Monday, March 30, 2020

Exclusive Excerpt Photographs by James Garcia Jr

Bewitching Exclusive Excerpt of 
Photographs by James Garcia Jr

A man grabbed Joanna with his eyes, stopping her. She swallowed as a nervous sensation raced back and forth between her stomach and her face. He was just as dashing in person as he had been in any film that she had seen him in. He did not turn away and she felt her cheeks flush. It was William Holden, and he had her hand now. She had a fleeting thought to look back to see where Allison might have gotten off to, but she was powerless to do so as the handsome actor raised her hand to his lips.
“You look breathtaking, my dear,” he said before kissing her hand lightly.
“Thank you,” Joanna somehow managed to say.
“Have we met?” he asked. “I feel terribly embarrassed that your name escapes me.”
“No, sir. We’ve never met.”
“Please,” he said with a quick frown that spun right back to pleasure. “It’s Bill.”
“It’s so wonderful to meet you, Bill,” she said. “I’m Joanna.” His hand still held hers and there was a warmth about her that wouldn’t let go, either.
“You are a wonder, my dear Joanna,” he said, taking her other hand in his and gently lifting them and holding them out to survey her dress. “You are the most exquisite creature here.”
The warmth grew exponentially as Bill Holden surveyed her like a country he fully intended to conquer. There was no mistaking his intentions. Forget the blush—Joanna now felt different sensations. In fact, the only question remaining was how many times she would allow him to conquer her.
A presence hovered behind her now. She felt the pull, but it wasn’t quite strong enough to break her current spell.
“All right,” a voice said. “That’s quite enough of that.”
Allison. She stepped into view and then seemed to disappear. Joanna searched for her, and then she was suddenly standing before her. She had ducked beneath their upraised arms and now stood between them.
“Are you planning the honeymoon before the wedding, good sir?” Allison asked as she disconnected their hands.
It was Joanna who spoke, and Allison spun around in surprise. William Holden laughed deeply. Allison gave her a stern look that first read shame, but then quickly broke down in laughter as well. Joanna brought her hands to her face as she realized what she had confirmed with but a single word. When she saw their laughter was genuine, too, she followed suit.
“Come, you,” Allison said. She slipped her arm about her waist and gently tugged her away from the gravitational pull that was Bill Holden. “I’ve got to get you away before a scandal begins. If Ardis finds out this happened here, she’ll never speak to me again.”
“I’m afraid she’s right, Joanna,” Bill stopped them both, but quickly let go. “I have broken my wife’s heart too many times.” He leaned into Joanna and kissed her left cheek, taking his time doing it.
“Come on,” Allison said, pulling them apart.
“I won’t soon forget you, Joanna,” Bill said, and then was gone because Allison made sure of it.
Joanna still felt spellbound, but gradually began to come back to her senses. They didn’t stop until they had reached the top of the stairs. There were more people to greet in that part of the house. Ron and Nancy Reagan came upon them, holding hands. They were younger than she had ever seen them.
“Where are you two off to?” Allison asked.
“Downstairs to get something to eat,” the future president said as he led his wife to the stairs. They stopped in respect.
“Yes,” Allison said. “Do that. We have plenty.” She turned to Joanna. “Mr. and Mrs. Reagan, this is my friend, Joanna. Joanna, meet our next governor.”
“Now, Ally,” Ronald smiled and shook his head sheepishly. “You’ve got to stop saying that. We don’t know what’s going to happen down the road.” He turned his attention to Joanna. “It’s lovely to meet you, Joanna.” He shook her hand warmly. “This is Nancy.”
“It is very lovely to meet the both of you, too,” she said.
“It’s a beautiful night,” Ronald said. “Are you heading out? We just left a couple of seats out there.”
They exchanged a few more pleasantries, but soon the Reagans headed down the stairs in search for food.
“I can’t believe I just met a president,” Joanna said absently as she watched until they disappeared past view.
“Shh!” Allison whispered in her ear. “He doesn’t even know about governor yet, although he’s been preparing for it for years.”
As Joanna felt herself being pulled away, her eyes found the landing. Bothered that she had yet to figure out how to get the stain out, she looked for it.
Apparently, Allison had pulled her too quickly because she had managed to miss it.
The evening had been sweet, but the night was even more so. The welcoming gentle breeze, moonlit sky, and the warm buzz of conversation and music engulfed her like soothing ocean waves. Allison led them out onto the back patio on the second level and to the wrought iron chairs the Reagans had seemingly left for them.
Joanna felt herself surrender to the night, much like she had thought to surrender herself to William Holden mere moments before. Everything about this was perfect. She surveyed it all twice before glancing over to Allison, seated close beside her.
The woman was watching her. “The proverbial penny for your thoughts,” she offered.
“I don’t know what to say. Everything is just so beautiful here.” She reflected a moment, glancing back at the view before them. She took a deep breath, as if taking in the bouquet of a fine wine. “You know, I feel like I could stay here forever, even if alone… I don’t know why I say that.”
“I do,” Allison answered. She reclined against the chair and breathed the same bouquet. “I have always felt this way.”
A strange silence stretched between them. Joanna said nothing for fear of ending it.
“Richard does not share our sentiment,” she added, mournfully.
Joanna looked over and waited. Allison looked back at her and gave her a forced smile.
“This isn’t Hollywood, in spite of appearances tonight. One day, every one of our actor friends will be gone, for one reason or another. Some on purpose. Most not. Time does that. Surely you know this?”
Joanna simply nodded.
“I love many of them dearly, but they will go. Long before this begins to happen, Richard will leave as well. His body will be here, but his heart will be in Hollywood, New York, and every place where the lights man makes are the brightest.”
Allison moved her hand beneath the small wrought iron table between them and set it upon Joanna’s left leg. There was nothing sexual about this advance and Joanna immediately took it in hers and held it. Neither one looked at the other. They simply held the moment.
“I don’t understand how he couldn’t fall in love with this place?” Joanna asked at last. “I have loved it since I first laid eyes upon it.”
Allison gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “I have tried to make him love this life, but another calls out to him and I can do nothing about it.”
“What is it?” Joanna asked.
Allison shook her head. “I almost don’t care,” she said. “I only know this. Nothing in life satisfied until I found this place. Not Hollywood, not Broadway, not the cameras and the money. Nothing but this.”
“When will this happen?” Joanna asked. “How will it happen?”
Allison gave her hand one final squeeze. She turned it over, rubbed the top of it and then patted it twice before pulling away. Joanna glanced over to find tears welling up in Allison’s eyes. They shone so bright in the central California night.
“You have already seen the photo,” she whispered as a single tear cascaded down her right cheek.

