Aug 28 2017 11:02am

Victoria De La O Excerpt: Tell Me That You’re Mine

Victoria De La O

Tell Me That You're Mine by Victoria De La O

Ryan McCallister is ready to come home and put the heartbreak of his first love behind him. But when he returns after teaching abroad, the home he once knew isn’t quite ready for him. The woman Ryan once loved is living with his brother; his friends have moved on; and his new landlady, Eva Romero, seems determined not to like him.

But Ryan likes Eva. A lot.

It doesn’t matter that Eva has a six-year-old son and a troubled ex-husband; when Ryan’s with her, everything makes sense. Eva isn’t convinced she’s ready to take another chance on love, but Ryan’s determined to show her he’s worth the risk.

Get a sneak peek at Victoria De La O's Tell Me That You're Mine (available August 29, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

Chapter 1: Ryan

It’s feels like an eternity since I’ve been home. In reality, it’s only been a year.

My slow walk to the house is surreal. The lawn is as pristine as ever, each blade of grass shorn to the same height by Jude’s meticulous mowing. The red geraniums I planted years ago are thriving. And the dent in the porch rail, caused by my foot accidentally connecting with the wood, is still visible. But I don’t remember the house being this uninspiring shade of blue, or the crack on the front stoop being this wide. This house, this city, used to be my whole world. It seemed a lot bigger then.

Discordance skitters over my spine: what should be familiar is foreign, relief mingles with anxiety. Time snaps and contracts as I knock on the front door, and suddenly it seems like an hour since I left. A nanosecond.

The door swings open, and the reason for my hasty departure is staring at me. She’s as pretty as I remember—maybe more, damn her. Green eyes that used to flutter when I kissed her, full lips that whispered confidences in my ear.

Now, her face is frozen in a hostess’ smile. Her fingers worry the bottom button of her pink cardigan and the threads begin to loosen. She doesn’t know what to do because she wasn’t expecting me. I guess it wasn’t nice showing up a day early.

“Ryan. You’re home.”

Home. Does she mean mine or hers?

I had almost forgotten what Lizzie’s voice sounded like, but its husky depth brings the memories of the six months we spent loving each other rushing back.

Well, I’d been loving her. She’d been falling in love with my brother.

I wait for my heart to ache, but there’s only a small twinge. That’s a surprise. In my mind, this was all so much more dramatic and intense. Hard stares and pinched lips. A little social awkwardness seems so mundane by comparison.

And then the door swings open wider and Jude is there. My pulse stops—doesn’t slow, just ceases to exist for a second. Leave it to him to bring the fireworks.

Like the house, Jude seems smaller than I remember. Or maybe that’s because he has gone expressionless, his discomfort hard-crashing him. His hands dig into his pockets, searching for an anchor, pulling his shoulders into a hunch. It takes a lot to knock Jude off his game. Glad to see I can still have that effect on him.

When he opens his mouth, no sound comes out. It’s unusual for me to have to step up and be the better man when I’m around my big brother. But today is that day.

“Long t-time no see.”

His lip trembles.

No. This is not how this is supposed to go. Jude doesn’t get to be emotional.

“Come here.” I gesture with my hands, and that breaks the stalemate.

He steps forward into a back-patting hug and now he’s Jude again. Strong. Sure. Bigger than life. God, I missed him.

When he leans back, he’s all business—all older brother. “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming in early?”

“I Ubered from the airport. More dramatic this w-way.”

Lizzie’s glance darts back and forth between us, like she doesn’t know where she should rest her eyes.

Jude moves aside. “Stop standing there like an idiot and come in.”

I notice the red glass vase in the living room and the photos on the wall—dashes of color and life that weren’t there before. Lizzie’s influence on this house, and on Jude, is obvious. He called before I left Japan to warn me that she was moving in. His tone managed to be apologetic, pleading, and defiant all at once.

He grabs my duffel bag. “I kept your bedroom as is. Let me put your stuff in there and I’ll throw a load in the wash.”

“In other words, you don’t want me c-cluttering up the house.” Some things never change; Jude doesn’t like anything out of place.

The second Jude leaves the room, the awkwardness returns. Lizzie and I stand there staring at each other as she tugs on a lock of her hair.

“Kind of feels like a f-funeral,” I say.

