When the year started, I was fresh off finishing the final rounds of edits for A Touch Menacing, the last book in my trilogy. To me, that whole time period looks like one giant black scribble mark in my brain. After writing on the same characters for almost 5 years, and then having to let them go (some in horrible ways) I was emotionally worn out. I knew I needed a break. Hell, I’d needed one for awhile. But I didn’t feel like I deserved one. See, I was never one of those people who could work on multiple projects. I wrote A Touch Mortal, sold it, and then worked on edits until a couple months before it was published. Only when I reached the copy edit stage did I jump into A Touch Morbid. The same went for Menacing. So in between edits were weeks where I didn’t do any writing. I feared not being able to find my way back into the voice and world if I started something different. I watched, envious, as friends talked about their new projects and “for fun” books that ended up selling. This was an entirely foreign concept to me. Sometime between selling the first book and finishing the third, I’d stopped seeing writing as fun. I’d started to see it as a constant word goal I never quite reached. “After I finish this, I’ll write something different,” I promised myself. “Something for me. Something fun.” But it never happened. This year, for the first time in almost four years, I found myself with no deadline. No pressure. And I completely froze up.

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All work and no play make Leah something something…

There are a million reasons I could give you. I could say it was lack of discipline, or lack of ideas, but those aren’t true. I’d actually pitched my agent a few at the BEA 2012, and never quite gotten around to starting them. I could say I was busy. Maybe even that I was simply catching up on tv shows (hello, Sherlock!). The simple truth though, is that I fell out of love with writing. I wasn’t rushing home to get a scene down. No one stared at me at the grocery store when they caught me running dialogue to myself in the ice cream section, because I wasn’t running dialogue in the ice cream section. My characters weren’t popping into my head, because I didn’t have any characters that made me think about them. The spark was gone. Writing and I, it seemed, were over.

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I thought about what that would mean. Could I be happy without writing? At that time, the answer was yes. My contract with Greenwillow and HarperCollins ended after the third book. Writing a new one meant going on submission again,which was daunting. It meant maybe finding another publisher. Maybe not finding one. Did I really want to go through that again? There isn’t really much else I’m good at aside from writing. I considered going back to school, but wasn’t sure what for. My agent, Ro, asked me how everything was going. I told her I needed a break. She told me to take as much time as I needed.

And so I stopped writing. I babysat my nieces, and hung out and went to (lots) of concerts. Then, one day, a scene popped into my head. One that screamed to be written.  I wrote it. And then I let it sit. A week or so later, another scene popped into my head and I called a friend. I read her the first scene. “Write that book,” she said. “Now.” I asked my roomie, Scott Tracey about it. “WRITE IT.” he demanded. So I putzed along on it. I can’t say it came out in a rush. It fizzled and sparked and smoked in my brain and on the page. This year, I thought, I’m going to teach myself to work on multiple projects. That’s my goal. So I started something new. That, too, took off. When it stalled, I flipped to my first project. Then started another. Then another. Some were only scenes. Others went further. I worked on what cried out most to be written when I sat down. I started to like writing again. I wondered if maybe, just maybe, I had another book in me.  In September,  I added up my word counts for each codenamed project, expecting an abysmal number. This is what I found…

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Now, that may not seem like a lot to some writers, and it’s especially not a lot for NINE months of writing, but to someone who considered giving up, that is a glorious amount. Staggering. I was back in the game. So this, 2013, became the year I taught myself to work on multiple projects. Here are my final word counts.

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One of those books, codenamed Doorstop, is finished. It’s currently sitting for a couple months until I have enough distance to give it a proper edit. Another, AVBA, aka the project that got me writing again, crossed over the 60k mark last night. I’m hoping to finish it at around 75k. I can’t tell you what it’s about, but GOD do I want to. Guys, I love this book. I think you will love this book. It’s uses a well known character I’ve had a crush on since childhood along with that special twisty quality I like to add to my stories. I spend my idle time dreaming up creepy promo ideas and ways to strengthen the plot and one liners to work in. It’s the book I want to send first to my agent, because it’s a book I’m already proud of, even though it’s not yet finished. And it feels so good.

