The Promise

Veils and vows series by Jean Oram. A Pinch of Commitment. Lily and Ethan Mattson. A Marriage of convenience between friends.

When worlds collide.

Devon Mattson has never been as captivated as he is by Olivia. She’s smart, witty and rich. But above all is the fact that even though they come from different worlds she understands him, his small town charm and his need for speed.

He knows that to be together they’ll both have to give up a lot, but he’s promised to always be there for her. Now, in college, and afterward too. Forever.

Olivia Carrington has never felt more alive than when she’s with Devon. She no longer feels the suffocating weight of expectations—just the freedom and support to follow her secret dreams and to become the person she’s always been afraid to be.

But when reality comes knocking their dream world begins to collapse. Will these two young lovers find their way back to each other or will their hearts become shattered beyond repair?

The Promise is a prequel novella and a bonus companion story for The Surprise Wedding, the first book in the Veils and Vows series. It can be read before or after that novel.

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SNEAK PEEK: CHAPTER 1

“Dad, nobody died.” Devon Mattson sighed, trying to be patient.

“People get seriously hurt pulling those kinds of stunts,” his father replied through the phone.

“They’re not stunts.”

Crossing the large backyard of the old, multi-bedroom house a bunch of his friends had rented just off campus, Devon waved to a few acquaintances, who shouted their congratulations on his weekend win. Tonight, music pumped from the house, overriding the usual faint sounds of the nearby Atlantic Ocean throwing itself against the shore over and over again.

“It’s drag racing, Dad.” Devon walked up the creaking back steps, weathered to bare wood, and entered the kitchen where the keg was set up. Most of the glassware in the high-ceilinged room sported the logos of various motor oil products, vehicle companies, or other racing-related sponsors—all earned by Devon and his racing buddies. Just this afternoon he’d brought back a case of beer steins, and he sought out the cardboard box while half listening to his father. Most of the cupboards didn’t have doors and the wobbly table on the ripped linoleum floor was littered with bottles, making his search a quick one. No glasses. Didn’t that figure? He raced, won, got the swag, and everyone else claimed it before he could.

He gave a mental shrug. It was all just more stuff he’d leave behind in eight months when he moved back across the continent, degree in hand. Unfortunately, that would also mean no more packages of home-baked goodies sent by his teenaged sister, Mandy, and her friend Lily. Over the past three years they’d diligently sent baking every month, something he never got when he was at home.

“Hey, how’s that kid sister of mine? Any care packages on the way?”

“You can’t write essays with a broken hand,” his dad chided, ignoring Devon’s attempt to change the subject.

“You’re thinking of demolition derbies.”

“At this stage of the game it would be plain dumb to get a concussion and forget everything you’ve learned.”

“Again, more likely in a demolition derby.”

“I swear you take risks just so Trish and I will worry.”

Devon grinned, almost feeling bad about poking at his dad’s unrelenting anxiety, which he tended to pass on to his new wife when he got really worked up about something. It couldn’t be easy having all that angst eroding your happiness. “I got you thinking about something other than Mandy and Frankie, didn’t I?”

His dad gave a chuckle of acknowledgment, which he cut short. “Did you hear they broke up?”

“What? Why?” The two kids were perfect for each other. Close friends who made the leap to dating.

“She says he’s too much of a daredevil.” His father’s tone implied that the same might be said about Devon.

Sure, Devon took risks, but nothing like his sister’s now ex-boyfriend who’d fallen off the water tower while painting a proclamation of his undying love on the metal tank. Apparently he hadn’t heard of greeting cards or flowers.

“Sometimes the edge is a fun place to play,” Devon commented as he poured beer into a plastic cup.

There was something about the grit, oil, and pure exhilaration of racing that made him feel alive and temptingly invincible, when all around him were signs that life was short, temporary and full of curve balls.

There was no sense worrying when you weren’t the one in control, so you might as well go along for the ride. Especially if that ride went over a hundred miles per hour.

Devon lost track of his father’s nagging as he weaved his way into the home’s formerly grand salon, where at least thirty people were dancing, the music cranked up. He took a sip of beer and backed out of the room, unable to hear his father over the noise.

“Dad, I’ve got to go.”

“Don’t drink too much and don’t get anyone pregnant, you hear?”

Devon smiled. “Funny, Dad.” After clicking off, he slipped the phone into his back pocket and drained half his beer before heading back into the massive living room. That was the nice thing about old manor houses—they were great for parties. And even better, he got to return to his relatively clean dorm room at the end of the bash.

“You gonna go pro?” Tony asked, falling against him. His glass was embossed with the logo of today’s race, Devon noted.

“You ever going to learn to hold your liquor?” he retorted as he righted his friend, who helped round out his pit crew for most races.

“Probably not,” he admitted in a slurred voice. “But I keep practicing.”

Devon laughed and raised his beer in a toast. “Nice glass.” He continued on through the crowd, accepting high fives from friends and acquaintances as he went.