She stops tugging and smiles, bringing a piece of sunshine to this moment. “Sorry. You’re right. It’s good to see you.”

“You too. How are things g-going?”

She shakes her head. “This is so weird.”

“It doesn’t need to be. I wouldn’t have g-given the two of you my blessing if I was going to hate you f-for it later.”

“I know you wouldn’t have.”

“Are you happy?”

She nods.

I don’t need to ask if Jude’s happy. His texts and phone calls over the past year made that clear. He’s found someone new to orbit around. I’m not going to pretend that doesn’t sting, but it’s as it should be. He and I spent too many years with only each other.

She bites her thumbnail, a nervous habit she doesn’t indulge in often. I hate that I know that about her.

“I tried to talk him out of living together.”

“C-come on now, Lizzie. You couldn’t have t-tried all that hard.”

Her head rears back and she looks me up and down, like she’s seeing me for the first time. “What a difference a year makes.”

“This w-wasn’t just any year.” The upshot of disengaging yourself from everyone and everything is that you get to reinvent yourself. “I’ve m-made some changes.”

“Good for you. I’d love to hear about Japan.”

“Me too,” Jude says, coming back in the room. I hear the washing machine running in the background. “And maybe tomorrow we can have some of the guys over for a barbecue.”

“I’m looking at apartments tomorrow.”

“You just got home. Plus, I was going to help you with that.”

“Jude . . .” Lizzie starts, but then decides against it.

Smart. The less she gets involved, the better.

“I don’t need you f-finding me a place.” If my tone is biting, I have a right to it.

When I pulled my head out of my ass last year and discovered Jude was in love with Lizzie, I decided to put him first like he’d done for me so many times throughout our lives. But just because I encouraged their relationship and left to give everyone breathing room doesn’t mean I’m a martyr. Now that I’m back, he doesn’t get to take the reins and run my life again.

Jude crosses his arms. “I’m trying to help.”

My face heats. I know he means well. I also know he’s defensive as hell because he feels guilty about forcing me out of our home. But let’s face it, I was going to have to leave sometime.

“I’ve been on my own for a y-year. I got this.”

Jude’s never been one to back down easily. “What about money? You don’t have a job and school starts in two weeks.”

I’m headed back to San Jose State this fall to start my teaching-credential program.

“They want me to come back to the café. I’ll be f-fine.”

“And tuition?” He’s tapping one hand on his leg.

“I took out loans.”

“I didn’t want you to do that.” Jude goes full cartoon villain when he gets upset—clenched jaw, steely eyes, the whole bit.

“Yeah, well I did. So g-get used to it.”

“How about I make dinner?” Lizzie asks, breaking the tension.

I change my shirt and get cleaned up, calming myself in the process. That works until I step foot in the kitchen. When my Mom died, Jude and I moved into this house with my Uncle Rob. Five years later, he died in a car crash and left the house to Jude. Now, the dark wood table where Jude, Rob, and I used to eat is gone, replaced by a sleek modern one that will probably fall apart in a couple years. Because my mother helped my uncle decorate this room, it was the only space in the house that had remnants of her. Most of those have been removed. At least the faded duck curtains she picked out are still hanging.

What did I expect? That Lizzie and Jude would become a couple but everything else around them would stay in stasis? But there’s a wide gulf between knowing something and having it hit you in the gut.

Jude and I sit and catch up on the basics as Lizzie cooks. He tries not to gaze at her too often, or for too long. As he talks, he explains any references I might not understand and makes sure to bring up topics that will keep me in the conversation. When I tell him about my year teaching in Japan, he asks the right questions in all the correct places. So thoughtful, so careful. So not Jude.

As much as I love my brother—as much as I owe him for raising me after Mom died—it’s true what they say: You can never go home again.

Time to plant new roots.

Copyright © 2017 by Victoria De La O.
Learn more about or order a copy of Tell Me That You're Mine by Victoria De La O, available August 29, 2017:

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Victoria De La O is the award-winning author of the Tell Me romance trilogy, including Tell Me How This Ends and Tell Me Not to Go. A native of California’s Silicon Valley, she spends her time raising two crazy kids with her husband, working at Stanford University, arguing about films, and partaking in chicanery.

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1 comment
1. Kareni
Thanks for an enjoyable excerpt; this does sound good!
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