Monday, January 7, 2013

Read the First Chapter of 'Atonement' by Elle Chardou!


Deirdre Bardot is a PhD student at Harvard and on her way home for Thanksgiving when she finds out her father has been murdered in a vicious hit and run by a drunk driver.
Forced to piece her life together after such a traumatic event, Deirdre moves back to Seattle to be closer to her younger sister, Caitlyn, and their mother.
When her psychiatrist, Dr. van der Meer, suggests she needs to get away from it all and take a vacation, her best friend decides to introduce her to a friend of his who has more or less the same idea. Colin is perfect: he's good looking, self-deprecating and sexy as hell but he also happens to be Dr. van der Meer's son.
Deirdre finds herself falling hard for a guy she barely knows and one who is equally into her as she is into him. They decide a trip to Western Europe together is the perfect way to get to know one another a whole lot better.
Then an unspeakable and random act of violence occurs and Colin realizes he is forced to reveal a secret to Deirdre he has been hiding...a secret that is breaking him, and in doing so to free his conscience, he just might destroy the relationship he has created with Deirdre and lose her forever.

Read the first chapter!
Chapter One

DEIRDRE, HOW ARE you feeling today?” Dr. van der Meer inquired in his usual monotone voice.
Pretty good, I think. I’m having the nightmares less and less and the panic attacks have all but come to a stop but I warrant that more with the maximum strength prescription of Xanax I have rather than anything else,” I replied before I shifted in the comfortable chair which arranged me across from him.
Since my father’s death, I had been seeing a shrink and it was doing some good. He was a pretty much a stickler to the old-school type of good old fashioned healing and eschewed all the most popular psychotropics’ on the market for talking out my issues. However, I had just recently given up Wellbutrin after a stint with Zoloft so he wasn’t completely against handing out the drugs; at the time we mutually agreed they were needed in my case.
The Xanax had also been prescribed by Dr. van der Meer and I’d made the mistake of popping one before coming to this appointment. Big mistake. I was tired, relaxed yet out of it. I knew right off the bat this was not going to be a very enjoyable visit to my psychiatrist.
I understand you’re thinking about going back to school,” he replied as he jotted down a few notes on his ever-present legal pad.
I am. The Seattle branch of the University of Washington doesn’t have a PhD program in the field I was studying at Harvard but I need a change anyway. I have inquired about their Doctorate in Public Policy and Management…it seems interesting and at least I feel like I could be of some use to society.”
Dr. van der Meer stared at me with clear sky blue eyes. “Why do you talk as if you were the one who should have been sent to prison? You did nothing wrong and you’re not the reason why your father is dead.”
The tears came whether I wanted them to or not and I grabbed several Kleenex from the box the Doc kept handy. “I always felt like I was such a disappointment and now…he’ll never know me to be anything but…that. I didn’t stay in school all this time because I wanted to further my education. I just became a professional student because it allowed me to escape reality and when the recession hit, it gave me more than enough excuses. I was attending Harvard on my dad’s dime and yeah, I know he could afford it no problem but…it wasn’t what he wanted from me and now he will never know.”
We sit down with one another three times per week and it’s always the same with you.” Doctor van der Meer put his reading glasses down and looked up at me. “I don’t think going back to school right now is the answer at all, Deirdre. I think the only thing that is going to pull you out of your funk is to live life a little. That means no more school work and no more studying.
You’ll be twenty-nine in June and you’ve said it yourself—you are a professional student. Not because you’re not intelligent and can’t pass your classes and pick up your increasing number of degrees but because you are afraid to live life. If I didn’t think it was against the rules of my very rigid profession, I would introduce you to my son. He’s a year older than you and a professional slacker. You two would get on quite well.”
I dried my eyes before I blew my nose. “Well, what do you think I should do?”
Your father left you with a very comfortable nest egg. Use part of it to go out there and see the world. Why don’t you take a trip to Europe? The flights are not too bad as it’s the shoulder season and the high season hasn’t begun yet. You’re allowed to stay as long as you like, yes?”
I nodded my head. “My dad grew up in Quebec City but he was born in France and maintained both his Canadian and French passports. When I was born, my mom—my real mom, not Jeanette—and he went back to the small village where his people come from in the region of Lorraine and they managed to take care of everything. So, to make a long story short, yes, I have all three of my passports and I can stay as long as I like.”
Good.” The doctor smiled at me before his eyes filled with a certain amount of pity. “Why don’t you talk about your real mother? You have never referred to anyone other than Jeanette since we have been seeing one another.”
She died when I was three…a brain aneurysm. It was completely unexpected and my dad was really devastated. I don’t remember much about her except when I look at photos, I can see myself in her. Dad married Mom—Jeanette—when I was five and she was already pregnant with Caitlyn when it happened.
I don’t know…you hear all these horror stories about evil stepmothers but Jeanette was nothing like that. She always treated Caitlyn and I the same and over the years, she became my mother. I know we aren’t related by blood but…I still feel so very close to her. I suppose now that my dad is gone too, she and Caitlyn are the only close family I have left.”
