Today Wednesday Writes welcomes Sally Bradley, author of Kept. Sally, please tell the readers about the book being showcased today.
Kept is big-city fiction set in beautiful downtown Chicago. It’s true-to-life fiction that deals with real issues people face today, yet offers real hope.
Here’s the back cover blurb: Life has taught Miska Tomlinson that there are no honorable men. Her womanizing brothers, her absentee father, and Mark, the married baseball player who claims to love her—all have proven undependable. But Miska has life under control. She runs her editing business from her luxury condo, stays fit with daily jogs along Chicago’s lakefront, and in her free time blogs anonymously about life as a kept woman.
Enter new neighbor Dillan Foster. Between his unexpected friendship and her father’s sudden reappearance, Miska loses control of her orderly life. Her relationship with Mark deteriorates, and Miska can’t help comparing him to Dillan. His religious views are so foreign, yet the way he treats her is something she’s longed for. But Dillan discovers exactly who she is and what she has done. Too late she finds herself longing for a man who is determined to never look her way again.
When her blog receives unexpected national press, Miska realizes that her anonymity was an illusion. Caught in a scandal about to break across the nation, Miska wonders if the God Dillan talks about would bother with a woman like her—a woman who’s gone too far and done too much.
“Gutsy and fast-paced.”—Laura Frantz, author of Love’s Reckoning
“One of the most surprising and best books I’ve read this year.”—MaryLu Tyndall, best-selling author of Legacy of the King’s Pirates series.
Wow, that sounds interesting. I read the excerpt below, and have to say that you’ve hooked me. How did you come up with the concept for this book?
From ESPN’s SportsCenter, ironically. The show ran a series on temptations pro athletes face, and one of them was about women who made their living off pro athletes. One woman they interviewed was completely silhouetted, but she had a very unique short haircut. As the interview went on, she confessed that not only was she “kept” by one pro athlete, being available only to him when his team came to town, but by a second—and each man thought they were the only one. My immediate thought was, Honey, I hope you’re wearing a wig. Or they know now.
I couldn’t get her out of my head and had to figure out what would make her live that way and what it would take for her to see—and want—the truth. Plus she just needed a truly happy ending.
Kept has a Pinterest page. You can see Miska and Dillan, the other characters, and the gorgeous setting there.
A story torn from the news. I love it. What are you working on now? Do you have a release date for this book?
I’m working on a book called Shelf Life. There’s no definite release date yet, but I’m hoping to have it out later this year. It’s about a woman who’s become a Christian, only to find that her new faith is destroying her already fragile marriage. Her husband, an out-of-work professional baseball player, has been getting death threats but doesn’t seem to care. She begins to wonder if she’s been nothing more than a trophy wife to him—and if their marriage is even worth trying to save.
Sounds like you like sports settings. Do you do anything special to create yours, like visiting the area, googling satellite maps, looking at books or pictures?
I’ve discovered that setting is key for me. If I don’t have a setting that really intrigues me, then the story just doesn’t work and is difficult to write.
For Kept, I was on Google Earth constantly. Grant Park in Chicago and the lakefront are key settings in the book, and I wanted to get all the details as right as I possibly could. Just before the book released, I was able to visit the area again to make sure my details were right. For my next book, I’ve been searching multi-million dollar homes on the lakefront north of Chicago. Now that I’ve found the right place, the juices are really flowing.
Do you have a favorite book? (Or books since it’s always hard to whittle it down to one.) Siri Mitchell’s Chateau of Echoes might be my favorite right now. Then there’s Burning Sky by Lori Benton, and The Scarlet Thread, The Last Sin Eater, and A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah is another favorite.
What’s the first book you ever remember reading as a child?
The Little House books. My mom read them to me when I was young, and I loved fiction from then on.
Those were a favorite in our house, too. I loved them and introduced our daughter to the stories. What’s the book you are reading now?
Lisa Wingate’s The Story Keeper and Lora Young’s Once a Thief.
