Friday Sneak Peek – Something Better

Looking for a fun Christian romance to read this weekend? Check out this sneak peek of my book Something Better, which is available for just $3.99 on Amazon or FREE on Kindle Unlimited! You can find the book here.

Young photographer taking photos outdoors

~Savannah~

Savannah Huntington was late.

And by late? She meant two things.

She was late to her morning meeting. And she was late. Holy cow, she was late.

The former had everything to do with the latter, as she stared at the pregnancy test, crossing her fingers, her toes, her legs, her arms, and even her eyes, as though her superstitions would do anything to help her out now.

He’d left a week ago.

Dave. The man in her life for… well, a good portion of her adult life. She’d met him in college at a frat party, and because they’d both been single at the time and relatively attracted to one another, they’d gotten together. Savannah had spent most of their five years thinking that they’d surely break up any day, but they’d withstood the transition from college to careers, from barely scraping by to making a decent living, from being young and stupid to…

… well, young and stupid. Because Dave? Was still stupid. They’d never discussed marriage, never discussed merging their lives together in any permanent sense, and never moved beyond a “well, here you are, so why not?” approach to their relationship.
Savannah hadn’t known that it bothered her, the way he had never changed, had never grown up, in all that time. He was content to live life like they had as college students. Not that she was a shining example of maturity herself, but she’d grown tired of the same nothingness, the stillness of their life, and the feeling that they were never moving forward to anything real.

So, they’d broken up. She hadn’t communicated this to anyone yet.

It wasn’t because she was sad. It wasn’t because she was upset. It wasn’t because she really cared.

She was just apathetic. Five years. Gone.

And the calmness by which she had ended it and he had accepted it at least suggested that it had been over a long time ago.

As soon as he’d packed his bags, she’d gone off the pill after many, many years on it, telling herself that she was done with men. She’d once wondered if he had all but killed her appreciation for the opposite sex, and she could confirm now, with him gone, that he had done very nearly that, as she had no desire at all to even talk to another man.

Done. So completely done.

In a move of bravado and feminist empowerment, she’d thrown the stupid leftover pills in the garbage, swearing that she wouldn’t need them ever again.

For the first time in a long time, she was on her own.

And late. She was late!

She took another breath, staring at the test, willing it to say that she was free and clear. Did she even pee on the right part of the stick? What a bizarre way to check for something this potentially life changing, aiming it just so, wondering if the liter of water she’d chugged would affect the results, hoping that she wouldn’t ick herself out completely by accidentally peeing on her own hand.

And what a bizarre thing, that it had never happened to her before now. Why would it have? She had complete faith in the birth control. She reminded herself, for the thousandth time, that she hadn’t stopped taking the pills until after he was gone. There had been no action post-pill-tossing, so she’d been covered… right? What were the odds that after years of them doing their job they had given up the ghost in her final week on them?

One percent? Effective 99% of the time. Effective 100% in the time she’d been on them.
That one percent was hardly worth considering now… right?

She was late, though. But maybe it was just her body, all confused… surely. Just like the rest of her, as she thought, without a trace of any emotion, about five years of her life down the toilet.

No pun intended.

Three minutes. What a wait. What a freakin’ long wait, and it –

Not pregnant.

“AHHH!” she shouted, thankful that she didn’t have to count lines, didn’t have to squint to make sure, didn’t have to wonder if her eyes were playing tricks. Electronic tests. Totally the way to go. Because who could argue with the life-affirming digital words that screamed assurance at her?

Not pregnant.

She very nearly kissed the stick as she did a celebratory dance right there in the bathroom.

Even as she checked it again, grinning right before she tossed it into the garbage can, Savannah looked up at the ceiling, her attention towards a God who didn’t mean much of anything to her, as she said, with a laugh, “I owe You one, Big Guy!”

And after that? She forgot all about being late.

 

So, the meeting she finally arrived at late was with family members. A break from the norm, which was something she could appreciate.

