Hi guys! We have Kristina Meister stopping by today with her new release Love Under Glasse, we have a great excerpt and an awesome giveaway where a custom ordered biker-style patch that represents El and Riley, and a signed copy of Cinderella Boy are up for grabs, so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
Love Under Glasse
This runaway might want to get caught.
El Glasse’s mother controls her life. What she does, who she dates, even what she’s allowed to say. El only has two ways of holding onto her freedom. One is her popular anonymous blog, hidden from Mama Glasse. The other is what she so often blogs about: her feelings for Riley, the girl who works at the ice cream parlor. Riley is fierce, free, and rides a killer motorcycle, and El cannot help but love her. But Mama Glasse can never find out about her sexuality—unless El is willing to rebel.
When El runs away, Riley feels responsible. She knows what it’s like to be alone, and she can’t deny her deep desire to learn El’s story. In a move she might end up regretting, she makes a devil’s bargain with Mama Glasse to hunt El down.
Riley isn’t trying to bring her home though, because she knows an evil spell when she sees one—a spell of fear and shame El is finally starting to break. This huntress might lose her own heart, but it’s a risk she’s willing to take.
Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes:
Sexual Assault (references to it throughout and 2 attempted assaults)
The girl slid down the tree trunk, her coat tumbling up over her shoulders in a mantle of black and deep greens. Knees peeking from her torn jeans, she reclined against the roots. As if dismissing the world, she inserted earbuds with the flick of a wrist. Seconds later, she was mouthing lyrics, kissing the humid air with a pout.
El’s skin tingled and her pulse rattled in her veins. She was never going to run out of reasons to stare at Riley.
She pressed against the classroom window as the girl performed a recumbent dance move, face dappled in shade. She moved as if every single tiny gesture had a deeper meaning, and all of it could be decoded if set to music.
There was just no other way to think about Riley. Her face was always composed. Her eyes were always glittering with awareness. She didn’t hide in the shadows she could make for herself. Her height and shape were perfectly defined in the mind of every person around her, because like her or hate her, Riley Vanator never folded herself up for anyone . . .
Startled, El’s forehead cracked against the cold glass and woke her to reality. At once, she felt small again as a heavy arm fell across her shoulders to the tune of a mean-spirited laugh.
“Hey, I’m gonna pick you up today, okay?”
Shrugging uncomfortably, El clutched her notebook to her chest and tried to look as if she’d been doing something more productive than yet again fantasizing over the gorgeous figure beneath the tree.
Jay was fresh from gym and ruddy, but even physical exhaustion couldn’t wipe the perpetual smirk off his face. “Because you’re my girlfriend, and I want to take you out.”
“Where are we going?”
“It’s cool! I already cleared it with your mom.”
“Look, you haven’t been out with me in a couple of weeks.” His arms coiled around her waist. He clung to her like some kind of sweaty sloth and tried to fondle her. “I’m starting to think you don’t like me.”
It wasn’t the first time he’d said it, but it was the first time she wanted to spit her agreement in his face. He didn’t want a girlfriend. He wanted an orgasm. El shoved at him, but there was no disentangling, and not a soul in the quickly emptying study hall seemed to care. While he rooted around in her neck like a pig, she leaned against the glass and rolled her face to the view below.
Riley was sitting cross-legged, eating a small snack before she went to work as she always did right after school. Her thin fingers picked it apart delicately. When her tongue slid out and cleaned them each in turn, El sighed, and the boy attached to her body like a leech gave himself a congratulatory snicker.
“You’re gonna have fun tonight. I promise.”
“What if I don’t?” she whispered.
“What’s that mean?” He pulled back and stared at her, brows drawn together in a confusion of wrinkles that somehow painted a perfectly predictive image of his face in twenty years, after he’d done a failed stint in the Army, or bought a car dealership, or something.