What do you do for relaxation?
Read! And watch sports. I’m loving March Madness (as I write this) and am looking forward to baseball starting up again.
My hubby has been tied to the basketball games as well. I have to admit, I understand basketball better than football.
We like to travel. What is the…
- farthest place from your home that you have visited? Brazil
- most fun place? Brazil
- most relaxing place? Gulf of Mexico beaches. Love them!
- most historic place? There’s a Spanish fort in Pensacola, Florida, that’s amazing to walk through. You feel like any second a Spanish solider in his poofy knee-length pants and silver helmet will walk around the corner.
It’s been a pleasure having you here today. As you say goodbye, can you leave the readers with an encapsulation of your life’s philosophy
I don’t have a life verse because verses hit me at different times with different things going on in my life. But the verses that have impacted me these past few year are in I Corinthians 6: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
It’s that last verse—Such were some of you—that has struck me. The verse has a huge impact in Kept, and it has made me look at people differently, reminded me of what I would be without God.
Excerpt from Kept
Mark was leaving—again.
Miska Tomlinson let the gauzy curtain fall across her living room window, obscuring the view of Chicago’s lakefront eighteen stories below. If she’d known a year ago that their relationship would stall like this, she might have thought twice about accepting his offer of a drink. That would have saved her this roller coaster of pleasure and pain.
The pain was worth it, though, wasn’t it? The two of them hiding out in her condo three or four days at a time. No one hassling them, no one knowing…
She fingered a curl. Why was he packing his bag a good two hours before he had to be at the ballpark?
“Miska. Baby.” Mark’s voice drifted from the bedroom into the living room. “Have you seen my wallet?”
“Didn’t you put it on the nightstand?”
Something thumped in her room. “Oh, yeah. Found it.”
Right. She smiled at his words. He’d found it. Next he’d be searching for his phone, his keys, his shoes. Maybe even his toothbrush.
He wandered into view, stopped at the end of her bed where his duffel sat, and tucked his shaving kit and toothbrush inside.
All pleasure from the last three days vanished.
She returned to the window. She couldn’t obsess. He probably had a good reason for leaving early. If she just waited…
Miska scanned the view that had convinced her to risk her inheritance and live house poor. Grant Park, Chicago’s version of Central Park, spread below her, treetops finally decked out in vibrant spring green. The faded-jean blue of the sky contrasted with Lake Michigan’s cerulean waters, and a handful of white boats dotted Monroe Harbor.
But the jewel of the park was Buckingham Fountain. The massive fountain of granite and pink marble held court in the park’s center. Any second now the ten-o’clock water show would begin, the first of the year. The center jet would soar a hundred fifty feet into the air, and dozens of other jets would try to catch it.
Someday, maybe, she’d take Mark down there and share it with him, his hand in hers as the music played and the water danced. Someday, when he belonged to her.
Mark’s bag zipped shut. His footsteps crossed to the kitchen island behind her, bag thumping to the floor, then turned her way. “What’re you looking at?”
“Buckingham Fountain. Isn’t it beautiful?”
He wrapped his arms around her and pressed himself to her back. “Mmm. Very.”
The fountain’s center jet leaped high into the air. Smiling, she relaxed against him while the rest of the jets sprayed high then low, splashing to a song she couldn’t hear.
He said nothing while the fountain played, just held her.
When the hundred-plus jets fell back to their usual height, she turned in his arms and slid her palms across his defined chest. Her gaze trailed over his full mouth and square jaw, both so tempting. But she couldn’t bring herself to meet his eyes. “Your bag’s packed?”
“Yep.” He cleared his throat, then ran a hand through his thick blond hair until it stood on end. “It’s too beautiful to stay inside. We should go out for breakfast—or brunch. For something.”
Out? In public? She held still. “You want to go somewhere? Together?”
“If you’re not comfortable with it, we don’t have to.”