Most of her days were filled with appointments, mainly consultations for bridal portraits and wedding pictures, all of them huge profit-makers. This wasn’t what she’d planned back when she’d started her photography business, back when she’d said that art was more important than money.

Art, however, doesn’t put food on the table. So, she’d picked up some jobs doing wedding pictures, rationalizing that a starving artist had to do what a starving artist had to do.
After she’d done the pictures for her cousin Sadie’s wedding to an NBA star, her name got out there, and she’d been booked nearly solid with one wedding event after another. The royalties alone for Sadie’s pictures made for a nice income, but the demand for her services in light of her new celebrity wedding photographer status had made her a profitable entrepreneur. Business was so good, in fact, that she turned down more opportunities than she took, and the difference it made in her ability to pick and choose, to be artistic and picky about the photos she did, had changed her life.

Savannah grinned about this as she sat at the kitchen table, listening to the conversation around her, thinking about the pictures that waited on her laptop from one of her most recent weddings. She thought of how beautiful they’d turned out, of how gorgeous Faith looked in every last one of them, and of how the sunset washed her face in perfect lighting as she’d smiled at Sam, Savannah’s older brother.

The picture was almost as good as the glow on Faith’s face now as she sat at the kitchen table across from Savannah, watching Sam as he looked over accounting books with Scott, one of Savannah’s other older brothers.

She had five of them. Yes, five older brothers. And they all possessed the innate talent of being able to bore her into oblivion, just as they were doing now.

“I can’t believe you’re already talking work with him,” she sighed, rolling her eyes at Scott. “The man just got back from his honeymoon. And we have wedding pictures to look at. Priorities, Scott.”

Faith smiled at this, obviously eager to see what Savannah had managed to capture, but Scott spoke up before she could say anything.

“Sam’s taken over all the accounting for our business,” he muttered. “He’s lucky I didn’t call him on the honeymoon to get some things straightened out.” He glanced back up at his brother. “Finished those two houses on the northwest side of town. They owe me. A lot. And I haven’t been able to figure it out now that you’ve got everything worked into a new system, and –”

“We’ll figure it out,” Sam said, looking over the papers. “Stop being such a grouch.”

“I’m not being a grouch,” he muttered.

“Yes, you are,” Savannah said.

“Can’t even figure out what we have in any of our accounts,” he continued, frowning even further. “Sam needs to fix this.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do,” Sam muttered back.

“Well, I’m not letting you move into your house until you do,” Scott said.

“Still can’t believe you finished it while I was gone,” Sam grinned. “We checked it out this morning. It looks fantastic.”

Scott frowned at even this. “Yeah, well, didn’t want you and the new Mrs. living here indefinitely –”

“You just said you weren’t going to let him move into the house until –”

“Why are you even here, Savannah?” Scott huffed, looking over at her.

She frowned at him. “Wedding pictures, you idiot.”

“I’m not an idiot –”

“Okay, Mr. Crabby Pants, that’s enough.” They all looked up as Marie came into the room, eighteen month old Nathan’s hand in hers as he toddled beside her and six month old Hannah on her hip. As soon as the tiny girl saw Scott, she stretched her body out to him, contorting herself almost sideways, the pacifier falling from her mouth as she began to whimper.

Marie sighed. “Hannah, hold up—”

“Come here,” Scott cooed, reaching out for the little girl, covering her face in kisses as she sat in his lap and grabbed his shirt in a death grip.

“Faith,” Marie said, as she helped Nathan up into his booster seat, “just ignore Scott. I, for one, was looking forward to having you and Sam both here, living with us.”

“Marie,” Scott murmured, reaching up to touch her face, to bring her close, to kiss her lips. “I love you, but… no. No, no, no –”

“You know,” she said, giving his cheek a pat… then turning her attention to Faith and ignoring his upturned lips, “I think you should take your time moving out because… I’m really going to… well, miss you, and…” And she started tearing up.

“They’re going to be right across the backyard,” Scott said, looking up at her sympathetically, his voice all nasal, thanks to the grip Hannah’s tiny hand now had on his nose. “We’ll finally get some of our privacy back. I love you.”

