be cool, act as if I said something funny.”
I’m certain he was winking at me. How does Sam not recognize rash-on-the-ass man? “He winked?” I say trying to play it off instead of argue the fact he’s trying to piss me off. I lick my lips nervously, a habit I do when I fib. Andy and my mom are the only ones who ever noticed, but I’m not thinking about that right now.
“He winked and if I have my way, he’s going to be doing more than winking in a little while!”
My hand goes to my mouth to cover the sound of me snorting. He stands up and fiddles with his guitar strap until the guitar is high on his chest. The familiar tune to Folsom Prison Blues is brought to life with his ease of singing. I’m zeroed in on his guitar, afraid to look at his face, afraid he’d realize he’s doing something to me. He’s breathing life into the song and into my soul. As the last words are sung and his playing stops, I’m reminded where I am by the applause coming from the crowd. I take a breath, not realizing I’d been holding it through the song.
“That was epic! Did you love it?” Bethany shouts over the applause.
It was epic and soulful. “He’s good,” is all I can say. “I could use a refill, do you want anything?” Sam knows I can’t legally buy him another beer so he scrunches his nose and nods, no.
There’s a large crowd gathered around the coffee station. I can tell the baristas are overwhelmed with orders, so I stand quietly before placing my order. Tate has started another song, this one from Oklahoma native, Garth Brooks. Not being zoned into his playing is helping my insides calm down before I have to face, Bethany, and her gushing over Tate. Once the barista looks caught up, I place my order. I have only two orders up before mine is ready. The music stops and the energy in the room shifts. He must be finished with his set. Thank God!
Out of nowhere, there’s tons of people surrounding the small coffee section. I scoot forward, closer to the pick-up area to stay out of the way. From behind, a whisper in my ear startles me and I jump.
“I recognize you,” he whispers. HE WHISPERED IN MY EAR! “Small world.”
He’s so close behind me, I catch myself before I lean back into him. The heat coming from his body is sobering as it penetrates through my clothes. God! I need a drink! Turning around, the grin on his face throws me off my center and I put my hand on the bar to keep me upright. His hand comes out and he grabs my elbow. God, why does he keep touching me? “Do I know you?” I blurt out in my attempt at being dumb.
“Either you have a twin and your male friend with you has a twin, or you work in the mall. You’ve actually seen my ass and it was fantasy worthy.”
Don’t laugh! “Your ass was fantasy worthy for me, or did me seeing your ass fulfill your own fantasy? You’re the rash guy who walked out without his refund.”
“I think it was a little of both,” he flashes that damn crooked grin at me. I bet he thinks he’s going to melt my panties off with that smoldering look. “I’m Tate,” he holds his hand out to me to shake.
Absently, I accept his hand and shake it, “I’m Holland.”
His black t-shirt is tight enough across his muscular chest that I can see the perfect outline of his pecs. The strap of his guitar has the Harley Davidson logo in bright orange against the black of the strap. The guitar is pulled up to his back and I can’t help wondering what it feels like to have a guitar on my back like a turtle’s shell. I wonder if he rides a motorcycle. I dated a guy in high school who rode a crotch rocket and he drove like a maniac everywhere we went.
“Nice name, have you been here before?” Tate asks.
“I have, it’s been a while. You have a lot of fans in the audience, do you play here often?” The barista calls my name and I add a packet of sugar to my latte.
He grins without showing his teeth. “I’ve played here a couple of times. Everyone’s been great to me here so I keep coming back. This is the coolest bookstore with a phenomenal clientele. Hey, I’ve got to go back on in a few minutes. Can I come over and visit you when I’m finished?”
“Ah, sure,” I stammer. Bethany is going to kill me.
“See you then,” he says and walks away pulling his guitar around in front of him.
“See you.” As I get back to the table, Sam and Bethany are deep in conversation.
Bethany leans over and asks, “What was he saying to you?”
“Nothing really, he’s been in my store before. Do you remember him, Sam? He’s the guy who came in for a refund and had the rash on his butt?”
Bethany’s hand slaps the table hard enough to make the table wobble. “It didn’t appear to be nothing.”
“He said he wanted to come over and sit with us when he’s done. I’m not interested in him, Bethany. I’m not trying to move in on your guy,” I say sheepishly. The last thing I want to happen is a fight with the only girl who wants to be my friend.
She looks at me surprised and with a grin she reached over and patted my arm. “Girl, we’ve been dying to get you two together! When Sam and I were in here before he recognized him and said sparks were flying when he came into your store. We knew you wouldn’t come up here if you knew, so we kind of tricked you.” Bethany admits and for a split second, I’m pissed off, but they’re right, I wouldn’t have come.