“No, I’d love that.” Of course she was comfortable with it. Her smile morphed into a grin. He matched it, and she stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek, just a peck so he didn’t get any new ideas. “Where should we go?”
“There’s a great diner a few blocks from here. Best hash browns and French toast anywhere.”
“Sounds perfect, except I’ll have to run twice today.”
He followed her to the kitchen island where her Kate Spade bag—the last purse Mom had bought—lay beside his keys, phone, and baseball cap. He picked up the worn hat. “Wish I could run with you.”
He could, if he really wanted to. “Next time you’re in town.”
A thud sounded in the hallway outside her condo. Then another, followed by deep muffled voices. She ignored it as she slipped her purse strap onto her shoulder.
But Mark, filling his pockets, glanced toward her front door. “What’s going on out there?”
“The condo next door sold. Someone’s moving in.”
He tugged the hat’s curved brim low. Bag over his shoulder, he followed her to the front door where he held up a hand and listened.
Miska opened the door and stepped into the empty hallway. Mark followed and locked the deadbolt with his key. “Ready?” he asked with that aw-shucks grin that had won her over.
So ready. This changed everything. She grabbed his hand and tugged him forward, flashing him a flirtatious look. “Let’s go.”
His fingers tightened around hers, pulling her to a stop just steps from her door. That longing smile hinted around his mouth.
What would he do? They were in public, after all, even if the hallway was empty.
Mark didn’t do public.
He stepped up against her and slipped an arm around her waist. His head lowered, and she closed her eyes with him, already warm from a barely begun kiss in a silent hallway where anyone could walk out—
A doorknob clicked.
Miska opened her eyes.
A tall, dark-haired man burst through the doorway beside Mark and plowed into him.
Mark’s weight fell against her, and she backpedaled into the wall, the back of her head smacking it, while Mark crashed beside her.
Tall-Dark-and-Klutzy stared at them, his mouth hanging open. “Oh, man, I’m sorry.” He offered his hand to Miska where she half-sat, half-leaned against the wall. “Are you okay?”
She grabbed his hand, all knuckles and long fingers, and let him pull her up. He was incredibly tall—well over six feet, maybe closer to seven. She scanned his lean face and the scruff he hadn’t shaved that morning, pausing on his nice brown eyes. “I’m fine.”
“I didn’t realize anybody was out here.” He looked at Mark. “You all right?”
Mark tugged the hat over his forehead. “We’re good.”
The guy towered over Mark’s six-three height.
Mark reached down for the duffel bag, and the man’s lips parted. His eyebrows rose.
Great. He’d recognized Mark.
Behind Tall-Dark-and-Klutzy, a second man—not as tall but similar enough in looks that they had to be related—stepped out of the condo and laughed. He smacked Klutzy’s back. “Dude, why couldn’t you run over Mark Scheider yesterday? Before he shut out the Cubs?” He shot Mark a grin. “Sorry about my brother. You’d think he’d have grown into those feet by now.” He shrugged as if it were a lost cause. “I’m Garrett Foster. This is my brother, Dillan. Could we get an autograph?”
Klutzy closed his eyes, his head lolling back a bit.
“Why not.” Mark held out a hand for paper and pen, the gesture friendly but irritation clear in his voice. “Then we have to go.”
As Garrett searched his pockets, he looked at Miska as if seeing her for the first time. “Oh. Right. Didn’t mean to hold you up. Or knock you down.” He grinned and elbowed his brother.
Miska mashed her lips together.
“Dude, I don’t have any paper. And none in the condo. We’re moving in. Guess it’ll have to be next time. You have a place here, I take it?”
Klutzy glanced her way as if he knew all about them.
But how could he? “Mark’s just visiting. Actually, we’ve got to run. We’re meeting someone.”
Garrett nodded. “Of course. It was nice meeting you, Mark and…”
Mark grabbed her elbow, sending the men a clipped nod. “Let’s go.”
“No name?” Garrett turned to his silent brother as they passed. “Did I hear that right?”