“Why are you being so nice to her and so mean to everyone else?” Savannah asked, reaching over to tickle her niece.

“Because I love her,” he said. “And I picked her. Didn’t pick all the rest of you.”

“Scott,” Marie murmured, wiping at her eyes. “You could be nicer.”

“Yeah, Mr… what was it you called him, Marie?” Sam asked, still looking at the spreadsheets.

“Crabby Pants,” Marie said, actually crying now.

Good grief.

Scott sighed. “I hardly think you should be calling me Mr. Crabby Pants and poking fun of my legitimate, justified emotions when you yourself can cry at the drop of a –”

“Because you keep getting her pregnant, you dolt,” Savannah said. “And you are crabby.”

“Because I never get any sleep,” Scott cooed at Hannah as she laughed with sheer delight at him. “Daddy hasn’t slept in six whole months because his little princess can’t stay asleep unless he’s singing to her. Isn’t that right, Hannah-bear?”

“And he doesn’t even sing that well,” Marie sighed, blinking away the rest of her tears and kissing Nathan on the forehead. “We need a vacation, Scott.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Leave Sam with the business so we can run away for a while like he did.”

“It was our honeymoon,” Sam said. “A well-earned honeymoon after all the hours you had me working before the wedding.”

“Fair enough,” Scott sighed, pushing aside some of the papers so that Hannah wouldn’t grab them. “So, how was it?”

Sam glanced over at Faith and smiled. “Amazing.”

“Yeah,” Scott grumbled. “Amazing, while I was stuck here, neck-deep in… whoa, what is that smell?!”

All of the adults turned their attention to Hannah, who gave her father a toothy smile of relief, obviously done filling up her diaper.

“Daddy’s voice is like a sedative and a laxative, all at the same time,” Marie concluded somberly.

“That’s disgusting,” Scott said, making a face at Hannah.

“That it is,” Marie said, picking the little girl up. “And if you’re done being crabby with Sam –”

“I can be,” Scott said, holding his nose.

“We’ll leave you men to your boring work, and we’ll go and talk about the things Faith is really interested in, like all the pictures Savannah took,” she said, walking towards the nursery.

Savannah rose to her feet with a grin, then followed Marie with her laptop under her arm, looking back to see Sam watch Faith leave with adoration in his eyes.

That look.
Savannah sighed at the enormity of it. And her mind went back to Dave and how she felt…

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Which was troubling, in and of itself.

But neither Faith nor Marie knew what she was thinking, thankfully, as they immediately jumped into talk of the wedding, just as soon as they were all settled into the nursery.

“So,” Marie said. “The ceremony! And the reception! I hardly got a chance to talk to you after we all left the bridal room, but wow. The whole day was amazing. Just beautiful!”

“Mom did a great job planning everything,” Faith grinned, sitting down in one of the chairs as Marie began changing Hannah’s diaper. “She did so much of it on her own, since I was working like a crazy woman so far away. And, Savannah, the pictures! I got the one you took in the sunset. I can’t wait to see the others!”

Savannah plopped down in the rocker, opening up her laptop and thinking through all the pictures she’d taken that day. In the church, at the reception, on the beach after everyone else had left, where Sam and Faith had held one another close and very nearly forgotten she was there, snapping pictures.

The intensity, the affection, the kind of love that made nothing else in the world matter but him, just him… well, Savannah had never had that with Dave.

And who needed that anyway?

“You’re very photogenic,” she said. “Nearly everything I took was just as beautiful as that. And Sam was so thrilled that even he was smiling in a few pictures.”

Faith smiled at this, blushing just slightly. “He was really happy.”

“I’ll bet,” Savannah said, raising her eyebrows. “And the honeymoon? Was… how did he describe it to Scott?”

“Amazing,” she said softly, still smiling.

Marie sighed from where she stood wiping up… eww. Savannah frowned at this, even as Marie grinned over at them. “Maybe I can talk Scott into taking some time for a babymoon. Go somewhere exciting for a few nights. Have a little bit of amazing ourselves.”