“Sam, you knew this the whole time?” I glance at him and he’s grinning from ear to ear.
He holds up his beer and says, “To friends.”
That means I don’t have to feel guilty about him flirting with me.
“You saw his bum?” Bethany blurts out. “I pray it looks as good as it does in those jeans he has on. He should call them his bootie jeans. You’re not too mad at us are you?”
I hate being tricked. A part of me wants to storm out and be pissy, another part of me wants to jump for joy. “I’m not mad, but I’m paying you both back!” I hold up my latte and say, “Game on.”
Tate walks up on the stage and takes the microphone with his hands, he’s confident as he peers out to the crowd. “Hello folks, I’m Tate Cook and this is a little song you might know by Johnny Cash.” The crowd goes insane with applause. I only know the songs because they’re from my favorite movie, Walk the Line. His eyes check the audience before he settles his gaze on me. I’d never heard an acoustic version of Ring of Fire, but my heart starts pounding as he never averted his eyes.
“Oh shit Holland, he’s singing it to you,” Bethany bumps me as she whispers in my ear. “You need to jump on that before someone else snags him up.” She shrugs her shoulders, “Just sayin’.”
No matter how hard I try, I’m rendered useless and can’t break the connection we’re having in front of all these people. As he finishes the song not only does everyone clap, but people are leaning over and telling me that my boyfriend is awesome. Boyfriend? No, he’ll spend five minutes at my table and find a crazy excuse to leave and I’ll never see him again. I turn back toward the stage and he’s moved a stool out to sit down. He’s pulling the mic stand until the mic is right at his mouth. He rests the guitar on his leg and starts singing Losing My Way, and tapping his thumb on the black guitar. The lyrics are scary and he’s singing them with conviction. This time, he doesn’t look my direction, instead he focuses on his guitar. The crowd snaps in rhythm of every thumping sound he makes. He sings the last lyric and the crowd jumps to their feet and give him a much deserved ovation. He’s not a regular guy, there’s something more to him. How I know it, I don’t know, but I do.
Sam jumps up to get another beer and to talk to a girl who was flirting with him a while ago. No one else will sing for another hour and the first guy will be back to sing. Bethany is telling me about her sister’s invention to lock your bedroom door with the clap of your hands and I’m wiping my sweaty palms on my thighs. How do I go from self-sufficient control freak to a nervous groupie? From behind, someone has put their hand on the back of my chair and my jittery nerves cause me to jump a foot out of my chair.
Tate and Bethany laugh like old friends as he sits down in the chair to my left. The square table is pub sized, barely large enough for our drinks so I hold the book in my lap so it won’t get wet. There’s something familiar about him and this moment. His presence depletes the oxygen from my lungs making it difficult not to breathe.
“You were really good, Tate. Do you know what you’re going to sing before you go on stage?” Bethany asks in her breezy easy going way.
“Not always. I change it up for the crowd. Some of the songs are crowd favorites others aren’t. This crowd is eclectic and they were easy to entertain with both super old songs and newer ones. Some crowds only like one or the other, making it hard to know until you do a song and it flops,” Tate says as he makes a quarter weave between his fingers. My eyes are drawn to his hand, his nails are short but clean, he’s tan so he likes to be outside. He doesn’t have a lot of hair on his hand, why this is something I notice is beyond me.
“I can’t imagine anything to be a flop. You’re really great, have you ever been offered a deal?” Bethany’s enthusiasm makes the conversation interesting instead of one of those awkward conversations that end up turning everyone off.
A guy walking by pats Tate on the shoulder. “You rocked that Johnny Cash song, Ring of Fire. Will you be out here again?”
“Thanks man, they asked if I could come out in a couple of weeks. I have to check my schedule, but I’m pretty sure I will.”
“I’ll keep an eye out for the flyer. See ya,” the guy says and walks away.
Suddenly, people were all coming over and telling him what a great job he did and what their favorite song was. Tate is cool with everyone who talks to him. A couple of people offered to buy him a drink, but he declined. He never had a chance to answer Bethany’s question and I have the vibe he didn’t want to answer it. Bethany was happy to have the attention at our table. A couple of guys bought her a beer or two. Right now, I’m not the poor girl fighting to keep the electricity on. During our fourth trip to the restroom, the guy who Bethany was flirting with, came over to get her phone number. Suddenly, she doesn’t have to go to the bathroom as much as I do so I go without her.