Most of the 182,510 words (which breaks down to 500 words a day) I wrote this year will never be published. For instance, it’s going to be years before I’m a strong enough writer (if ever) to tell the story I want to become Sour Notes. Terrors is a fantasy novel, something I’ve never tried before and I’m not sure I’ll be able to sustain for a whole book. Accidental Kristen is just that–an accidental Kristen scene that takes place long after A Touch Menacing ends, and will never be a novel. At most, it might be a short story I’ll email to people who want to read it. But the point is, I had fun writing these words. They stretched me and made me work and think. They gave me the chance to say, I’m back. I’m writing again. And if luck has it, in a few months I’ll be on submission again, an idea I’m actually pretty excited about.

Next year, my goal is to finish two novels. One of those will be AVBA and the other, I’m not sure of yet. We’ll have to see what the next 365 days hold! How about you? Did you have writing goals for the year? Did you reach them? What are your goals for 2014?

Hi guys! Gah! It’s been too long! While I’ve been around the internet, I haven’t had much to update on the blog. That’s not to say I haven’t been writing. There are many things going on behind the scenes…

When I was working on the Touch Trilogy, I tended to concentrate only on the book I was working on at the time. For example, I didn’t start working on A Touch Menacing until I was through multiple rounds of edits on A Touch Morbid. I envied writers who had other projects to throw themselves into, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to work on multiple things at once. I was worried about getting caught up in other worlds and other characters. This past year, I decided I would teach myself to get more than one project going. It works out well for me because, well, this is how I make my living, and it works out well for you all because it means more books (theoretically…they still have to sell) in the long run. While I plan on doing a post closer to the end of the year on how this turned out, I’m proud to say I now have two projects over 50k (I usually shoot for 80k) and a handful hovering around 10k. I’m counting that as a success!

One of those projects, which you might have seen me hashtag as The Doorstop Project (Only a code name. Secret title is secret), I decided to work on for NaNoWriMo. For those of you not familiar, this is where writers commit to churning out 50 thousand words in the month of November. I’ve tried it before. I usually only make it a day or two before I bow out. I’m one of those writers who edits as I go. I like to fix plot holes as I notice them, because many times they change the direction of the story. I also had a big problem with one of the staple “commandments” of NaNo, which is that it’s okay to write crap. Many people swear by this, writing just to get words down. They say it lets you explore and try things and meet your word goals. I still have a major problem with this. I mean, what’s the point of writing an entire scene knowing full well you’re going to cut it? It seems like a waste of time. I still feel this way. I’m also a slow writer. For me, a 3k day is a rare a precious unicorn of a thing. But this year, I decided to give it a go. I was about 30k into The Doorstop Project, which is technically against the rules as you’re supposed to start on a new story, but hey, I’ve always been a rebel. I figured I’d write for a week and take my new 10k and walk away happy. Things went a little differently than expected. First, I had a great support system in place. I’ve connected with a lot of other NaNo participants and having people to cheerlead and who cheerlead me made an enormous difference. Right now, I’m hovering at 39k for the month. Will I finish on time? Probably not. I’m holding Thanksgiving for my extended family this year, and the prep and house cleaning is going to eat up a lot of my time. But I’m going to come DAMN close, and for me, that’s what’s important. I’ll end this month around 45k (and God does that KILL me, not to get that last 5k). Those are all words I pushed for, fought for, skipped Toddlers in Tiaras for. But they are there. One of the side-effects of NaNo is that I didn’t have time to doubt my story. There wasn’t enough padding for me to take the normal 2-3 day panic flail of “Is this story good enough?” or “Should I push this further?” once a week. I just wrote it. And I realized all that doubt was wasted time that got me to the same place in the end. So I skipped it. It’s definitely a lesson I’ll be taking with me. Because of NaNo, I’m hoping to have this book finished by mid-December and after an edit, it’s looking to be on my agent’s desk around February. And any way you shake it, that makes NaNo a win for me! Are any of you participating this year? How did you do?

