June 27, 2013

Spotlight on: Love and Devotion by Jove Bell

KC Hall loves her family, her small East Texas town, and her best friend, Emma Reynolds. All of that takes a backseat when her lover beckons. Lonnie is blond, beautiful, and willing. She’s also married and a lifelong friend of KC’s mama.

KC knows the affair is a bad idea, but she just can’t help herself. When presented with the lush landscape of Lonnie’s body, KC subscribes to the philosophy of
orgasm first, think later.” Unfortunately, a secret that big is impossible to keep in a close-knit community where everybody knows everybody else’s business. The scandal would hurt her entire family.

Emma is KC’s exception, the one woman she loves enough to not have sex with. When Emma confesses that she’s loved KC since high school, KC is terrified. One wrong move and she could lose Emma completely.

Is she willing to let her family pay the price for her good time? Or will she turn to Emma to discover the true meaning of love and devotion?


KC woke the next morning to the sound of Buddy crying. At Trina and Jackson’s insistence, Buddy slept in a portable crib in KC’s spare bedroom rather than in the master bedroom with her. She figured he was crying because of waking up in a strange room.
“Em.” KC shook Emma gently. As always, sometime during the night, Emma had migrated until she was half sprawled on top of KC. KC had long ignored her body’s desire to escalate her physical contact with Emma, but mornings like this tested her resolve. Emma had made it clear years ago that they were friends and nothing more. KC worked hard to respect that boundary.
Emma didn’t stir and Buddy cried louder. “Emma.” KC shook her none-too-gently. “Buddy’s crying.”
“Wha…” Emma snuggled in closer and gripped KC tighter around the middle.
KC gave up trying to wake her politely and sat up. Emma flopped to the side and almost bounced off the bed completely.
“What the fuck?” Emma’s hair hung in her face, a tangled curtain that blocked her eyes. She shoved it inelegantly behind her ears. Emma was not a morning person.
Buddy let out a lung-bursting cry.
“Oh.” Emma flopped back down and buried her head in KC’s pillow. “Wake me when it’s not the middle of the damn night,” she grumbled.
Free from bed, KC faced a battle. Her heart said go to Buddy right now. Her bladder said go to the bathroom. She wavered, then decided to go with her brain. If she didn’t take care of her morning rituals, she’d have two problems to solve instead of just one: a crying toddler and a pee stain on the rug.
After she ran to the bathroom, she called, “I’m coming, Buddy-boy.” If nothing else, she could try for some long-distance comforting. It didn’t help. Next she tried singing. She made it through two verses of “Delta Dawn” before she reached his room. He was screaming bloody murder and trying to scale the side of the pack-and-play he slept in. The song didn’t help Buddy much, but KC loved any morning that started with singing a Tanya Tucker song.
Buddy was not comforted to see his aunt round the corner instead of his mommy. He cried harder.
KC scooped him up and kissed the side of his head. “Shush shush shush.”  The universal shushing sound of mothers the world over sounded like a washing machine. Not at all comforting, to her mind. Still, it worked on Buddy. He hiccupped, snuggled his head into her shoulder, then burped long and loud.
At twenty-six, KC’s biological clock had started tripping along to an uncertain beat. Most of the time, it was quiet enough to ignore, but when she held one of her sisters’ children it clamored too loud to mistake for anything but longing for a family of her own.
She carried him to the kitchen. “Come on, boyo. Let’s go fix your Auntie Em some breakfast.”
“Don’t teach him to call me that!” Emma smacked KC on the ass. Hard. She was headed toward the coffeemaker.
“Here.” KC thrust Buddy into Emma’s hands, giving her no choice but to take him. She slapped Emma’s behind as payback, then reclaimed her nephew.
Emma hopped away and set about making coffee. “No more hitting until I have coffee. At this point I can’t tell if it’s abuse or foreplay.”
“Definitely abuse.” KC set Buddy on the counter. He was damn heavy. “What does your mama feed you, boy? You’re built like a brick.”
Buddy giggled but offered no insight.
“You’re too young for coffee.” Emma handed Buddy a cup of chocolate milk. “What’s for breakfast?”
“Buddy and I are meeting Kendall and Trina at Over Easy, but we’re going to fix you some bacon pancakes first.” When they were little, KC would spend more nights with Emma than the other way around. Emma was an only child and KC’s house was perpetual chaos. Emma never quite took to her mama’s cooking lessons, but KC soaked them up. KC made a point to fix Emma’s childhood favorites. “I’m officially in love with you.” Emma poured her first cup before the machine finished brewing. Coffee ran over the counter.
KC lifted Buddy off it and set him on the floor, then threw a towel at Emma. “Stop making a mess and hand me the griddle.”
Bacon pancakes combined the best of all worlds. Yummy pancake, salty bacon, and sweet maple syrup. Unfortunately, they were a bitch to make. KC started the bacon, then mixed the pancake batter.  Emma was well into her second cup of coffee when KC asked, “Did you tell them yes?”
Emma stopped drinking mid-swallow but held the cup to her mouth for a beat longer before she set it on the counter. “I haven’t told them anything.” She ran a finger over the rim of the mug, studying it with more attention than it deserved. “I wanted to talk to you.”
With the bacon cooking, KC set Buddy at the kitchen table with a handful of Cheerios. She didn’t want to spoil his appetite, but the boy needed to eat something while he waited for breakfast with his mama. The bacon sizzled and KC pulled it off the griddle. She diced it into small pieces and waited to see if Emma would elaborate. The only sound was Buddy crunching cereal. As she cleaned the grease from the griddle, she said, “And?”