Why wouldn’t El like him? Jay was the boy. The one everyone fought over, the one that the other girls would slander her to obtain, if not for the fact that El was demure and had a powerful family. He was the boy that could do no wrong. He was the boy who just had to be left to be, because boys were boys.
“I don’t want to go out tonight.”
“Uh . . . but we are.”
That was that. His smug grin said it all. He’d long ago figured out that if he went to her mother, it meant that he held the power. El could never get in a moment of defense, because Jay kept her safe. And that came with certain sacrifices.
As he sauntered away, she pictured her mother’s face, perfectly feminine makeup below her meticulously highlighted hair. All the little smile lines around her mouth would harden. Her eyes would turn to lead. Her lips would pinch over words that were harsher than anyone else could ever manage.
Why wouldn’t El want to go out with a boy, especially that boy? Didn’t she likeboys?
Her mother could make doubt into a knife, and carve out the truth like she was delicately eviscerating a quail in her neon pink hunting jacket. Life was bad enough already without the distractions of her sister’s pageants and admirers, with her mother downing two bottles of wine a night to counter the stress from the election, with school about to be out. El was alone and center stage.
She hated it.
El packed her things, the world around her blurring in and out of focus. Normal sounds were harsh. Skin numb, feet thudding like dead weights, she dragged herself out into the sun. Her chest ached. Her stomach always seemed to quake. Her heart was constantly trying to claw its way out. Every day was an exhausting dance between blending in and biding time, politics and patience. Every night she went to bed like a narcoleptic, and every morning she woke like a soldier in an air raid.
Soon it would get much, much worse, because Riley, the beautiful respite from the rest of her life, would be gone. Riley didn’t have time for this place. She was an explorer. She would move on, and El would be left behind. But that was the way it should be.
Riley was untouchable.
A thrill went through El’s body, as Riley’s beloved motorcycle growled at the world. Its lithe mistress was astride it, about to charge into battle instead of her shift at Sam’s ice cream parlor. Her seamless black helmet was more like a crown. As her high boots coaxed the feral machine backward out of its parking space, Jay leaned from his car window and hurled a wadded-up bag at her. It bounced to the ground lamely, the victim looking after it in a stoic gleam.
“Next time it’s a rock, dyke!”
His car jolted, cutting off the motorcycle, but Riley was unperturbed. Slowly tipping at the waist, extended to her full length like a dancer, she plucked the litter off the ground. The boys cackled, but Riley didn’t move. Beneath her faceplate, El hoped she was rolling her depthless eyes, wearing that crooked grin that turned her mouth into a beckon. While Jay screeched to the head of the line, Riley squeezed a tighter ball in a gloved hand, tipped forward, and torqued her wrist. Before El could blink, the bike was beside the carful of idiots, the wadded-up bag was bouncing off Jay’s face, and the girl was shooting past them, protected by a wall of sound like a legion of demons.
The boys sat for a moment in shock, but there was nothing to be done. It was Riley, and nothing she did was at all surprising, because every glance and word from her was a warning. Jay would have to tackle his hurt pride by himself, because divinity had no time for foolish boys.
El’s taut smile was reflexive. She wanted to open her notebook and transcribe every second, but her mother was already there, tapping her watch and making faces.
The car was like a walk-in freezer. Patriotism and bigotry were boxed side by side in every seat and the windows were crowded with campaign signs.
“Come on, Elyrra! I have an appointment at headquarters. Your father has a photo shoot with some magazine.”
The radio buzzed with angry voices, debating each other’s fitness to live. Someone maligned the local favorite and the host called him “liberal scum.” While El sketched her day in ciphers, her mother muttered under her breath in unintelligible venom.
“Mom, can we turn the station?”
“I’m listening to the news,” was the flat reply.
“All it does is make you angry.”
The smile could be disdainful in the wrong light, but there never seemed to be a right one. “Spiritual warfare doesn’t break for your feelings and God doesn’t listen to excuses.”