Before I let you go, I want to send a shout out to Amber of Book Nerd Tours who gave this blog a lovely and much needed facelift! Thanks! I also want to point you guys to another page on this blog. I’ve opened up to critiques and am running a special until December 14th! It’s a great chance for those of you striving for publication to have your book critiqued by an author who has been through the editing process at a major imprint. This might be the push you need to set your book apart from the rest when it crosses an agent or editor’s desk! Check out the link above.

Lastly, if you’ve read this far, SURPRISE CONTEST! To enter, leave me a comment about your writing, a book you read recently and loved or how you’re spending the holidays and then share this post anywhere online. It can be twitter, facebook, tumblr, your blog…multiple shares = multiple entries, but please only one share per social media site. Be sure to include a link to the share, and your email address or twitter handle and I’ll pick two lucky commenters to win presents from me! US only please. It’s a surprise contest, so it’ll be a surprise present! That’s it! Good luck and I’m excited to hear from you!

Pre-Orders!

Posted: February 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

TouchMenacing hc c

Hi guys! I know I haven’t been around much, but I wanted  to let you know that I’ve paired with my local indie, The Learned Owl, again to offer personalized, signed pre-orders of ANY of my books! Well, I guess technically, you can only pre-order A Touch Menacing, but if you order any of my books, I’ll be signing them around March 5th so they won’t ship until then!
What to do: Order your books through The Learned Owl (handy link). When you check out, alllllllll the way at the bottom under the payment options is a box that says Order Comments. In that box, you can write who you’d like me to sign your book to and even what you’d like me to write! (“Hey Jane Doe! Thanks so much for taking care of Luke for me after the series ends! I know he’s in good hands. Best, Leah”) and I will do it! A Touch Menacing comes out March 5th, so you will want to get your order in by Feb. 26th to avoid any FUBARs!

Thank you guys so much for reading! I can’t believe it’s over….

PS. Morbid’s posters have been designed. I’ll be printing/shipping them out at/around the end of March. I’m very sorry for such a huge delay and so many unexpected problems with getting them to you! Thank you for being way more than patient!

Our Christmas Tree

Posted: December 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

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This is our Christmas tree.

You’ll notice, it doesn’t have many branches.  You’ll also notice it’s a bit too tall, and bends across our ceiling.  But it’s our tree. It’s my tree.

Scott said on Twitter that our tree looks like I got mad at someone and hacked off the top of their tree to punish them. And us.  In truth, this is the top of a Christmas tree.  It’s the top of a tree that until the storm that had been Hurricane Sandy hit Ohio, grew in my parents’ front yard. I have pictures of myself as a kid in front of it when it was just a bit taller than me. When it came down, it was much taller than the house. Throughout the years, birds nested in it and raised their babies. I’m pretty sure a few litters of stray kittens were born in the safety of the hollow space near the trunk. Every year, my mom would decorate it with big colored ornaments and shine a spotlight from the middle of the yard. When it fell, it didn’t crash down, but gently tilted to the side across the front yard as if to say, “I’m sorry. I can’t hold on,” and then let go at an angle that would keep it away from the house. My mom asked if I wanted the top of it for my Christmas tree, and then kept it in a bucket of water until I was ready.

While I decorated it, I couldn’t help but think about the other tree that came down in my parents’ yard in the storm.  We’d joked for years about the mammoth oak taking out the house.  It was a decade past dead, hollow and Halloweeny.  My mom had made an appointment for it to be cut down, but the tree trimmers hadn’t been able to get there yet. 

My brother heard the crack. 

