Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mustard On Top: Prologue (Not in Book) and Book Give-Away

One commenter will be picked at random and will receive the choice of any e-book from or

Mustard on Top: This prologue is not included in the book and gives insight into Ben and Helen's relationship.

1994 Nalley, Washington

Ben Smiley lifted a purple, varsity jersey from a pile of folded laundry and tossed it onto a heap of clothes meant for Goodwill. His bedroom door flew open, and his mother pointed a bony finger at his stereo.

“Turn that down.”

Ben swung his arm back and twisted the knob. One more day and he’d be free. “What’s up?”

She stood in the doorway. “Helen’s here.”

Helen. An ex. Sort of. If Ben had exes, which he didn’t. He glanced at his suitcase, picked up a pair of pants, and tossed them in.

“She knows you’re leaving in the morning?” his mom asked.

Ben shrugged. “Probably.” He hadn’t talked to Helen in a few months, but in the small tourist town of Nalley, on the western Washington coastline, a Florida State football scholarship for the local kid was big news. Not that he needed a scholarship.

He sorted two more items before his mother walked away.

Who knew what Helen wanted? Probably saying goodbye since she hadn’t attended his going-away party. No surprise there, she wasn’t the partying type. Ben went to greet her.

Helen stood with her hands clasped in a tight ball over her abdomen staring at the family photos dotting the walls. She wore ordinary, loose-fitting cutoffs that showcased her tan, long, slender legs. Strands of her waist-length, chestnut hair fell in stark lines over her pink T-shirt.

Memories of their mingled flesh, her firm, round breasts, and her soft skin had him thinking of sex.
“Hey Helen. What’s up?”

Helen’s gaze skittered around the room and settled on his face. Her eyes reminded him of a stray dog's—resigned, hungry, yet hopeful. An uncomfortable lump formed in Ben's throat.

“Can we talk?” she asked.

Ben blew out a breath then called over his shoulder, “Mom, I’m going out for a few minutes.” He glanced back. Helen was staring at her feet, and Ben followed her gaze to her sandals. One of the brown straps hung loose, and she wiggled her free big toe. Scuffed and worn, they appeared to be ten years old. Helen had always been on the other side of fashion.

“Wait here a sec.” Ben retreated to his room to get his keys and wallet. He walked past her, pushed through the front door, and held it open. “We can talk in the car.”

Once Helen stepped outside, Ben bounded by her taking the steps two at a time. In the late summer heat, his shirt clung to him as he hurried to Venus, his vintage Corvair convertible.

Helen covered half the distance to the car when Ben popped open the passenger's door then jogged around to the driver's side. Whatever she had to say, he wanted her to be quick. He had a date with a plane in the morning and mentally he'd already left.

The car was at least ten degrees hotter inside, and Ben put the top down. It clicked into place as Helen slid in next to him and slammed the door. She gave him a strained look that made him think tears would follow. He hated tears.

They drove in silence for three blocks. Helen’s muteness annoyed him. “So, what’s up?” he queried.


The wobble in her voice had Ben clenching the steering wheel. He hit the gas, and they jerked forward. “Oops. Sorry.”

Helen began again, “I know this is really bad timing and everything.”

Dread congealed like a bowling ball in his gut. Helen studied her hands in her lap. “Just say what you need to say.” Ben burst out.

“I’m pregnant.”

No, he thought, no. I am going to college. In Florida. Baseball. Football. Girls in bikinis. Ben glared at her. Her eyes were red and glistening. “No you’re not,” he said.

“I did the test three times.”

Anger squeezed his chest making it difficult to breathe. His future was planned, and Helen wasn’t it. Nor was fatherhood, at least not for many years.

Pretty but shy, Helen had been a virgin when they’d started dating. He'd wooed her for three months before she'd slept with him. She’d been nervous, and the evening had been a bungled, messy affair. They’d dated a few times afterward, but Ben’s interest in her had waned. Her shyness, once attractive, grated on him. Plus, there were always other girls. “How do I know it’s mine?” Ben asked.

He barely saw Helen's hand before she struck his cheek. “Ouch.” Ben rubbed his stinging face.

“I should have known you’d be a jerk,” Helen spat.

“What? It's a legitimate question.”

“Stop the car. I want out.”

Letting her go and acting as if he’d imagined the entire interaction would have been easier, but Ben ignored her. “Look, I’m sorry. Okay?”

Helen crossed her arms under her breasts and glared.

“What do you want to do?” he asked.

“Keep it,” Helen shot back pursing her lips so hard one of her dimples showed.

Ben shrunk in the seat. “You’re still in high school.”

“I’ll get a GED.” Defiant anger had replaced her tears.

“I’m leaving for college tomorrow.” Ben was pleading.

“Of course you are.”

There were ways out of the mess if only Helen would agree. Adoption. Abortion.

