*Exclusive Excerpt* The Beautiful Now by M. Leighton

The Beautiful Now

M. Leighton

Releasing September 26, 2017

Dane James worked my stepfather’s fields. He was the boy next door.

Strong.

Hardworking.

Forbidden.

From the moment we met, we were star-crossed lovers—always wanting, never having. We loved each other for most of our lives, but right from the beginning destiny had other plans.  She knew we would fall in love.  She knew we would fall apart.  Over and over again, like the curse of a recurring nightmare.  Or the hope of a familiar dream.

Our past was tumultuous.  Our future was bleak.  But the one thing we always had was the beautiful now.

Until that was taken from us, too.

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(12 YEARS OLD)

I thumped my palm against the rock, feeling its solid sturdiness.  I bet Dane would be hard to move like this, too.  Stubborn.  The rock didn’t care about the wind and the rain, about the storms that raged around it, and I figured Dane didn’t either. He’d go on being Dane, ignoring Lauren Stringer and chewing his piece of prairie grass, no matter what people said or thought.  He was strong and unmoving in ways they weren’t, in ways they didn’t understand.

“Why did you bring me here?” I had to ask.

I felt his shrug.  His arm rubbed along mine, the tickling friction causing the little hairs on my skin to stand up.  I turned my head so that I could look at him in the dim light.

“Look up,” he said, almost like he could feel me looking at him.  So I did.  I pulled my eyes away from him, hard as it was, and got lost once more in the fathomless sky and infinite sprinkling of stars.  “I wanted you to see how big the world is. How much bigger than Lauren Stringer and her stupid bunch of friends,” he explained.

“Is that why you come here?  Because of Lauren Stringer and her stupid bunch of friends?”

His laugh was decidedly bitter for a kid.  “No.  I don’t give a shit about those girls.”  I grinned at his repeated use of cuss words. Momma would give me what-for if I talked like that.  We were rich ladies now and rich ladies didn’t say those words.

Dane James didn’t care about rich or ladies, though, and that made me like him even more. And I was already getting dangerously close to a crush.  Actually, if I was being honest, I was probably already knee-deep in one.

“Then why?”

His pause stretched on and on, but eventually his sigh broke the night in one long, forlorn sound, like the howl of a lone wolf.  “I guess because everybody else cares about them so much.  Coming out here reminds me how big the world is, too.”

I knew then that as much as he tried to pretend otherwise, he was still affected by people like Lauren Stringer.  The people who meant something in a town like this.  I’d already known it was unfair and ridiculous, as unfair and ridiculous as it was that my mother wanted me to be friends with them just because of who they were. It was because of people like them that a really nice boy who lived over the barn would come out here, to a rock in the middle of a field, in the middle of the night, just to lie on his back and look up at the stars.  And remember that, somewhere else, maybe names and families and jobs don’t matter.

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, M. Leighton lives in the deep South with her super-hero husband and super-smart maltipoo.  She has a fondness for coffee and chocolate, loves the color red, laughs at almost anything and often stares out her window, daydreaming of far-away places.
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