He’d run through the house, thinking if he could get to my dad in the living room, he’d have a chance to throw himself on top of him and shield them both. That tree should have fallen into the house.  It should have killed them both.  Instead, it, too, fell at a strangely perfect (and completely different) angle and only clipped the side of the garage. 

This year, I’m thankful my family is here to make fun of my tree. It’s not a pretty tree.  It’s not a tree anyone would pick out to bring home.  It is the tree that reminds me to be grateful for the things I have: a house to put it in, family and friends that love me and whom I love, and another crazy year of life that I’ve been blessed to live as if it were my last. I don’t think there’s anything else I could possibly ask for.

Merry Christmas. Image

 

Adding to the Epic!

Posted: September 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

In my last post, I let you guys in on the gatherings I’ll be doing while on my epic road trip. A few people noticed that I would be in Seattle, but didn’t have anything planned. Well, you know I aim to please, so not ONLY did I add in a Seattle gathering, but  I also talked  Danny Marks, author of Velveteen, into doing a gathering with me. Danny, awesome guy that he is, sweetened the pot for you guys. In Seattle, we’ll be doing an official signing at 5:00pm at Barnes and Noble FOLLOWED by dinner with both Danny and myself! I hope you guys can make it if you’re in the area and both Danny and I are looking forward to meeting you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For other cities and gatherings I have planned check this post!

 

Announcing Epic Roadtrip Stops

Posted: September 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

Hello, Darkings! It’s been a damn long time since I’ve posted on here. Namely because…well…how do you top the Insanitea Party?

With this…

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And that, my friends, is one hell of a road trip. When I first started planning, it was just going to be a crazy adventure.  But you guys know I couldn’t head to all these places and not try to see at least SOME of you!  So I’ve added in a few gatherings, and even a signing.

The signing will be October 29th in Cedar City, Utah at Braun Books at 6:30pm.

The other gatherings will be unofficial debauchery. We may meet up in a park, or at a bookstore, or have lunch together. Hell, we could end up in a cemetery Kristen style (I will be in New Orleans at one point, after all).  I’ll announce where and when closer to the dates!  If you are familiar with a city I’m doing one of these in and have a place to suggest, let me know! I’ll sign any of my books (or anything else) that you want to bring with you and will try to have a few copies of Mortal and Morbid with me for sale just in case. Hell, maybe I’ll even mark them up extra for you! ;)

The unofficial gatherings will be…

October 4th – Austin, Texas
October 18th – LA, California                                                                                                                        

October 20th San Fran, California   

October 23rd Seattle, Washington 

October 27th – Manitou Springs, Colorado (They’re having Coffin Races in town that morning, which you should TOTALLY check out!)

If you see in the map above that I’m stopping in your town (if you click on the map, it’ll make it larger), but not having an official gathering, let me know! If there’s enough interest, we might be able to put something together and hang out!

I’m counting on you guys to spread the word and hope to see you in October!

It’s not every day one gets to throw a Gothic-Steampunk-Asylumtastic Victorian tea party to launch their novel.  And Sweetheart, you better believe when that opportunity arose, I wasn’t about to let it pass by.

Me and Amber (MyshelfandI and Wednesday on the YA Rebels!)

While writing A Touch Morbid, the second book in the series, I wondered about having a launch party.  See, parties make me nervous.  Like everyone else, I’m always terrified no one will come.  And as much as I love being the center of attention on BlogTV (for oh, 5 hours lol) in person I get so nervous.  Before signings, I’m a wreck inside. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to hold something to thank everyone who had bought and supported the first book. I have the best readers in the world, and I wanted a way to thank them. A party seemed like a good idea, but I knew a normal signing wasn’t gonna cut it.

I don’t think I’ve made it a secret that while writing this trilogy, Kristen’s scenes were ones I looked forward to most.  A schizophrenic graverobber with a penchant for spouting poetry to hold her mind together? In reviews and in talking to people, she always seemed to pop up as a favorite character.  If I have a launch party, I thought, maybe I can work a Kristen style Sider ball into it.