Excuses. She’d never really made excuses to God. To herself, sure, but to God? No point. If there was anyone who’d watched her whole life twist into this painful thing, it was God. Which was probably why she was beginning to resent the idea of Him.
As she watched the town drift by in the charm of previous centuries, El realized she measured her life in a series of acquiescences. Every moment was an instance of defeat and compromise, and every day, she became more skilled in being faceless. She was sure that no human could be happy if it came to lying to one’s self. It seemed impossible that that could really have been the intent of God.
The radio cut off.
“I sent your camp fees in today, sugar!”
Something about the cheer in the voice was wrong, but then again, there was nothing right about the situation. Three months of perfect girls all wearing bathing suits around the waterfall, ignoring her because she was famous. Three months starved for touch, lonely and cast out into the forest, being bullied by those far more comfortable in their identities. Three months of torture while her mother had a peaceful house and could get all her interviews about family values done without the bother of her family.
“You’re gonna have a great summer! I think you’re gonna like this camp. It’s much more for the artistic types!”
El’s instincts cut in with a warning. She had never declared herself artistic. That would be strategic suicide, because it would mean she could think creatively. Her mother’s award-winning works on how to raise godly children in the modern era specifically warned parents about how to sculpt the imagination. Fairy tales were fine so long as they glorified God, but fiction was a kind of lying and so the storyteller had to have a firm hand. El would have done better to pick up the Bible from the center console and slap her mother across the face with it rather than to be “artistic.”
Swallowing, she tried to sound content. “What’s it called?”
A manicured hand swept the question aside. “Fair Meadows or something. I can’t remember. But it’s just perfect for you.”
“You need to learn the skills of making healthy friendships!” Exasperation dripped from every word. “You need support! You need to really examine yourself and measure yourself by God’s standard and learn to channeleverything you feel into a better relationship with Him. You need to rekindle your faith!”
El needed no help with faith, whatsoever. She had plenty, but her holy words were in her lap in a made-up shorthand. Her worship service took place every Friday evening at an ice cream parlor, where she prayed in daydreams. Her hymns were silent, but her congregation thousands strong—the population of a city hanging on every homily she typed. She needed no fellowship but reblogs and comments, no communion but likes and notes. Her blog of her adoration and suffering was the only religion and a secret sin.
God had apparently only made a few people in His image. The rest were fodder for the Devil.
“So! Jay and a date! I think he has something special planned!”
Something in El’s soul began to vibrate like a rung bell. She felt it deep in the center of her abdomen. Soon it filled up her esophagus and was in her mouth before she could stop it.
“He wants to have sex with me. You know that, right?”
Her mother blinked into the silence. El watched that face, fighting to catch her breath, fighting with an unspoken hope that for once, this woman would do right by her. The conflict raged in the air, and then was dashed aside with yet another chemically paralyzed smile.
“The Lord never said a man and woman couldn’t be a man and woman. He simply said you have to guard your chastity. You have to demonstrate your virtue to Jay too. You have to learn to strike a balance between your lust and your self-control! That can’t happen without testing yourself! You can’t beat the demon if you don’t ask for the Lord’s help.”
But the demon wasn’t a demon. It was a boy who already wrestled at a professional level. It was disgusting whispers in her ear. It was helplessness. It was fear of being mocked by buxom cheerleaders, or worse still, by boys. It was losing herself to guard herself.
“Why doesn’t he have to be chaste?”
“He does, Elyrra, but men have urges.”
“And if he dumps me for it? If he makes up stories about me—”
Incredibly, her mother turned in the seat and glared at her. “Stop it. Jay is a clean-cut boy. He is going to make some woman very happy one day, and it might as well be you.”
The car coasted to a halt at the curb. The church sat back from the street like a red brick castle. El latched her eye on it forlornly.
“So what’s wrong with Jay?” Mama demanded.
“I don’t like him . . . I mean he—”
“You’re too picky! You won’t meet a prince.”