James Garcia Jr

Genre: Women’s Fiction
Publisher: James Garcia Jr
Date of Publication: March 3, 2020
ISBN: 9781655811678
ASIN: B083H87YJ6
Number of pages: 390
Word Count: 84,798
Cover Artist: Maria Zannini

Tagline: One night, two exceptional women meet; one black, one white. Both carry broken hearts and one has been dead sixty years.

Book Description:

One night, two exceptional women meet; one black, one white. Both carry broken hearts and one has been dead for sixty years.

In 1956, film actress Allison Belle abandoned the glamour of Hollywood for Fresno, California, and an idyllic new life.

In 1959, she disappeared altogether.

Sixty years later, real estate agent Joanna Johnson steps unsuspectingly into the old Belle house and a story long forgotten.

A devastating personal event opens a hidden door into the actress’s world. The mystery behind what broke Allison’s heart and what ultimately happened to her is revealed slowly by a series of long lost photographs the agent uncovers; the relationship she builds with the actress’s ninety year old husband; and through a series of “dreams” she has where she relives the moments captured by each photograph - herself a participant in them.

The closer Joanna gets to the truth, the closer she gets to suffering the same fate.

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About the Author:

James Garcia Jr. was born in Hanford, California. He moved up the road to Kingsburg with his family as a child. After graduating KHS, he attended Reedley College where he met his wife. The family still makes its home in Kingsburg which is typically the setting of his fiction.

He was the 1994 winner of the Writers International Network/Writers Inter-Age Network writing contest in the horror category. He is the author of the Dance on Fire edgy vampire series and the stand-alone paranormal, Seeing Ghosts.

During the day, he is a manager at Sun-Maid Growers of California.

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