Mark mumbled beneath his breath.
They walked down the hallway and turned the corner into the floor’s lobby where the elevator doors waited. Mark pressed the call button and stepped back, his face and neck flushed. He adjusted the hat again and glued his gaze to the floor.
“You okay?” she asked. “Did that guy hurt you?”
He let a huge rush of air escape, shoulders slumping. “I’m fine.”
Really? The way he kept staring at the floor? She slipped an arm around his waist just as the Foster brothers walked around the corner.
Mark pushed her arm down.
Garrett flashed her a smile she wasn’t even beginning to buy. “Off to bring up more boxes. Dillan says you’re our neighbor.” He stuck out his hand. “I didn’t catch your name.”
“Miska Tomlinson.” She shook his hand, feeling Mark seethe beside her. Easy for him to be rude. He didn’t have to live next door to these guys. “Nice to meet you both.”
A ding announced the arrival of an elevator.
As the doors opened, Mark held her back. “I think I left my phone at your place.” He glanced at the brothers as he pulled her toward the hallway. “Have a nice day.”
“Same to you, man,” Garrett called to their backs. “See you later.”
Miska followed Mark down the hall. What was he doing? Just regrouping? Or…
At her door, he fumbled with his keys. She gave him a moment before pulling out her keys and unlocking the door. Their first time in public, and they hadn’t even made it to the street.
Mark shoved his way inside.
She followed and eased the heavy door closed, leaning against it while he emptied his pockets, phone included, onto the island. He dropped his bag by the barstools and walked past her dining room table and white leather couch until the wall of windows stopped him. He stood there, hands on hips, staring toward the lake.
So. No breakfast date. No taking that first step in front of the world. Her jaw clenched. If only they hadn’t run into those men.
In the kitchen she opened the refrigerator and grabbed eggs and milk. She could still make pancakes, still finish their days together on a good note. But next time he was in town, she’d make really bad French toast and they’d—
His phone buzzed.
Out of habit, Miska glanced at it. Darcie flashed across the screen.
The name numbed her brain, freezing her where she stood.
Again the phone buzzed.
Miska couldn’t move, couldn’t take her eyes off it, even though Mark’s footsteps approached. He snagged the phone and walked away before answering. “Hey, babe.” He entered her bedroom.
The door banged shut.
Silence swarmed her.
Somehow she managed to swallow. The motion freed her body but not her mind. She set the milk down and opened the egg carton. Scrambled eggs sounded good. Or maybe sunny-side up. She cracked an egg against the counter, then threw the whole thing into the sink.
Mark could get his own breakfast.
She eyed her door. What were they talking about?
Wiping her hands on a dishtowel, she tiptoed toward the bedroom. She really shouldn’t listen. But she was already there, waiting for her pounding heart to quiet, ears straining.
“Aw, babe. I’m sorry.”
Amazing how he sounded sorry and loving, as if whatever Darcie was going through was his pain too. But she knew what he thought of Darcie. He’d told her.
He sighed. “I know, I know. We’ll keep trying, okay?”
“Darcie, hon, it’s not your fault. It’s just one of those things…”
Oh. Her throat tightened. So he was lying to her and Darcie.
“Look, I don’t blame you.”
She needed breakfast. Eggs. Pancakes. She marched back to the island. Hash browns and bacon. Maybe she’d hunt down that diner herself. See what kind of company hung out there. She passed his duffel bag and kicked it.
Kicked it again.
She rested her elbows on the island and buried her face in her hands. Maybe she should call Darcie and tell her how her husband had hit on her last spring. How he’d pretended to be single long enough for her to lose her heart to him. If only she knew how Darcie would react—and whether or not Mark would return.
He had to return. No, he had to leave Darcie. She couldn’t live like this forever. He had to make a choice. It was long past time for that.
Her door clacked open, and Mark’s footsteps sounded.
Miska pulled herself up, wiped her cheeks just in case. She faced him, fighting the tension in her jaw. “How’s Darcie?”