KC ladled pancake batter onto the griddle and dropped the bacon crumble into it. Emma sighed five times but still said nothing.
“Em?” KC slipped her arm around Emma. She gave her a one-arm hug until the pancakes started to bubble.
“You know I want to go. This town is…” Emma sipped her coffee. “I want to go.”
KC flipped the pancakes and pulled the syrup from the cupboard. “And?” Emma had been unemployed for so long that KC's brain tripped over itself trying to picture her any other way. God knew it wasn't for lack of trying, but her degree was very specific. There weren't many opportunities in a narrow job market like television production, especially during a down economy. All the reports said new jobs were available every day, but it didn't take a journalism degree to ask folks, "Would you like fries with that?" A legitimate job offer in her field was a dream come true for Emma, so why was she holding back? “Talk, Em.”
Emma moved from the counter to the table. She lifted Buddy out of his chair and claimed the seat with him in her lap. Then she bit her bottom lip, a nervous habit since early childhood.
“You aren’t getting these until you spill it.” KC flipped pancakes onto a plate, added butter, and poured on too much syrup. Emma liked a little pancake with her syrup. She held the dish just out of Emma’s reach.
“Okay.” Emma played with Buddy’s hair as she fumbled for words. “I want to move to Austin, but I don’t want to leave you.” She let out a huge sigh.
KC put the plate down, then sat in the empty chair. “I don’t want you to leave me either, Emma.” KC’s life was in Fairmont. Her family. Lonnie. She’d always known Emma would leave. She just assumed she’d make lots of trips. She couldn’t think of the day-to-day details beyond that. The Emma-sized hole in her life squeezed at her heart. “But it’s not like we’re breaking up. We’ll visit plenty.”
Before Emma could respond, KC’s phone sang out “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” It was Lonnie’s ringtone.
Where the hell was her phone? KC carried Buddy on her hip and followed the sound. She found it on the counter beneath her unread Sunday paper from the previous morning. “Just let me,” KC held up the phone, “get this. I’ll be quick.”
Emma nodded then tucked into her pancakes. She didn’t look up as KC left the room to take the call.
“Hello?” KC felt breathless and rushed, and only part of it was from the phone search and hefting Buddy around. The thought of Lonnie left her breathless regularly. Apparently that had spread to include the sound of her ringtone as well.
“Good morning, sugar.” Lonnie’s voice was languid and sexy, like a summer breeze across a lake. “I’ve been thinking about you.”
KC pictured Lonnie stretched out in her bed wearing a silk nightie and sliding over satin sheets. KC’d never actually seen Lonnie’s bedroom, but the fantasy made her wet. “Yeah?” KC grinned like an idiot. Buddy poked her in the nose and giggled. She felt decidedly less sexy as she jerked her head around to keep him from sticking his finger into her left nostril.
“Yes, I feel positively terrible about leaving you stranded yesterday.”
“Twice.” KC’s neglected girlie parts were still yelling at her for attention.
“Twice. That’s why I’m calling. I thought maybe I could talk you through it this morning.”
KC heard Emma rinsing her plate in the kitchen. Buddy struggled in her arms until she set him on the floor. “Lon, now is really not a good time.”
“I’m sure we can be quick, sugar.” Lonnie’s pout registered all the way through the phone. “I need you.”
Need is a curious thing, and typically Lonnie’s needs overrode KC’s. With her nephew climbing up her dresser, Lonnie’s needs over the phone didn’t seem all that pressing. KC was flat- out irritated. What was she supposed to do? Lock Buddy in the closet until Lonnie was done with her?
“I’m sorry, Lonnie, really I am, but Buddy’s here…” If Lonnie kept talking in that sweet-as-molasses voice, if she said just the right things, KC might be persuaded. Emma could watch Buddy for a few minutes. But how would she explain herself? Give me just a minute, Emma. I’m just going to get Lonnie off over the phone, then I’ll be right back out. No, that just wouldn’t do. “What are you doing later?”
Buddy made it to the second drawer and the dresser wobbled. KC dropped her phone as she dove for him. He giggled and said, “Wow.”
KC stared at him. Trina didn’t mention that he was talking yet. “Say it again, Buddy. Say wow.” She picked her phone up with her free hand but didn’t put Buddy down again. She was pretty sure Trina wouldn’t want him back after her dresser flattened him. “Sorry. Buddy almost fell.” She sandwiched the phone between her ear and her shoulder and flew Buddy around the room like Superman. “So...later?”
“I’ll be at my office this afternoon.” A few years ago, while KC was away at college, Lonnie took up selling real estate. She kept an office in town for meetings and such. “Come by?” Lonnie still sounded put out, but resigned.
“Absolutely. Three-ish?”
KC ended the call feeling conflicted. She hated disappointing Lonnie for any reason, but she couldn’t help but wonder if their relationship would ever balance out to the point where Lonnie thought about KC’s needs.
She let Buddy walk when she left the bedroom. He ran down the hall, laughing all the way.
Emma leaned against the counter, her purse and keys in her hands. “Dishes are done. I best be going.”
“Were we done talking?”
Emma nodded and pulled her cigarettes from her purse. She tapped a cigarette out of the pack. “I think we are, KC.”
KC didn’t have an answer to the defeat in Emma’s tone. Until her friend was ready to share what was going on inside of her, KC couldn’t do a thing.
“You want to wait until we get ready?”
“I think I’m just going to go.” Emma slipped the cigarette between her lips, gave KC a sad wave, then stepped out the kitchen door. She lit the cigarette as the door swung shut behind her.
“Huh.” KC picked Buddy up. “Just you and me, boyo. Let’s get you dressed.”

