EPIC STORIES. EPIC FEELS. EPIC SPICE. BE THUNDERSTRUCK.
Both Sides of the Fence
Thunderstruck Book 1
by Amelia Elliot
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Woman’s Fiction
That’s the thing about soulmates—you have to be brave enough to stay with them.
Dee Bullard acted responsibly her whole life. She worked hard, went to college, and became a veterinarian. Now in her late thirties, she’s stuck in the one place she always vowed to leave: her childhood home on a farm in Kansas. Then the boy next door breezes back into town, and past heartache catches up with them both.
After years in the Army’s special forces, there are some things that Ricky Lee never talks about. One of those things is the real reason he hasn’t come home in eight years: Dee. She’s a troublemaker who’s left him bearing the consequences one too many times. When Ricky’s father suddenly dies, he’s forced to return to care for his sick mother. Back in Dee’s orbit, Ricky can’t deny her. But he doesn’t think he can survive her either.
With nothing but a low cattle fence and a lifetime of memories standing between them, Ricky and Dee face a reckoning that will either break them forever or unite them for good.
Both Sides of the Fence is an epic love story about the choices you make when you’re young and how they impact you as you age. Spanning thirty-five years, it’s also a story about the struggles of millennials growing up in rural poverty and how they grapple with disillusionment with their American dreams and two decades of war as they strive for their HEA.
This is a contemporary romance novel containing explicit love scenes and adult language. Please use the Look Inside feature to review content warnings, which include spoilers.
The skies opened up, and the rain hammered down. They were both drenched. She rotated on the fence, swung her legs over so that they were on his side of the property, and faced him.
Her eyes raked over him as he stood there with the rain sluicing down his body. “Come here,” she demanded.
He gave her a wary look.
“I said, come here.” She bunched her fist into his wet T-shirt and pulled him so that he was standing in front of her, between her knees, in the same way they did twenty-three years before.
“What are you doing, Dee?”
“I’m really fucking mad at you,” she said, not answering his question. Without letting him go, she poked him in the chest with her other hand, which was still holding the bottle of whiskey. The liquor sloshed as she jabbed him. “I’m mad at you for all the things you could’ve—and should’ve—told me. Instead, you left me to my own imagination. And that did not go well.”
She stopped poking him and her voice softened. “I’m sorry for all the assumptions I made. I’m sorry for every bad thing I assumed when I should’ve known you better than that.”
Stabbing him in the chest again, she gulped a breath and continued. “I’m mad at you for giving up so easily. Although you’re great at staying away. You’re a real fucking champion at setting your mind to that and sticking with it.”
Slightly off balance, she used her hand bunched in his shirt to steady herself when she started waving the bottle of Jim Beam around. “And I’m mad at myself for waiting when you didn’t even know I was waiting. I should’ve been bolder. I should’ve tried harder. We both should have.” She took another swig of bourbon. “I should’ve gone with you to Georgia. That’s what I wanted. I knew it then. I chose wrong. I’ve paid for it every day since.”
His mouth fell open. He didn’t know what to say.
Except he did.
“We’re a fucking tragedy!” he shouted through the rain. “You and me!” He gripped her thighs just above her knees. “We’ve been stuck in this misery for more than twenty years. We can’t turn back time. We can’t go back and say things when we should’ve. It’s too late. That’s why I try so hard to stay away. We’re nothing but trouble.”
He dropped his voice and rested his forehead on hers in defeat. “We’re impossible. But, fuck, Dee, you’re it for me. You’ve always been it for me. God knows, I’ve never been able to find anyone else. I tried. But no one could ever replace you. And no matter how many years we spend apart, that never changes. I realized long ago, for me, it’ll be you, or it’ll be no one. So it’s no one.”
“What? That’s a bunch of nonsense,” she snapped. “So we should both be alone forever because we made mistakes when we were young and dumb? I don’t accept that.” She jerked on his shirt. “Stop being so pig-headed and kiss me. You’re taking too long. Why are you always so slow? Hasn’t enough time passed?”
He took a step back. “No. I’m not repeating our destructive patterns. I’ve already gone cold turkey on you. I’m not falling off the wagon now.”
She tugged on his shirt again. “I’m not fucking alcohol, and you’re not in AA. Stop wasting time. How many years have to pass before we figure our shit out?”
“I said no.” He set his jaw stubbornly.
“I want to be kissed in the rain, goddammit. Why are things always so difficult with you? It’s like you live to vex me.” She tried to pull him close again using his shirt, but he wouldn’t budge.
“Me?” he scoffed. With effort, Ricky twisted out of Dee’s grip and moved away by several steps. They stared at each other through the hammering rain. An ocean of pain washed between them.
Dee hopped off the fence. She snatched his hand and jerked him down the road as she marched back toward his house. “Always gotta choose the hard way,” she grumbled.
Although he allowed her to pull him along, he wondered what she was up to. They didn’t speak a word for a full five minutes. Then she shouted, “Omaha or Tulsa?”
He hadn’t the faintest idea what she was referring to. “Huh?”