Closing her eyes, she took a breath. “You love Tom. You never say one bad thing about him. So I guess Rose found a prince.”
There was a loud hiss. “Yes, but you’re not your sister! She’s a beauty queen. And there aren’t that many men like Tom! The way you carry on . . . the way you dress—”
“You buy my clothes.” El stared at her notebook, caressing its cover. “What if I don’t ever want to get married?”
Her mother’s eyes were wide and blank. Her lips were parted, but petrified. It was as if she was having a premonition of a life without the herd of grandchildren she could parade across the internet for the world to use as a metric of her worthiness. Ever since her father had been elected and her mother’s website had gone viral, all she cared about was her reputation. Every week was a list of Mama’s radio appearances, podcasts, or website statistics. The whole Christian world knew the faces of Rose and Elyrra Glasse—test subjects of their devoted mother and living proof that God still possessed the heart of modern hedonistic America. Without progeny, the whole experiment was a shambles.
“It’s a woman’s duty to have a family. The Bible says a woman does not have authority over her own body—”
El opened the door and jumped out. “First Corinthians: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations only with his wife.’ So wouldn’t a woman be more godly if she never married at all and kept men from immorality?”
“You are not a nun, missy! You don’t have the fortitude—”
She shut the door and walked toward the shade of the church. Normally, the window would have rolled down and a list of consequences for her disobedience would have been screamed at her, but her mother was late, and the car lurched away.
No fortitude? If Mama only knew what it took her just to get through the day . . .
Reverend Williams was already waiting for her. Everything about this place made her nervous, from the perpetual stink of burned black coffee and dust to the tenacious look in his eye. His questions were pointed, his demeanor intrusive, and his knowledge of her extensive, but it was private sessions with the priest, or her mother would pull her out of school.
The notebook stayed in her lap like a talisman. He dropped into the other chair and patted her hands, knotted anxiously atop it. His knees practically touched hers, but she couldn’t retreat, because he would interpret that as withholding.
“So . . . tell me about this week.”
Thoughts were squeezed by Jay’s hungry fingers, nettled by the other girls’ constant jibes at her generically girlish clothes, squashed by the teachers who saw nothing special in her because she hid anything unusual, crushed by the way her mother excused insults as honesty. But then she thought of Riley, stretched out on the grass, her pixie hair at odd angles, her strong limbs, her defiant grin. Suddenly, there were no tests. There were only chances that she wasn’t taking, opportunities she was forced to let pass by.
She shook her head. “This week was good.”
“And your . . . uh . . .”—he tapped the book—“your little fixation?”
Little? There was nothing little about it, but it wasn’t the first time he’d tried to compact it into a more pleasing shape. It was at best a phase and at worst a mortal sin, and to him, her future would either result in marriage counseling, or a laying on of hands.
“I wrote about her ten times.”
“That’s less than last week!” This seemed a relief. It couldn’t be easy trying to logic away a feeling so intense it invaded her dreams. “Progress!”
“But we still have a lot of work to do.” His sigh whistled like munitions out at the Fort. “The Devil doesn’t want to let you go. He had to try for one of you. Especially now that everything is going so well for your family.”
El’s flesh began to ache like a fever. Suddenly, the quiet ticking of his wall clock and the warmth of the room were too much.
She should never have told him, but her emotions had been a tangle of self-loathing and shame. She’d looked to him for guidance, but only got more confusion, more things to hate about herself, and more reasons to question. The only answers that ever made any sense were gleaned from anonymous online well wishes and emailed articles. Her only real advisors were people she had never met who cared for her as no one had ever cared for them. Without her secret life on the internet, she’d be little more than an automaton.
He took hold of the edge of her book. “May I see?”
El loosened her instinctual grip and watched as he flipped slowly through the pages. Her hieroglyphics were illegible, but the fact that she still wrote in them at all seemed to tell him enough.