Bethany isn’t where I left her and she isn’t at the table either. Sam is good at keeping tabs on her so I ignore it and to my disappointment, Tate and his guitar aren’t at our table. Great, everyone bailed on me the minute I was gone long enough to make the escape. Sam comes over and tells me Bethany is outside with that guy and she’d meet us at the car. He said Tate was talking to a group of people and he disappeared. Now, I’m the girl who can clear a room and the poor girl.
That guy and Bethany are sitting on the tailgate of the truck parked next to me and are drunk kissing. It isn’t pretty. They’re draped all over each other. It takes Sam a couple of times clearing his throat to get her attention. She looks up bashfully and not so discreetly, wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. Bethany takes a sharpie out of her purse and writes her number on his wrist.
“Let’s go, Beth, I have a couple of people coming to the house for drinks,” Sam says and checks his phone.
“You do?” I ask.
“You’re staying for drinks too, don’t give me that look,” Sam says with a flash of his toothy smile.
“I can’t, I have to study for a final.” I haven’t told them the depth of my father’s issues. If they knew I am basically the parent and he’s the emo teenager, they’d label me a big loser. I’m not. When I have to parent my dad, I am. Sam rolls his eyes at me. “One day, I’m going to jab a toothpick in your eyes to keep them from rolling back in your head.”
“Violent much? Are you going home to torture kittens?” Sam opens the car door and climbs into the back seat. Bethany called shotgun so he gets to be crowded with his long legs.
“No, I only torture humans, kittens are cute.” I put my key in the ignition to start the car. A knock on my window makes me jump and scream. Tate is standing there with a shit-eating grin on his face. He motions for me to get out of the car to talk to him. Sam reminds me he has company coming over.
I step out and follow him to the back of my car. I inhale, and get a whiff of his cologne. Sexy cologne. The kind that makes me all mushy inside.
He has his hands in his front pockets, he actually looks vulnerable and that is sexy to me. I wonder what he’s thinking. On the trunk of my car is a small brown shopping bag that looks like a gift bag. The stamp across it says, Raven Bookstore. He picks it up and hands it to me.
“This is for you.” He looks down on the ground and up at me.
Inside the bag is the book of poetry I had on the table. I glance up and smile at him, dumbfounded that he bought it for me. “Thank you, that’s so nice of you.” I don’t know what else to say, a part of me wants to hug him, and the other part…the sensible one says, creepy.
“I thought you left and forgot to get the book since it was scooted over by me.”
“Oh, yeah, I did forget it. I’ve been hoping to get a copy for a long time. Every time I’m in the store, they’re sold out. If you thought I left, what were you going to do?”
“Funny you should ask. I was planning on showing up to your work and giving it to you. I saw Bethany and some guy so I figured you were still here so I stayed in the parking lot until I saw you. That sounds really stalkerish. Crap, I’m a stalker,” he smiles at me and I can’t stop from smiling back.
“Yeah, you’re a stalker. If I catch you singing outside my bedroom window, I’m definitely going to call the cops.” I try to sound flirty so he won’t think he’s scaring me.
“Mental note, no singing outside of Holland’s bedroom. During our brief time together, I notice you like lattes. I’ve actually never seen anyone drink so many and plan on sleeping. You do sleep, don’t you? You’re not one of those binge on coffee at night and sleep all day people are you?” We laugh as he dances around whatever he’s about to say. “There’s this great coffee place, it’s small, but they make the best coffee. I’m sure their lattes are just as good too. Would you like to go have coffee tomorrow?”
What the what? He just asked me out. The girl living inside of me is about to faint, I feel her teetering over. Thankfully, I’ve mastered the art of hiding her from the world. These bootie jeans are my lucky charm. I’m off all weekend except for making the bank deposit, I don’t have to clock in at all. “Coffee sounds great. Tell me where and what time and I’ll meet you there.”
“Give me your cell number and I’ll text you the name and address. How about one-thirty?”
“Let me have your phone and I’ll put in my number. One-thirty is good for me.”
He smiles and nods his head a little. “Cool, see you then.” I watch him as he walks away, he turns around and waves.
I practically jumped into the car. Sitting in my seat, I turn to Bethany and shriek. She shrieks back. The two of us shriek together.
“OH MY GOD! DON’T SCREAM LIKE THAT AGAIN!” Sam demands.
Bethany and I look at each other one more time and let out one final voice-blowing scream.
“This girl got asked out on a date!” I say pointing at myself. My cell phone vibrates.
COOL CAR. DRIVE SAFE ~ TATE
I read the text once to myself and once out loud. Best night ever.