“Omaha it is,” she declared. She stomped up the porch steps. Wilbur had run back home once the rain started and was waiting for them by the door.
Conduct Unbecoming a Judge
Thunderstruck Book 2
Rich or poor, sick or healthy, everyone needs love.
For Esme Fernandes, life ended at thirty. First, she lost her ability to have children, and then she lost her husband. Certain she’s fated to die young like the rest of her family, Esme married her career instead. And it paid off: now thirty-eight, she’s a Federal judge, and determined to be worthy of her job.
Jack Bullard, twice People’s Sexiest Man Alive, is at a crossroads. Two years after a bewildering and brutal divorce, he misses his kids and is unfulfilled by his Hollywood stardom. But he’s made a career out of being irreplaceable, and too many people depend on him now.
When Jack and Esme collide—literally—sparks fly. But they also attract attention from the moment they meet, and not the good kind. Between scandalous pictures and Esme’s growing political conflict with a senator, things take a dangerous turn.
Just as Jack can see the future forming, the increasing scrutiny awakens Esme’s demons—and Jack has to decide whether fighting for her is selfish, or what they both need.
It was still dark, but it looked to be close to dawn, judging by the light grey of the night sky visible through Jack’s floor-to-ceiling windows. Esme’s sleep was fitful with the knowledge that they were not alone in the house. She was contemplating getting up and going for a run along the beach while the sun rose. It’d been days since she’d run outside.
The mattress depressed, and the blankets rustled. Esme knew someone had climbed into bed with them, but she couldn’t see them. She was sleeping on her side with her ass pressed against Jack’s hip, and her back to their visitor. Even though she was under the comforter, she was grateful for the foresight of putting Jack’s shirt on to sleep in.
“Bette, what are you doing here?” Jack asked sleepily. “Did you have a nightmare?”
“No.” The blankets pulled as Bette snuggled into Jack. “I missed you, Daddy.”
“I missed you too, Bette-bug.”
“Can I sleep with you?”
Jack yawned. “Only for a little bit. We don’t want to wake Esme.”
After a few minutes of rustling, Bette seemed to settle in. Esme attempted sleep again, but the awareness of a small child in bed with her made slumber impossible. She’d never experienced that before, and probably never would again.
Bette didn’t seem to want to sleep either; soon she spoke once more. “Ollie [Esme’s cat] is sleeping on Ingrid. He didn’t sleep on me.”
She felt Jack shift toward Bette. “That’s lucky, because that means you can snuggle with me instead.”
“Yeah.” Bette giggled.
“But you have to go to sleep,” Jack added.
Bette stayed quiet for, at best, two minutes. “Daddy?”
“Are you going to marry Esme?”
Jack chuckled. “Not if we wake her up with all this chatter and she gets mad.”
“She’s your girlfriend.”
“Aren’t you supposed to marry your girlfriend?”
“Sometimes. Not always.”
“You married Mommy. She was your girlfriend.”
“That’s true. Now go to sleep.”
But she didn’t. Bette squirmed for a while instead.
“Go to sleep.”
Bette ignored her father’s directive. “She’s in bed with you. I don’t think you’re supposed to do that unless you’re married.”
“Hmm.” Jack feigned considering her statement. “We’ll have to make an exception. Where else was she supposed to go? You and your sisters were in her bed.”
“And Ollie,” Bette added.
“She could’ve slept in my bed,” Bette observed a moment later.
“Did you tell her that?”
“People can’t sleep in your bed unless you invite them,” Jack said.
Esme thought that was pretty good advice for Bette.
“Oh.” Bette was quiet for so long that Esme thought she might have fallen asleep. But alas, no such luck. “If you marry Esme, then Ollie will move here,” she said a few minutes later.
“That’s not something to worry about now, Bug.”
“I want a cat… or a puppy. But I’d rather you come back home. We’ll stop asking for a puppy if you come home. Ingrid and Audrey and I talked about it, and we agreed.”
Esme squeezed her eyes shut. She wished, for the fourth time since meeting Jack’s kids, that she could exit a conversation. She’d definitely made a mistake staying over.
Jack heaved a deep breath. “This is my home, Bette-bug. It’s yours too. You have two homes.”
“I don’t want two homes,” Bette said quietly. “Mommy misses you. She cries at night.”
“Jesus,” he muttered.
Esme couldn’t take it. She rolled out of bed. “I’m going for a run,” she announced, scooping up her bag and dashing to the bathroom to change.
“Esme…” Jack called after her.
“It’s OK,” she called back over her shoulder. “I couldn’t sleep, anyway. I’ve been dying to get outside. I’ll be back in an hour.”
Less than five minutes later, Esme stood on the beach looking at the pink streaks of light cutting across the sky. The temperature was cool, and the air felt sharp in her lungs. She started off jogging at an easy pace. As she rolled over the packed sand, she listened to the waves and let her mind wander.
She’d gotten too attached.
She’d gotten too used to being with him.
Things were moving too fast. She’d met his kids too soon. She’d forgotten to keep it light.