He studied his phone. “She’s fine.”
“Not pregnant again, huh?”
He met her eyes.
“But you’ll keep trying, right? That’s good.”
She smacked the granite. “It’s been a year, Mark. A year of you waffling on whether you’re going to commit to me or not. To your wife or not. You need to decide.”
He pulled the cap off and eyed it, mouth tight. “Is this an ultimatum?”
“No.” Of course he loved her. He would choose her over Darcie once he thought it through. “Nothing’s keeping you with Darcie except your wedding band. If she were your girlfriend, you’d have been done with her as soon as you found out she’d cheated.”
He said nothing, just watched her.
He would choose her, wouldn’t he? He and Darcie—he’d said they were done. “Mark, we can’t even go outside these four walls without you freaking out over being seen together. How do you expect—”
“Maybe you need to choose. Either take me like this or don’t take me at all.”
She shook her head, her voice locked in her throat. He couldn’t mean it. “You said—” She pressed her fingers against her mouth. “When I found out about Darcie, you said the marriage was dead already. That you’d give it a few months.”
But twelve months wasn’t a few. What an idiot she was to let it drag on this long.
She turned her back to him. Did he really expect her to keep waiting? For what? To see if his wife got pregnant? What kind of disgusting relationship was this?
Mark’s hands settled on her shoulders.
Miska flinched, but he said nothing, did nothing. She swallowed, the weight of his hands increasing. What kind of a woman was she? She hugged herself, her hands sliding up to her shoulders and knocking his fingers away. He turned her, and she folded into herself, nose tucked into the crook of her elbow.
A tear slipped free and vanished down her arm. She squeezed her eyes shut. This wasn’t what she’d planned to be—or do. This was not who she was.
Mark tugged her arms free and pulled her close.
She pressed her face against the soft cotton T-shirt and took him in—his faint cologne, his broad chest, the feel of his arms tight around her. Was she strong enough to risk losing him? Could she survive without him?
His cheek rested on top of her head, and he toyed with the ends of her curls. “Miska, you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“I need more time. I promise. Just a few more months.”
She pulled back enough to see his eyes. “When?”
“Will you trust me?”
“Haven’t I?” Even after he’d lied? “Give me an end date. July? August? When?”
He searched her face, eyes softening. His mouth worked, and finally he spoke. “The end of August. By then…” He shook his head.
Four months of waiting and wondering. So many days home with Darcie. So few here with her. But she’d take it. “I’ll wait through August. And not a day more.”
Mark nodded, releasing her.
She took a step back, arms wrapped around her middle. He adjusted his hat and tucked his phone, wallet, and keys into his pockets.
So he was still leaving early.
He picked up his duffel bag and settled the strap onto his shoulder. He pushed the bag behind his back, then stood beside the island and fingered the counter’s edge.
When he looked up, his smile was heartbreakingly tender. “You know if I could do things over…”
He’d have married her. That’s what he’d said when she’d confronted him about the wife he’d failed to mention. His words had melted her. She’d known he’d choose her soon.
But he hadn’t.
If she could go back to that day, she’d throw him out of her condo before her heart was too far gone to think straight, before he kept her a prisoner in this messed-up relationship.
But it was too late. She was vested in Mark, in the beauty he brought her each time his team came to Chicago. There had never been anyone like him before, and there could never be anyone like him again.
As she walked him to the door and whispered good-bye, she vowed to do everything in her power to make Mark choose her. Everything.
Darcie’d had her chance.
Now it was Miska’s turn.
Sally Bradley writes big-city fiction with real issues and real hope. A Chicagoan since age five, she now lives in the Kansas City area with her family, but they still get back to Chicago once in a while for important things—like good pizza and a White Sox game. Fiction has been her passion since childhood, and she’s thrilled now to be writing books that not only entertain, but point back to Christ. Connect with Sally at sallybradley.com and on Facebook at Sally Bradley, Writer. Kept is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble