Unconditional Love is the story of Donald and Jason as told through the seven pivotal days in Donald's life. During the course of the story Donald discovers the importance and rarity of Unconditional Love and the sacrifices it demands.
Unconditional Love is currently available from Dreamspinner Press. I hope you enjoy the excerpt.
Can a person’s life change in just one day? How about seven?
Donald Pottier and Jason Greene are barely more than boys when they meet on Chincoteague Island, Virginia. A day of crabbing soon turns them from strangers to friends, then to something more, but the boys’ time is limited: at the end of the summer, Jay will leave Don and the island behind.
But Fate has more in store for Don and Jay than a summer of might-have-beens. Through eleven years of friendship, pain, love, loss, sickness, and misfortune, seven days stand out. Seven days define and shape the people they are and the relationship they share. Seven days of reunions and separations, accidents and serendipity, rejection and acceptance, disappointment and hope lay the foundation no romance can survive without: unconditional love.
Don watched her go and then looked around but didn’t see Jason. With a sigh, he turned away from the parking lot and began unlocking his bike.
“Well, if it isn’t Potty-a,” Harmon Krepke said from right behind him, close enough for Don to smell his bad breath. “We’re going swimming, and we thought you could cool off too.”
Don stiffened and whirled around but found himself held from behind. “Leave me alone!” Don cried, trying to squirm out of Krepke’s grip. But he was much bigger and stronger than Don, and he tightened his grip.
“I definitely think you need a swim. Grab his feet, Ly.” Don began to kick as much as he could, but Lymon got hold of his legs and held them tight. Don kept trying to squirm, but they were too strong for him. He began to squirm even more as they carried him toward the back of the lot to where the swamp mud began. They were going to throw him in, and Don knew from firsthand experience that this wasn’t just about getting dirty. There were places in the marsh that didn’t have a bottom. The mud was often just thick enough that you couldn’t swim in it, and yet there really wasn’t a bottom you could stand on.
“Leave me alone, you jerk!” Don cried and squirmed harder as they reached the break in the fence that Mr. Hollings kept saying he needed to repair. His heart raced and his mind began to cloud as sheer panic began to sink in.
“Right here is good, now swing his legs and we’ll toss him in,” Krepke growled with a sinister laugh, and Don tried to see what was happening, but his head was spinning, and all he could do was try to keep struggling as both his tormenters laughed. He kept struggling and cried out as his upper body began to fall. He was caught by one arm and then the other. Opening his eyes, he realized Krepke had his arms, and he continued trying to struggle as the two bigger boys really began to swing him.
Don braced for them to let go, but then he felt his legs fall and heard shouting. “Pick on someone your own size,” someone growled, and someone else cursed in pain. Lifting his head, Don saw Ly grabbing his nose, blood streaming out between his fingers. Then he was dropped, his arms released, and he fell unceremoniously onto his butt as he saw Jason turn to Krepke, fists up. Don scrambled to get out of the way as he saw Krepke brace for a punch, but Jason swept his foot in a wide arc, knocking Krepke’s feet from under him. Krepke stumbled and couldn’t get his balance before tumbling over the shallow bank and into the black mud. “Quit your bawling and help him out, or I’ll give you some more,” Jason told Ly, and the bully’s eyes widened as he held his nose, blood still running down his face.
Meanwhile, Don saw Krepke begin to climb out of the marsh, covered almost to his neck in foul-smelling mud, sticks, and bits of half-decayed plants. He looked almost like some sort of marsh monster. Don stepped back and grabbed his bike. “Let’s get out of here,” he said, and Jason nodded. Don hopped on his bike and waited for Jason before they took off, putting as much distance as they could between them and the bullies.
Once they were on the road, Jason began to laugh.
“Aren’t you afraid of getting in trouble?” Don asked Jason once they turned off the main street and they could ride side by side.
“No. Those two pick on everyone, and once word gets around that they’ve been whipped, someone else will do it too.” Jason put on his brakes to slow down, and Don followed suit. “How often have they done stuff like that?”
“Couple of years, I guess. Usually it’s just taunting and calling names,” Don confessed, looking away as his face colored. He hated being afraid of them, and if he were truthful with himself, he was ashamed that he couldn’t take care of himself. Every time those two got the better of him, it tore at him. What if someone tried to hurt his mother? He was the man of the family and all she had. What if he couldn’t protect her when she needed it?
“So where are we going?” Jason asked, and Don smiled, grateful he’d changed the subject.
“We need to go to the grocery store and get the bait for the crabs,” Don explained as he signaled and turned the corner. “Chicken necks are the best bait there is. The store stocks them cheap.” Thank goodness, because Don only had a few dollars in his pocket, and he didn’t want to ask Jason for money—that would hurt almost as much as being thrown in the mud. They rode into the grocery store parking lot and locked up their bikes before walking into Meatland Market.