Signing line!

It could be a tea party!  People could wear costumes!  The idea spun in my brain for a few days and then something important happened.  I went to Maggie Stiefvater’s signing in Novi, Michigan.

Some of the attendees!

One of the people there was Krys, who works at Schuler’s in Lansing.  Afterward, when a bunch of us went out to eat, she asked me if I planned to do a launch party for Morbid.  I kind of blushed and told her my silly skeleton of a thought.  “You’re doing it!” Krys told me.  “I’m telling them about it tomorrow and we’re totally making this happen!”  And so it was, that a writer from Ohio wound up having an InsaniTEA Party complete with

skull shaped sugar cubes and a live band with character look-alikes at a bookstore in Lansing, Michigan.

For those of you who attended, THANK YOU! Thank you thank you thank you– I can’t say it enough!  Your total commitment (commitment, committed, asylums and insaniteas…) took this so far beyond my wildest expectations! Even if you were only able to come to the liveshow, thank you! I had friends of mine who popped in to check it out and passed on all the lovely things you said!

A huge thank you to Claslan, fronted by our Az look-alike, Clay, for performing!  They absolutely rocked it! Many MANY of you have asked where to get their album.  The website, along with links to grab their songs and the merch they had available at the InsaniTEA is http://www.claslan.com/! There’s also a video of them performing on the facebook event page.

This is the drummer for Claslan! His name is Gabe! In the background there is Ian, aka the "Other options" hand in the Kristen Trailer.

And finally a HUGE thank you to Krys and Whitney at Schuler’s Books and Music in Lansing, who made this all possible! They both went out of their way to make this event something special (Who has a live band in a bookstore?! *two thumbs* This girl!) and made sure the livestream happened, which was really important to me!

I know there were a lot of you who couldn’t attend.  Don’t worry! No one is getting left out!

At the event, I handed out the first of the BEAUTIFUL bookmarks that Courtney Allison Moulton designed for A Touch Morbid! To get your hands on some, send an email with your address to LeahCliffordBooks (at) gmail (dot) com! I’ll be sending out bookmark packets sometime in April, so spread the word!

In the next few weeks, I’m going to be doing some giveaways for the swag bags I handed out, which will include the lockets and necklaces I had made! Along with those items will come a variety pack of tea and some of those sugar skull shaped sugar cubes so you too, can have an Insanitea Party!

Check out more pictures in the InsaniTEA Party album on my facebook page!

Did you attend the event or the liveshow? What did you think? Let me know in the comments if you have any ideas for Book 3’s launch party! Who should we theme it after?

*Edited to add: The Mortal Portal store has been updated with shirts and a ton of other products for both A Touch Mortal AND A Touch Morbid (including the infamous kitten shirt!) . Click on each of the categories to see other designs!

*Edited to add 2: Schuler’s has signed copies of both books! You can order them by calling the store at 517 316 7495

My lovely Darklings!

FIRST I need to say thank you! So many of you blogged about, reviewed, Waiting-on-Wednesday’d and squeed about A Touch Morbid on your blogs and Twitter and Facebook these past few weeks! Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart, guys! There are so many books out there and coming up, and I’m always honored when you choose mine to talk about! I worked so hard on this book and it truly means everything to me to see you excited and sharing that excitement with others.  Plus, without your enthusiasm, I wouldn’t have the courage to do any of the crazy fun things I have coming up for you! (Seriously…I didn’t have a launch party for book 1 because I was too scared no one would come.)

Thank you for coming to my launch party, Rock!

If you don’t already know (maybe you were under that rock) Saturday is the InsaniTEA Party!  It’s the official launch party for A Touch Morbid.  Dress is Gothic Victorian or steampunk or Wonderland Gone Wrong or “I have this insane outfit and nowhere to wear it.”  This party is based around the mind of Kristen, a schizophrenic grave robbing dead girl, slowly unraveling.  If you’re in doubt that your outfit is too over the top, let me assure you, it is NOT.  It’s also worth noting that I just had to tell the bookstore I need 4-5 feetof space between the podium I speak at and the wall. Otherwise my dress will not fit.  I have not figured out how I’m going to go to the bathroom yet.

Objects in mirror may be smaller than they appear.

Sadly, because the event is in Michigan, some of you can not be there in person.  BUT !

I just learned last night officially that

The InsaniTEA Party will be livestreamed!

Starting around 1pm EST we’ll be broadcasting live on my BlogTV channel. I’m going to try to set the computer up in a way that you all can see what’s going on, watch the band Claslan perform and hear my reading!  This will also allow guests and myself and other authors to wander by and talk to you all!

Nextly.  I just realized that I never officially posted the two trailers for A Touch Morbid on here!  Eep!  Edit brain will do that too you… I know most of you caught them on Twitter and Facebook, but if not:

Eden and Az’s trailer!

Kristen’s trailer!

And finally, an update on the special swag item for those of you who pre-ordered Morbid and sent me your proof of purchase.  These won’t be shipping out until mid-April!  I didn’t want to skimp on them because of being in edit-mode.  I promise they WILL get to you and they WILL be awesome.

All right lovelies.  It’s 12:05pm, I’m leaving at 2:30pm and I have not started packing, which means I need to get my butt in gear!

See you in the asylum!!

Morbidly yours,

Leah

 

Morbid Trailer Pictures!

Posted: February 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

You guys! It’s almost here!  February 28th, A TOUCH MORBID, the second book in my trilogy hits shelves!

Most of you know how much I adore the spontaneous crazy, and filming the trailer was no exception.  Spur of the moment, we decided to film the trailer ON LOCATION.  In New York City.  Luckily, my amazing videographer, Clay (who also plays Az) and my two amazing actresses (Chelsea, aka Kristen’s doppelganger and Emili, who rocks as Eden, were down for a no-notice-get-in-the-car eight hour drive to the city.

I can’t tell you how pleased I am with the footage we got!  The trailers (yes, there are TWO!) are going to premiere on several blogs on February 14th, so for now, all I can give you are a few teases!

Don’t forget–if you pre-order A Touch Morbid from ANYWHERE, send an email to MorbidPrize (at) gmail (dot) com, you’ll get your very own limited edition, signed poster of the cover.  This is the ONLY way you can get your hands on this poster!  I’ve also teamed up with my local indie to offer personalized pre-orders of both A Touch Mortal’s paperback and the hardcover of Morbid! Click here to order!

If you’re in the Lansing, Michigan area or down for a road trip, come to the InsaniTEA Party launch!  We’re doing it up Kristen style–dress code is Victorian Gothic, but honestly anything steampunk, graveyard couture, or even repurposed prom dresses will work! We’ll have a live band, some grave-robbed jewelry door prizes courtesy of Kristen and of course, tea! Don’t miss it!

On to the pictures!  Keep in mind, we’ve saved all the best stuff for February 14th!  I can’t wait to share the final trailers.  Clay’s ideas and abilities have blown me away!  If you’re a writer and looking for someone to shoot your trailer, I can’t recommend him highly enough!

Without further ado…Take a sneak peek!  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

Creepy angel is creepy

Kristen at the cemetery! This is the chapel she lived in when she had her "tiff" with reality after first becoming a Sider.

For those of you who've been lucky enough to snag an ARC of Morbid, we recreated Eden and Az's date! These two were so adorable, tourists were stopping to take pictures of them!

A Cut Scene as a Thank You!