As Ben turned the car onto a street running parallel to the Nalley boardwalk and the vast, blue-black Pacific Ocean, his anger over having no say in the matter flared. “What do you want me to do? Marry you and get a minimum-wage job, so we can live in poverty for the rest of our lives?”

“You know Ben? I really didn’t expect anything from you, but I thought, as a courtesy, I’d tell you you’re going to have a child.”

“Don’t have a baby just to spite me,” Ben growled.

“My God. You are such a selfish, self-centered dweeb.”

The pain reflected in her eyes made Ben bite back his retort. He’d always liked Helen, and, as an only child, he was used to getting his way. “What about adoption?”

“I want out of the car."

"I'm not going to dump you on the boardwalk." Dumbfounded, Ben rotated the steering wheel and hit the gas. The engine roared, and Helen’s dark, straight hair lashed in the wind.

Ben skidded to a stop in front of his house.

Helen opened the door and was stepping out before he’d even even the ignition. Taut muscles had him wanting to spring from the car. He ought to do something. “Helen.”

She whipped around, her eyes blazing. “What.”

Ben recoiled. She had an inner strength he’d never seen before, and he knew she'd have the baby and raise it too. He wanted to say that he’d stay in Nalley and help, but the words wouldn’t form in his throat. “Do you need some money?”

“Go to hell.” Helen slammed the door and took off at a run.

“Fuck.” Ben pounded his fists into the steering wheel. A baby was a game changer. “Damn it.” Venus rumbled beneath him, seeming as unsettled as Ben. Ben glanced at his home. He didn't want to be a dad, and the idea of being married made his stomach churn.

He needed to think and jammed the gearshift into first, burning rubber as he pulled away from the curb. Minutes later, he'd departed Nalley, and headed south on Interstate 5.

Venus wrapped around him like a security blanket. His car was his lair—it was where he’d drunk his first beer; where he’d touched his first breast, and as sure as anything; where Helen had gotten pregnant. Wind tousled his hair, shouting in his ears while Ben wrestled with his thoughts.

As the hours melted one into the another, Ben came back to the same idea: he’d been trapped by the oldest trick in the book. For Helen, marrying into the Smiley family would be a step up, hell, a whole ladder up. Just when he'd convince himself Helen deserved to be abandoned, he’d remember that he’d been the one to pursue her.

The sun went off duty, leaving a haze the night sky devoured. Towering pine trees lined the highway casting ominous shadows while the gas gauge hovered at empty. It was time to turn back. He’d thrown his fit and was ready to accept his fate.

He was Ben Smiley, he could make it work. Helen and the baby could move to Florida with him. He'd still get his degree and play football. A highway sign noted he was twenty-three miles from Portland, and that a gas station was at the next exit. As Ben drove down the exit ramp, the air about him calmed.

The station, situated at the base of the ramp, was boarded up. Ben assumed another must be nearby, and unsure how much further the next exit would be, took his chances and drove toward lights in the distance.

A squat, industrial complex came into view. The group of buildings were in a clump as if a gardener had dropped a handful of seeds. Ben turned into the first parking lot hoping to find a convenience store or someone to ask about the nearest gas station.

The lot, as large as a football field, was dotted by streetlights. Parked near the entrance sat a single, boxy car. Lights shined from behind one of the buildings and the rumble of engines shook the ground.
Ben drove toward the lights and turning the corner he found a small group of men standing in a loose circle. More people hovered in or around scattered cars that were running with the headlights burning. His presence seemed to cause a stir, because heads swiveled in his direction. Unease lodged itself in
Ben’s chest. He raised a hand in greeting. No one reciprocated.

Ben’s discomfort turned to slight terror upon noticing the bandanas slashed over foreheads, the backward hats, and the baggy pants.

Stupid, stupid day, he thought. Instinct dictated he leave, but a tall black man had stepped in front of his car. “Excuse me,” Ben yelled. “I’m trying to find a gas station.”

The man didn't respond.

Ben checked his rearview mirror when he heard the rev of an engine. A car had pulled up behind him. On the passenger side, a figure approached and in his hand was a gun. Panic-stricken, Ben scanned the parking lot for the quickest exit. The median to his left was eight-inches high minimum. Could the Corvair scale it?

“Get out the car with your hands up!” Ben’s gaze swung toward the oncoming man who was pointing the gun at Ben’s face.

Ben threw his hands up in surrender. “Not necessary. I’ll leave.”

“Get the fuck out the car.” The speaker's casual tone added menace to the command. He tilted the gun sideways, taking aim.

“I’m lost—”

A shot exploded and Ben ducked, flattening against the seat.

“I said get the fuck out the car, lest you want a bullet in yo head.”