“Elyrra, who is the Keeper of Secrets?”
She licked her lips. “You know why I do it, Reverend.”
“The Devil is giving you these thoughts to drive a wedge between you and your family. He wants you to be alone and sinful. He wants to cut you off from God.”
“But . . .” She caught herself; his insistent look, however, persuaded her to let it out. “Isn’t God everywhere? How can he do that if God is everywhere? Why would God let him?”
He leaned back, taking her scriptures with him. He seemed to be debating something, and as he rose to his feet to pace, her heart plummeted through her sandals. There would be a new exercise, a new prayer, a new prescription for her sickness.
“My dear, you cannot keep doing this to yourself. We’ve been working on this for months now.”
“I know,” she breathed. “I’m trying. Really, I am.”
“I don’t think I have the expertise to help you.”
El’s pulse began to thrum in her temples. Stillness seemed impossible. She wanted to jump up and bolt, but he was already shaking his head.
“I think I know a way.”
As long as he didn’t tell her mother, El didn’t care if he suggested walking over hot coals; she would do it.
“There’s a place where you can go, and they can give you the kind of counsel you need. You’d be with people like you. They would know exactly what to say to you, because they’ve helped so many already to come back from sin.”
Suddenly, it felt as if she couldn’t breathe, though her chest rose and fell in the usual fashion. There was simply no oxygen in the room.
This was one of those places her online friend Oscar had talked about. It had to be. The articles he’d sent, the testimonials about conversion therapy, the confessions of people who’d been through it were terrifying in so many tiny ways. He’d warned her. He’d shown her her father’s affiliations. And now here they were, affecting her directly.
Tears welled in her eyes, but there didn’t seem to be an alternative. If she didn’t do what Reverend Williams said, he would tell her mother. If her mother found out, she’d never escape. Her senior year would play out in their parlor with a private tutor, or worse yet, her mother playing educator. Her parents would refuse to pay for college. El would end up living in a studio apartment and picking up roadkill. But if she went to one of those places, if she gave in again . . .
There’d be nothing left of her.
“It’s a beautiful camp, right on a lake!” He was smiling, which was supposed to make her feel better, but only made her sick for a variety of reasons. “They have a gourmet chef! And it’s more like a summer camp!”
El’s throat seemed to swell, but she coughed words out at last. “What’s it called?”
The ground swung out from beneath her feet as the world floated away. She knew she was standing, that she had snatched the book from his hand, that she had thrown open his office door, but strangely, it was more like time travel, because suddenly she was outside the church and he was calling after her.
“You told me everything I said was safe!” she shrieked. Her face was wet. Her legs refused to stop. “You told me I could trust you!”
“Elyrra, calm down!”
“No!” He reached for her elbow, and without conscious thought, she swiveled and evaded. “You lied to me! You told her!”
“I did not, young lady!” His voice burned her ears with indignation. “Your mother told me!”
And there it was. El’s robotic movements clicked to a halt. She stared at the swirling chartreuse beneath her feet and flinched as he put a hand on her shoulder.
“Your mother wants to help you. You’re too young to know what’s best for you. You need to listen.”
She pulled away, and in a fierce trot, broke for downtown.
No, what she needed was some ice cream.
Kristina Meister is an author of fiction that blurs genre. There’s usually some myth, some mayhem, and some monsters. While Kristina’s unique voice and creative swearing give life to dialogue, her obsession with folklore and pop culture make for humor and complexity.
She and her mad-scientist husband live in California with their poodles Khan and Lana, and their daughter Kira Stormageddon, where they hoard Nerf toys, books, and swords—in case of zombie apocalypse.
2018 Foreword INDIES Gold Winner – LGBT
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To celebrate this release, Kristina is giving away a custom ordered biker-style patch that represents El and Riley, as well as a signed copy of her award-winning novel Cinderella Boy!
Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!
(Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on August 31, 2019. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.)