“You’ve been having too much amazing,” Savannah noted wryly, looking to where the evidence of Marie’s pregnancy was already showing. “Do you even lose any pregnancy weight in between popping out babies, Marie?”

“Savannah,” Faith murmured reproachfully.

“Oh, no, she and I are nothing if not honest with one another,” Marie grinned. “Those jeans make your butt look huge, Savannah.”

“Not as huge as yours,” Savannah said. “But thank you for noticing.”

“See?” Marie laughed.

“We’re tight like that. As tight as these jeans I’m wearing,” Savannah said, grinning back. Marie was the best part of her brother, and her inclusion in this family had made Savannah feel as though all those years of living in a house full of brothers had been worth it.

She was better than a natural sister could ever have been.

“And, yes,” Marie said, making a face at her, “I lose a few pounds. Not all of it, but enough to consider myself back to normal. Whatever that is. I don’t even remember what my body was like before these babies, honestly.”

“You don’t look that different,” Savannah offered.

“Yes, I do,” Marie laughed. “And it would bother me, you know. But I swear,” she lowered her voice, “your brother is even more into me when I’m all huge and pregnant. Can’t get enough of all this gestating, hot seduction.”

“That’s disgusting,” Savannah concluded.

“She’s right, though,” Faith laughed softly. “I see it at my office all the time. Women who are huge… I mean, way bigger than Marie ever gets, well, they come in, and their husbands are just over the stars in love with them and all the more attracted to them. Their wives, full of life like that, carrying their children… some men. It just really moves them.”

“Moves Scott so much,” Marie said, “that I’m not sure this house is actually big enough for all the children he seems intent on having. Knocked up. All. The. Time.”

“Again,” Savannah muttered. “Disgusting.”

“Beautiful,” Faith said demurely. “Families made out of love like that. I can see how it only makes Scott love you more, Marie.”

Marie smiled as well. “You just wait, Savannah. You and Dave make it official one day, you start a family, and he’ll look at you like he’s never looked at you before.”

Oh, yeah. Dave. Five years…

Nothing.

What was wrong with her anyway?

Savannah sighed. Now was as good a time as any to tell them.

“Yeah, well, me and Dave?” she sighed, biting a fingernail as she shrugged. “Are done.”

Marie gasped. “What? When did that happen?”

“Last week,” she said, picturing again in her mind how they’d simply regarded one another at the front door. No hugs, no smiles, just… nothing.

Nothing.

Marie came to her side and sat down next to her, Hannah still on her hip. “Savannah… I’m so sorry.”

Savannah shrugged, even as she noted that Faith watched her with concern, waiting for tears, for emotion that wouldn’t be coming.

“No huge deal,” she said, honestly meaning it.

“But why?” Faith asked. “Why did you break up?”

And Savannah took a breath. “It wasn’t going anywhere. We should have done it years ago, honestly.”

“Are you okay?” Marie asked. “ I mean, you were with him for longer than I’ve been with Scott, and…” Her eyes visibly began to fill with tears. “I can’t even imagine one day without Scott. Crabby pants and all.”

Savannah managed a smile at this. “Yeah, and that? The way you feel about him, in contrast to the nothingness I feel towards Dave, even all these years later?” she said. “Is a good indication that this is the right move. I’m just… done. I need a break from men. All men.”

What would they think about this, that she felt nothing after all those years? Savannah found herself caring more about their opinion of her than she did about Dave, sadly enough.

Just as Marie put her hand to Savannah’s knee and opened her mouth to say something encouraging, the phone rang.

“Here, Faith,” Savannah said, relief in her voice, handing over her laptop and reaching into her pocket where the buzzing continued. “Take a look.”

And she stood to answer her phone after blowing out an unsteady breath. The breakup wasn’t any huge deal. Not really. But still… maybe it should have been. It had been five years, after all, and now… nothing.

Was she incapable of feeling anything real given how easily she could move on? Was she that shallow? Was nothing deep, sacred, meaningful?

Was the very fact that she was more bothered about this than about having lost the man she’d been with for the past five years proof that she was just that shallow?

She shook her head free of the thoughts, making her way out of the nursery, even as Faith and Marie began oohing and ahhing over the pictures.

She always had that. The pictures. Her work. That was what was meaningful. She didn’t need anything else.

She answered the phone with a swift click.
“This is Savannah,” she announced with some hope, crossing her fingers that maybe this was a new job, a chance to get right back to work, right back to capturing happy moments, right back to doing something meaningful. She hoped to hear a voice that would call her to something better…

“Savannah, this is Henry Booth.”

Ahh. Henry Booth.

Something better.

 

Savannah Huntington and Henry Booth had worked together on more than a few occasions.

Henry’s company had regional headquarters in Houston and had need for a freelance photographer every once in a while. Savannah had scored the first assignment a few years back because a friend of a friend had been a contact for Henry’s assistant.

She well remembered hitchhiking and taking a series of buses all the way to New York once they’d given her the okay to come, based on some photos from her portfolio that she’d sent to them to showcase her work…

… and herself, because the photos she had sent were self portraits. And they, quite frankly, were hot.

Henry had likely thought so as well, if his reaction to seeing her as she met them at the site that morning was any indication. She’d sauntered up to him, her camera in hand and everything she would need in a bag on her back. She was a minimalist. An enthusiastic minimalist, who had discerned immediately that Henry, in his expensive, sleek suit was the man in charge. She had wasted no time in walking up to him with all the assurance in the world and holding out her hand for his.

“Savannah Huntington,” she had said, all confidence, as she grinned up at him.

And he had looked at her with recognition passing over his face. Oh, yes, he’d looked at the pictures. Maybe more times than his job actually required, honestly. He had smiled at her knowingly with one eyebrow raised as he slid his hand into hers, and she’d felt a little rush of excitement at the low way he had murmured, “Hmm… well, then. I’m Henry Booth.”

She and Henry had worked so well together on that one photo shoot that he had requested her every time his company had need for a photographer back in Texas.
Savannah had always made herself available because Henry was great company… and great eye candy. Yeah, there was Dave, and she was faithful to him. But Henry was like one of these unattainable men, not suitable for every day because he was too gorgeous for any normal woman to feel secure about having long-term. So checking him out as they worked together (and on occasion, snapping a picture or two of him as he worked, unaware of what she was doing) was totally permissible, right?

Okay, so it was creepy. Savannah could admit that.

“Henry!” she exclaimed, just outside Hannah’s nursery, thinking of his face. “How are you?”

She could hear him smile through the line. “Good, now that I’m talking to you. We’ve had some… well, big changes at the company.”

“Changes?” she asked. “Sounds exciting.”

A long pause. “Well, perhaps. Anyway, I’m heading down there to Houston next week. Will need some work done. And possibly your help with an overseas assignment if you can take the time.”

Time away. Away from the troubling thoughts that Dave’s departure had brought to life in her mind. Away from this. Time overseas. Time on an exotic, exciting vacation.

Time checking out Henry. She was done with men, of course, but… well, she wasn’t dead yet.

“For you, Henry?” she said, already turning over all that she would need to do to make it happen as she thought on this. “I think I can try.”

“I would really appreciate it,” he murmured. “You sure it won’t be a problem?”

“I’ll have to move around some commitments,” she said. “And I won’t be able to be out of Houston for too long. But I make my own hours for the most part.”

“Which is why you were the first person that came to mind,” he said. “Well, that and your exceptional talent, of course.”

Henry. She could appreciate the praise. “I am the best, Henry,” she said, flirtation in her voice. “The best you’ll ever have.”

She could hear him laugh just a little at this. Then, he lowered his voice. “I can only imagine.”

Yes. Some time away with more of this? Was just what she needed. No more thinking of Dave, or nothingness…

“And you’ve talked me into it, Henry,” she said, smiling.

 

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