Ben was acting like a coward. Unwilling to mow someone down, Ben stretched his hands in the air and inched his way up. When he could see over the seatback, he yelled, “I’m here by accident. I just want to leave.”

Another pop shattered Ben’s windshield, raining shards of safety glass on him. Ben dropped back down.

“Get. Out. The. Car.” The voice was as smooth as a bullet. And getting closer.

It felt as if a vise grip were squeezing his chest. They want the car, Ben tried to convince himself. His hands high, he sat upright. Glass tumbled off him. Two more men had guns trained on him. “I’m getting out. Don’t shoot!” Fear caused his voice raise high in pitch.

Moving with slow exaggeration, Ben opened the car door and stepped out. Another man, ebony colored with large, white eyes, approached.

“Spread your legs.”

Ben’s gaze slid to one of the guns pointed at him. It glinted in the Corvair’s headlights. His legs trembled as he stepped wider. The ebony man stepped closer reaching for him. Ben flinched.

“Settle down.” The man ordered before patted Ben's ribs with both hands. Ben fought the urge to pee as the dark-skinned man probed his legs.

“He’s clean,” the man announced.

“Bring him here,” someone said.

The man who’d searched him wrapped an impossibly large hand around Ben’s bicep and yanked.
Stunned, Ben moved toward the center of the group. He looked around hoping to escape, but was terrified he'd be shot if he ran. He was shoved between two men, the leaders if Ben had to guess. One, white and covered with freckles, the other black with dreadlocks. Freckles and Dreadlocks. Ben focused on the taller of the two. With dark chocolate skin, Dreadlocks had a wide, flat nose and a scar that ran below his left eye.

“This is a misunderstanding.” Ben’s voice wobbled. “I was just looking for a gas station. You can check my car, it’s—”

“Shut up,” Dreadlocks said.

Ben clamped his mouth tight and looked into the scrutinizing eyes of the freckled guy. His fuzzy, copper hair created a halo around his spotted face. Two guns tattooed in black along his jawline came to the end of the barrel at the cleft in his chin. Ben tried to maintain eye contact and to appear innocent.

Afraid to talk, afraid not to, he unconsciously shook his head ‘no’.

“What the fuck is that? Some kind of signal?” Freckles demanded. The harsh tap of a pistol beat drum-like against his temple. Pressure in his bladder had him on the verge of peeing, and blood rushed in his ears making them ring.

“I swear I was just looking for a gas station,” he managed.

“Who sent you?” Freckles asked.

The lights in the parking lot began to tip and spin. The onset of dizziness had Ben fighting to keep his balance. “No one. No one sent me.”

Freckles jabbed a gun into his gut as if the one at his head weren’t threatening enough. "I said. Who sent you?”

The sound of rushing water grew louder as Ben’s vision swam in and out of darkness. “I just—” Then everything went black.

Ben became aware he was lying on something hard before a severe pounding behind in his eyes distracted him. He pressed his hands to his temples when he heard shouting. Disoriented and dizzy, he froze. Renewed horror washed over him as he remembered his situation.

Half expecting someone to shoot him, he opened his eyes to slits.

Blue Converse tennis shoes were inches from his face. Not wanting to draw attention to himself, he peeked up and paused. A gun, held by a freckled hand, was close enough that Ben could have reached out and touched it. Freckles' fingertip caressed the trigger. Suddenly, the shouting stopped.

Ben took in the scene. Freckles and Dreadlocks were locked in a stare while he lay on the pavement between them.

Relieved they'd lost interest in him, he looked back at Freckle's gun. Freckle's trigger finger had grown taut and was deadly white. The weapon, for one horrible millisecond, pointed at Ben’s face as Freckles swung it up. Ben shouted as the gun exploded.

Ben gawked with morbid curiosity as Dreadlocks, faceless and raining blood, staggered back. Someone pushed him in the other direction, and Dreadlocks stumbled forward tripping over Ben’s leg before falling.

Before Dreadlocks had hit the ground, gunfire erupted.


Wanda DeGolier is proud of her recently released novel: Mustard on Top. Mustard took several years and many versions before she sent it to publishers. It had been set to release with one publisher that went out of business a week before it was supposed to release. Wanda took six months to edit it again before submitting it to Books To Go Now. They snatched it up and finally, it's been freed from the confines of Wanda's brain.

Mustard on Top is a playful, romantic suspense novel about one man's quest to establish a relationship with his seventeen-year-old son and the woman he'd been forced to abandon. What he gets is redemption, renewal, and relish on a whole-wheat bun.

Please read and enjoy!


Debby said...

Wow, what a prologue. Caught my attention and I want to read more.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Catherine Lee said...

OMG...That was very dramatic. I was glued to it. I want to know what matters. Does Ben get out of this? Does he go to college? What happens to Helen? Does she have her baby?
catherinelee100 at gmail dot com