I’m so pleased that Gretchen Tubbs stopped by today to share a little about herself and her new book, Buried in the Stars. I have to say that after reading the sneak peek she brought for us I’m super intrigued and maybe already a little in love with Sutton 🙂
*What do you like best about writing romances?
I love making up stories. Anytime I see people interacting, I try to figure out their ‘stories’. My husband fusses at me for being so nosy. In fact, I never had any intentions of writing, but one morning on the way to work I saw a couple fighting in a parking lot and I couldn’t get the scene out of my head. Six months later, More Than Ever, my first book, was written. I surprised the hell out of myself!
*What is your favorite romantic story (movie/book, fact/fiction, whatever you love most)?
I’ve always loved Gone with the Wind. I used to read the book and watch the movie at least once a year when I was a kid. Now, my favorite book, and the one I always reread when I’m in a book slump, is At Peace by Kristen Ashley. There’s just something about Joe Callahan…
*If you could be any romantic character, who would it be and why?
I would love to live in any Kristen Ashley book. Sure, kidnappings and shootings occur, but her heroes are the best!
*Which of your characters/books was the most fun to write?
I loved writing Buried in the Stars. The book starts when the characters are younger, so it was nice to see the relationships between the three main characters mature and change over time. I would love to write more stories like that.
*If you weren’t a writer and could be anything you want, what would it be?
I’m a teacher by day, but hope to be a full-time writer eventually. I did contemplate going to nursing school before I started writing, but one of my sisters, who is a nurse, talked me out of it. I went to Graduate school instead and got a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction.
Buried in the Stars
by Gretchen Tubbs
I had nothing until I met the Winters Family. Vera Winters and her husband Doc took me in as one of their own, providing a safe haven from my abusive and alcoholic mother. Their two sons became my constant companions and best friends during the lowest points of my life.
Sutton, with his love of the stars and his need to constantly rescue me.
Easton, fiercely protective and loyal.
I loved them both, as they loved me.
But only one of them would have the power to completely break me.
In the end I would have to choose between them – and disrupt the perfect family who had so generously welcomed me into their lives.
Did I choose the one I might never trust again, or the one who loved me more than I could ever love him in return?
“Tell me a story,” I say without turning from the wall. I know it’s Sutton that’s climbing into the old treehouse without having to check. No one else comes up here anymore.
“Only if you tell me what happened first.”
I focus on a knot in one of the wooden slats instead. I don’t want to talk about my mother. She didn’t lay a hand on me earlier today. Her physical blows haven’t been as frequent, but her verbal lashings have been much harder to deal with.
“She didn’t touch me, Sutton, if that’s what you’re getting at.”
The heat from the front of his body wraps around my back and a sense of calm washes over me. “Emily called,” he says, his warm breath hitting my shoulder. “She heard the two of you shouting from her yard.” He pushes closer and winds his arm around my waist, brushing his lips across the cluster of freckles on the top of my arm that he’s always tracing. He’s been a lot more physical this last year, ever since that almost kiss in his bedroom. Nothing like that has happened again, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it.
I do, every single second I’m with him.
“Please, Sutton,” I beg through the lump in my throat. “I don’t want to talk about her. Distract me.”
He comes to my front and reaches out for my hand. I don’t want to leave. When I’m hiding here, I don’t have to think about anything else. I can pretend that everything in my life is fine. I can be a normal thirteen year old.
“Let me tell you about the stars.”
His smile grows and he nods. “Will you come on the roof with me?”
My eyes must double in size. “I wouldn’t take you up there if it wasn’t safe, Scarlett,” he continues. “My dad built this thing to last. You know how he is. Nothing is going to happen.”
I watch, equally shocked and scared, as he hoists himself out the small window and reaches toward the roof. After rooting around for a few seconds, a rope ladder falls into sight.
“Umm, I guess.” I’m not exactly scared of heights, but climbing on a roof isn’t high on my list of things to do.
“You go first, Scarlett. I won’t let you fall. I would never let anything happen to you.”
I trust Sutton. I’ve trusted him since he found me huddled next to that tree, banged up, crying, and scared, the first time I ever laid eyes on him. I put on my proverbial big girl panties and place one shaky hand on the rope ladder. A few tugs reassure me that it’s not going to detach from the roof as soon as I put my full weight on it, so I pull in a few big breaths and go for it. As soon as there’s room, Sutton is right behind me. We don’t have to climb far to reach our destination. He nudges me to the middle of the roof. I don’t quite crawl, but I don’t walk upright to reach the center like he does. There’s only a slight slope to it, but that doesn’t mean I’m wild about hanging out up here.
“Lie back and just breathe for a few minutes. Relax and clear your mind.” I get settled against his shoulder and let the warm breeze flow over my body, willing it to take away all the ugly I endured tonight. I listen to the calming beats of Sutton’s heart, and soon my own heart’s rhythm starts to mimic his.