Even as she tried to convince herself that backing off of him was for the best, it didn’t feel good. She already didn’t want to go back to her solitary, workaholic life, even if that was the way she’d always lived before. Esme increased her speed, trying to relieve her squeezing heart.
The problem was, she’d gotten carried away. He had kids, a family. How did she end up inside his life like this? They hadn’t even been dating that long.
She was meant to be alone, orphaned, childless. That was her fate. She knew this.
She had no business messing around with him.
All the Ways We’re Wrong
Thunderstruck Book 3
They’re completely wrong for each other. (They made a list.)
But when a mudslide strands them alone on a mountain, they’ll need each other to survive.
**Releases Sep 20 – Preorder Now!**
Just as Killian stepped into the rain, a loud rumbling cut through the din of the downpour. In the next flash of lightning, he saw part of the hillside above the camp, the ridge next to the parking lot, give way. Mud rushed toward the cabins—toward Ava Blum’s cabin.
The lightning crashes were less frequent now as the storm moved east, making it impossible to see the campground in the moonless, cloud-covered night. He didn’t know what the mudslide had hit, but the sound of crunching timber was unmistakable. One thing was for sure: the slide had taken out structures or trees or both.
Killian let out a string of expletives as he grabbed his ditch bag of emergency supplies and his axe. Squinting through the rain, aided by a well-timed flash of lightning, he looked up the hill for more flowing mud. He didn’t want to be buried alive. As he couldn’t see anything for more than a split second, but the rumbling had quieted, he took his chances.
Fishing out a flashlight from his bag so that he could at least see the ground he trod upon, he ran toward Ava’s cabin as fast as he could. The wet, tree-filled terrain and low light hampered him. The mud alternately sucked at or slid under his boots. Miraculously, he stayed upright and made it to his destination without injury a minute or two later.
More accurately, he made it to where Ava’s cabin used to be. In front of him were long slicks of mud and debris. Sweeping the flashlight around, he located the remains of her cabin. It hadn’t moved far.
The avalanche of muck had knocked it off its foundation. The walls and roof folded on themselves like a house of cards. Fortunately, the impact of the slide hadn’t reduced the cabin to matchsticks. Some of the structure remained intact. She might still be alive.
“Ava!” he shouted, picking his way slowly through the slick toward the collapsed cabin. He didn’t think she could hear him through the weather, if she was still alive, but he kept trying. “Ava!”
Arriving at the front door, ankle deep in muck, he steadied his stance. The door was intact in its frame, but now it slanted to the right and angled forty-five degrees toward the ground, as did the rest of the front wall. He gingerly pressed on the wood to test its stability. It didn’t budge. He pushed harder. Same result. “Ava!” he shouted again.
This time, she heard him. “Help! I’m trapped!”
“Can you move? Are you trapped under anything?”
“I can move. Please, just get me out of here!”
“OK, stay back from the door. I’m gonna make a hole.” Bracing his legs more firmly, Killian hacked into the wood with his axe. After he’d splintered the wood, he sunk the axe’s handle into the ground for balance, and kicked a hole in the door.
Shining his flashlight into the crawl space under the slumped walls and roof, he reached in. Ava’s pale, terrified face appeared, and she grasped his hand. Together, with him pulling and her clawing and scrambling, they freed her from her rustic tomb.
“Oh my God!” Ava climbed up his body to stand. She clung to his shoulders and buried her face in his chest. “I thought I was going to die!” She trembled like a puppy during fireworks.
Although such a thing was foreign to him, he hugged her to comfort her, but only for a moment. They couldn’t stay there. It wasn’t safe. So he removed her arms from his waist and ran his hands roughly over her body, checking for injuries.
“What are you doing?” Even though she was right next to him, she had to shout through the loud storm.
“I’m checking to see if you’re hurt. You might not feel it if you’re in shock.” He completed his pat-down. Satisfied that nothing was broken, profusely bleeding, or severely swollen, he stepped back from her. “Can you run?”
He barely saw Ava nod in the dark. “I can run.”
“Good.” He swept his flashlight around the camp. “We can’t stay here. There could be more mudslides.” He flashed his light toward the road. “The road to the parking lot washed out so we can’t get to our cars. I’m not even sure that the parking lot is still there.” He swung the flashlight again, toward higher ground. “The safest bet is to head to the mature tree line where the ground is stable. We need to get there as quickly as possible.”
Wasting no time, he hooked the axe on his pack, slung it across his back, and snaked an arm around Ava’s waist. Pulling her along, he jogged to the part of the forest that was untouched by fire.
Amelia Elliot works as a trial lawyer, copywriter, and author. She publishes on topics of law, business, and politics. ‘Amelia Elliot’ is the pen name for the author’s works in women’s literary fiction and romance. She lives with her husband and their three big dogs on a sailboat.
Disabled with chronic illness, she reads romances because they help her stay optimistic through pain and exhaustion. As a novelist, she writes stories that are funny, tragic, sexy, and real. Her novels have mature themes that contemplate human experiences, purpose, and trauma. She hopes her books help struggling readers find solace. They will always have a happily ever after.
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