Posted: January 15, 2012 in cut scene

Hello, my lovelies!  I just wanted to give you a small thank you for voting for Luke as Villain of the Year!  The voting is open until January 26th, and you can vote as many times as you want, so keep it up and keep spreading the word!  We’ve got some stiff competition.  We’re gonna have to work hard to bring this one home for Luke, but I know we can do it!  As promised, here’s a cut scene from A Touch Mortal!  This takes place near the beginning, just before Gabe discovers that Eden doesn’t have a path.  You can see where I used a few bits of it in the book.  I’m pretty sure no one’s seen this besides my editor before this and I’ve never put up any unused scenes before! I hope you enjoy it!

Don’t forget to post a comment on the original post to let me know whenever you vote, tweet, FB or post anywhere!  I have another alternate scene to post later in the week, so keep voting!  If Luke wins, his biggest advocate as judged by the comments on the original post will get a half hour Skype session with me to talk about whatever you’d like!

xoxo,

Leah

Chapter

Eden came up for air, pulling back from Az’s lips.  He tightened his arm and kissed a line across her cheek until she relented and their mouths met again.

“Okay, now I’m good.”  He laughed, falling against the back of the booth they were seated in.  Around them dozens of tourists played arcade games, filling the tables for late dinners of hot dogs and cheesy fries.  No one noticed them, though she still felt self-conscious with their PDAs.

She searched for Gabe, found him deep in line, waiting for their order.  He seemed to feel her eyes on him, shot her a wink and a discreet thumbs up.  Nervous butterflies batted inside her.

When she’d confided in Gabe earlier, it’d seemed so easy.  “If you’re in love with the guy, tell him, Eden.”  Right, she thought, picking at the label on the ketchup bottle.  Totally easy.

“You okay?” Az asked.  He frowned comically, tracing a finger from her hairline to her chin.  “You have Deep Thought Face.”

She blushed.  “I’m fine.  Just thinking.”

“About?”

They hadn’t said it yet.  She knew how she felt, but the last two weeks seemed so delicate.  Saying it out loud, that meeting him was a line–there was only before and after–telling him why she’d been on the beach that night, how depressed she’d been; it could ruin everything.  Especially when everything after was so much better.  And what if he didn’t feel the same, wasn’t there yet?  What if he wasn’t going to get there?  Or maybe this would end up being one of those cheesy summer romances.

He tipped her head up, stole another kiss.  His lips were almost enough to reassure her.

“I was thinking I’m…”  She hesitated.  “I’m thinking you scare me.”

“I scare you?”  He pulled away to sit up.

“It’s not that, it’s…all so fast.”  She took a deep breath, trusting Gabe’s advice to just tell Az the truth.  “I need to know what’s going to happen when summer ends.  I need to know if this is just a temporary thing for you.”  She swallowed hard, her heart hammering hard enough that he must have felt it when he pulled her into his arms again.  It was the first time she’d been so blatant about how important he’d become to her.

He murmured her name, before he lifted her from his shoulder, ran a hand down her cheek to cup her face.  “This isn’t ‘temporary’ for me.  It never has been.”

Eden’s eyes flicked to the line before she leaned in to Az again.  “Because I love you,” she said.

“I love you, too.”  Az smiled.  And just like that everything was perfect again.

She was still giddy when Gabe showed up with their trays, stacked with food.  Az slipped out, heading to the bathroom as Gabe plopped down.  He waited until Az was out of earshot before he laughed.

“I’d tell you to spill but you are so glowing right now!”  He grinned, crossing his arms.  “Did I not tell you he was in love?”

Her smile widened.  “I asked him what would happen when summer ended.”

“Did you?”  Gabe’s smile flickered.  “What did he say?”

“That I wasn’t temporary.”

Gabe leaned back in the booth as Az slipped in beside her, his arm finding its way around her shoulders.

“What’d I miss?” Az asked, digging into the basket of fries.

“Nothing,” Gabe said.  “But I think I’m checking out early tonight.  I’ve got some work to catch up on.”

Eden caught the confused look Az gave him.  Poor Gabe, Eden thought.  Even on vacation he can’t just have fun.