“Open your eyes and tell me what you see,” he whispers.
His mouth curves into a smile at the top of my head. “You say that like it’s so simple.”
“Well, that’s what I see.”
“Those stars map out the night sky. They’re like cities or landmarks, helping astronomers figure out how other objects travel through space. Each constellation tells a story. There are eighty-eight named ones, but the thirteen Zodiac constellations are the most important.”
“I’ve heard about them, but I’ve never been able to see them. I can’t even find the Big Dipper. I don’t know what I’m looking at.”
His soft laughter vibrates through me. “They’re all there, buried in the stars. You just have to know where to look.” He sits up, pulling me with him. “Let me show you. They’re in a circle.”
Sutton scoots his body behind mine and presses his front flush against my back. He runs his hand from my shoulder down to my wrist at a torturous pace and goosebumps break out across my skin, despite the warm night air.
“Cold?” he whispers.
I nod, even though I’m far from it. He rubs his other hand up and down my opposite arm in an unnecessary attempt to warm me up. “Give me your hand.” I do what he asks, and he wraps our arms around my waist. Our current position is doing nothing to help me fight the feelings I’ve developed for my best friend. I don’t want to fall in love with Sutton Winters. I need him to be my best friend, my protector, my refuge. If I lose that, there’s nothing left. So, I take a few shaky breaths and swat aside the butterflies that are taking flight inside my belly. Sutton has my arm lined up with his and is pointing up at the sky. With his chin resting on my shoulder and his mouth next to my ear, he starts to speak.
“Let’s start with Sagittarius, the Archer. Follow our fingers, and I’ll point him out.” He traces a simple pattern out, but I still don’t see anything. He’s moving our hands and telling a story about Zeus and the king of the centaurs, but all I see are clusters of stars that don’t look like anything he’s telling me about. “You don’t see it,” he says, sounding a bit defeated that I’m not following.
He squeezes my hand around my waist before letting go. “Don’t move.” He disappears from the roof before I even realize he’s no longer sitting behind me.
“Don’t worry,” I mutter.
He comes back a few seconds later with a marker in his hand and a satisfied look on his face. “This will make it easier.” Sutton gets in his original position and scoots my shorts further up my thigh. “Do you mind?”
I don’t know exactly what he’s asking, but he could do whatever he wanted to me, and I wouldn’t have any objections. I shake my head against his, and he starts to draw a series of dots and lines on my leg. He’s drawing clusters of constellations, labeling them as he goes, in a circle on my flesh. Some he tells stories about, others he just tells me the name and moves on. I’m not paying much attention to any of it, though. My mind is focused on the feel of Sutton wrapped around me, the felt tip of his marker dragging across my skin, and the hypnotic tone of his voice.
“Now, let’s see if you can make sense of the sky now,” he tells me, moving back slightly and taking my hand in his again. His free hand points to the map on my leg and his other one that is clutching mine points to the sky, finding the stars that correspond with the images on my skin.
“I can see them,” I whisper. It’s like I’ve been let in on a secret only the two of us are privy to. One by one, Sutton points out the constellations and helps me decipher the stars.
The chaos of the sky is calmed.
“Thank you for showing me that,” I tell him, what feels like hours later.
“I’m glad you let me. Most people tune me out. I’m a bit of an astronomy nerd.”
“How did you learn all of this?” I can’t believe he’s just now letting me see this side of him.
“My grandfather. You know the one we stay with in California? He’s an astronomy professor.” He looks down at my leg and back at me, a solemn look passing over his face. “Do you think it’s safe for you to go back home yet?”
I can never tell, but with the amount of liquor I saw her consume earlier, she’s got to be passed out by now. “I’m sure it’s fine. If she’s up, I’ll go to Emily’s for the night.”
He runs his hand through his mop of unruly curls. “I hate this.”
“Please don’t.” I can’t go there with him right now. I don’t want the end of this wonderful night ruined. There’s nothing that can be done about the hell I have to endure at home, so talking about it won’t accomplish anything.
“Can I walk you home?” Even after all this time he still asks, even though he knows I’ll say yes.
We walk home in silence, Sutton’s stare focused on the road and mine glued to the map of stars on my leg. He only speaks when he hugs me in my front yard and asks me to call him if I need anything. When I let myself inside, I linger in the foyer for a few minutes, listening for any sounds of movement. I decide the coast is clear and tiptoe into my bedroom. A shower would be heaven right now, but I don’t want to risk waking up my mother. Instead, I sit down in the middle of my bed with a notebook and a pen, recreating the map of stars that Sutton drew on my flesh.
Gretchen Tubbs lives in South Louisiana, surrounded by her amazing family. When she’s not writing, you can find her tucked away in her classroom teaching first graders how to read, chauffeuring her three daughters around, or basking in the awesomeness of her husband. She’s a total book junkie, and thinks Kristen Ashley and Colleen Hoover can do no wrong.