Love and DevotionLove and Devotion by Jove Belle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very good book. It was a sweet and sincere story about two women who transition from being best friends to being in love. K.C. is one of the main characters, and she was a mess right at the start. She is involved with her mama's best friend, Lonnie, and it's clear right from the start that Lonnie is just using her to get her rocks off. They have been seeing each other secretly for a year because Lonnie is married and an upstanding, churchgoing, choir-singing, member of a Texas small town. K.C. is basically Lonnie's booty call, because Lonnie is never concerned about what K.C. wants or needs. However, K.C. is fine with how things are at the moment, because she's so in LUST with Lonnie. It doesn't take long though for the status quo to begin shifting once K.C. learns that her best friend Emma has had feelings for her ever since high school.

Emma is the epitome of the sweet, loveable girl next door. She has been K.C.'s best friend since childhood, and has stuck by her side (except for a period of a couple months in high school) even when a lot of people turned away from her after she came out. What K.C. doesn't know though is that Emma has always secretly been in love with her. When Emma gets a job in Austin and is going to be moving in a couple of weeks, she finally lets K.C. know how she feels. That's when the fireworks starts. K.C. realizes that Lonnie has been stringing her along, and begins the process of ending things. She has to handle the situation delicately because there are already several people that know about their affair, and Lonnie is her mama's best friend, so they still have to see each other every Sunday at dinner. I loved the interaction between Emma and Lonnie. It was funny, but oh so true to see the jealousy come out. I also felt sorry for Lonnie. She seemed like the typical aging beauty queen that was just trying to hold on to something that made her feel young and desirable. She was shallow and selfish, but I felt like she was hurting underneath.

Once Emma and K.C. began their relationship in earnest, it was perfect. K.C. was just so "adorable," to use Emma's word, and I really felt like she had changed and was finally growing up. Once she realized what she wanted from life, she went for it.

I also liked the secondary story that was woven in between K.C. and Emma's journey. Trina, Kendall, and K.C.'s mama were all great second characters. There was a serious situation that was going on, but I think that it was written about perfectly - evoking sympathy for the bad guy and admiration for the victim. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was well written, and dealt with a very simple but important topic. And I appreciated how the sex scenes were written. They were raw and real and sexy without being too much or too little. In a word, perfection!

View all my reviews

Author Bio:
Jove Belle was born and raised against a backdrop of orchards and potato fields. The youngest of four children, she was raised in a conservative, Christian home and began asking why at a very young age, much to the consternation of her mother and grandmother. At the customary age of eighteen, she fled southern Idaho in pursuit of broader minds and fewer traffic jams involving the local livestock. The road didn’t end in Portland, Oregon, but there were many confusing freeway interchanges that a girl from the sticks was ill-prepared to deal with. As a result, she has lived in the Portland metro area for over fifteen years and still can’t figure out how she manages to spend so much time in traffic when there’s not a stray sheep or cow in sight.

She lives with her partner of twelve years. Between them they share three children, two dogs, two cats, two mortgage payments, one sedan, and one requisite dyke pickup truck. One day she hopes to live in a house that doesn’t generate a never ending honey-do list.

Incidentally, she never stopped asking why, but did expand her arsenal of questions to include who, what, when, where and, most important of all, how. In those questions, a story is born.

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