Of course he wasn’t going pro. Racing was a dead end. Fun, but not what he had planned for his life.

Last summer, while working maintenance for the local mountain parks back home in Blueberry Springs, he’d been lining up a real job. If things went well over the next two semesters—and why wouldn’t they?—he’d return home and walk straight into a property management position for the town.

A great job, nice community, awesome pay, and benefits, too.

Just eight months to go and he’d have it made in ways his parents never had.

He stretched muscles which were still tight from rebuilding the hilly hiking trails, and mentally prepared for two more semesters of working his brain instead of his body.

Devon paused to sip his beer and scan the roomful of familiar faces. Grease monkeys and car babes gyrated to the music. The women wore what he considered a uniform: long hair loose and free, Daisy Dukes and low-cut tank tops. It reminded him yet again why he loved the late summer South Carolina heat.

“Devon! Over here,” his roommate, Turbo, hollered over the music. The man had earned his nickname due to the fact that he did everything as though he was run by a turbocharger. Whether it was talking, getting a job done, or picking up women—everything was done with speed and efficiency. The senior was into having a rowdy good time but was also an ideal roommate, seeing as he never brought parties back to their campus dorm. Not even private parties for two.

Devon raised his cup, trying to preserve the last inch of his beer as he slipped between groups of dancers. He was jostled despite his care, his cup knocked from his hand, crushed underfoot. Giving up, he let the crowd move him like a current, carrying him this way, then that. He laughed and danced, chatting briefly with people as they flowed by.

As he spun around at one point, he suddenly spotted an old Blueberry Springs friend across the room, through the mob. He was surprised she’d come to something she typically referred to as a testosterone-fueled, low-brow drunken brawl. Which was completely unfair. Brawls typically didn’t happen until the wee hours of the morning and long after smart women such as Ginger had already headed home to bed.

The music was too loud for her to hear him, so, instead, he kept an eye on her in case she needed rescuing from the dude who seemed to have her loosely penned in against the bay windows. Then she laughed, and the man in question turned slightly—it was his friend Ricardo. Devon chuckled to himself. If anything, Ricardo would be the one in need of rescue, as Ginger had a thing for guys with accents and wouldn’t be releasing Ricardo for some time.

Devon turned away to meet up with Turbo and just about slammed into someone. He snagged the woman and pulled her against him so they didn’t topple. The silky fabric of her blouse floated between his fingers and her cascading blond hair tumbled over him as they collided. Before he could fully take her in he knew she didn’t belong here, and yet somehow she felt perfect snugged in his arms. Like a piece of his world he hadn’t even known had been missing.

Which was crazy.

Her big brown eyes widened as he continued to hold her, trying to figure out his reaction. Her long lashes fluttered in surprise. They stared at each other for a long moment, her hands braced against his pecs as though they’d always belonged there. As if the two of them should know each other.

Who was this woman?

“Hi,” he finally said. “I’m Devon.”

“Olivia,” she replied breathlessly. “Do you normally embrace strangers longer than necessary?” She raised an eyebrow, politely edging out of his grasp. A flicker of amusement shimmered in her eyes, as well as something unknown and intriguing. Not quite identifiable, but definitely present.

He snapped back to the present, unsure what had come over him. “Sorry,” he murmured, fully releasing her. As he did so he took in the full view of her lush curves, which were accented by her well-put-together outfit―high heels, silk blouse, diamond necklace. She obviously had money as well as poise.
She was out of his league. And out of place in the shabby house filled with adrenaline junkies spilling beer with every other move.

But man, she was something else, and he wanted to crack the mystery that seemed to have him entranced.

“No harm done,” she said smoothly. She adjusted her necklace, taking him in. If his radar was working, she liked what she saw.

Ditto on that score.

“You okay?” he asked, his voice husky.

She nodded and wetted her luscious lips. “Thanks for…”

“Embracing you longer than is socially acceptable between strangers?”

She laughed before catching herself.

“Women fall for me all the time, you know,” he joked, hoping to make the sun shine across her face again with another laugh.

Stupid. He was babbling, spilling trite lines, begging for attention.

Still, she rewarded him with a small smile, humoring him, and their eyes met once more. Devon didn’t want to move, didn’t want to lose track of her, but couldn’t think of a thing to say that wouldn’t sound like a pick up line.

A woman in bright lipstick and a see-through white tank top covering a black push-up bra squeezed between them, pressing her breasts against him. “You did so good today, Devvie,” she purred, as she trailed a nail down his arm.

He maneuvered her to the side so he could watch Olivia. She was already escaping through the throng, her hips in those tight capris sashaying in a hypnotic way, her sleek heels avoiding the snags in the carpet. She glanced back over her shoulder, with an expression he couldn’t quite decipher. If he wasn’t mistaken, it almost looked like…regret.

End of sneak peek.


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Copyright © 2017 Jean Oram. All Rights Reserved. Not to be copied or distributed in any form without explicit permission from the author Jean Oram. Contact her to inquire further.