What about grandparents?”
I shrugged my shoulders apathetically. “Well, my real mother’s parents’ are dead and my dad’s parents’ are back in France. I suppose I could visit them if I decide to do this European vacation. I haven’t seen them since the funeral and Grandma was really torn up about the whole thing. It wasn’t exactly the best time to bond with them. They have never cared for Jeanette and really liked my real mom so it was awkward to say the least.”
Doctor van der Meer jotted down a few more notes. “I think we have made excellent progress but at the same time, I really do believe this is the best thing you can do for yourself. You are a grown adult and with that title comes responsibilities. If you were nineteen, my attitude would be completely different but I am a firm believer in tough love and I truly do think you need some time for yourself.”
I chose not to argue with the good doctor and we spent the rest of my session discussing which countries I should visit and when would be a good time to buy my plane ticket.
By the time I arrived home, Drew was in the kitchen making dinner. My mother thought it was plain odd he’d also taken a hiatus and moved out to Seattle with me but then again most people didn’t understand our relationship. One didn’t stay best friends with a former lover, one moved on and decided to jump back on the horse again. That hadn’t been the case for us but then again, perhaps we weren’t ready to move on from each other.
He had a busy social life and always had a steady stream of boyfriends and girlfriends. Meanwhile, I had taken to living like a goddamn hermit and dated every now and then but there’d been no one special. I was human and when he was between partners, we did have a “friends with benefits” type of an arrangement though I insisted on condoms despite my being on the pill. It had nothing to do with me thinking he wasn’t safe but it did help me remember we weren’t exclusive and kept me from ever getting too comfortable with him again.
We lived in an ultra cool three-story townhouse in Fremont. Everything was brand new, from the stainless steel appliances to the hardwood floors throughout. Although it was a vast space for two slackers in their late twenties, we kept the third bedroom as an office-guest room and we each had massive bedrooms with our own en suite bathrooms, walk-in closets and a beautiful covered patio complete with furniture, and a built in overhead heater for cooler nights.
How was your appointment?” he inquired as I sniffed and the aroma of garlic and oregano immediately seized my nostrils.
The good doctor thinks I should get away for a while,” I said as I sat down at the kitchen table.
Drew turned off the stove and brought a bottle of Pinot Noir and two wine glasses to the table. “I hate to think I am agreeing with a shrink but it’s true. You’re much too young to spend your days cooped up in the house, Deirdre. You lost your father and that is a terrible tragedy but at the end of the day you are going to have to move on.”
I grabbed the bottle of wine and poured myself a glass before I drank half the contents in a generous swig. “That isn’t fair. Your parents are still alive to bitch and complain at you—”
And they do…a lot. They have absolutely no idea why the hell I decided to accompany my ex out to Seattle when I could be freezing my ass off in Beacon Hill. They especially weren’t pleased when I told them we’d already bought a place together so my finances are tied up in real estate at the moment. My mother almost had a heart attack and wired me a couple mil to my bank account to ‘tide me over’.”
I laughed as did he and I realized he still had that effect on me. The curious look that could arise in those pale gray eyes of his and the way the light bounced off his sandy brown hair. Not to mention the man had the body of an Adonis and face of a god. He was beautiful, tall and athletic with skin the color of peaches and cream and perfect facial features thanks to his German-Irish background.
So why weren’t we a couple any more? Perhaps because he’d sown his oats but to me, he would always be my first true love and unfortunately, people didn’t usually end up with their first love or a love at all. We weren’t youngsters anymore—we were a lot closer to thirty than twenty yet we still hadn’t grown up.
I loved Drew still and we had fun together but I couldn’t honestly see him as the father of my children or my husband. Despite all his wealth and affluence, he wasn’t the least bit stuck-up yet I had to believe there was something else, life beyond Drew and the only way to find that out would be to take that trip to Europe after all.
He poured wine for himself before the doorbell chimed out. “Are we expecting anyone?”
Yep, I’ve got company.” He raised his eyebrows mischievously before he sprinted to the door.
I continued to drink from my wine and answered an earlier text with from my sister. She was just fine and wanted to know how I’d been. Caitlyn was always upbeat and chipper. She’d taken our father’s death hard initially but she had so much going on in her life, it was easy to push the grief to the backburner. Unlike me, she actually did have a career as an up and coming junior executive at Amazon and she loved her job.
Drew came back to the table laughing and joking with another guy and since they were still chatting, it gave me a chance to size up my competition.
Mmm, there was none because if it was between me and this guy, I was so out of the running.
He was tall, at least 6’2” as he was barely a couple inches shorter than Drew who was a comfortable 6’4”, and around one hundred and ninety pounds. Lean, he had nice features, alabaster skin, intriguing crystal blue eyes and flaxen blond hair. He wore the requisite outfit of indigo jeans worn slightly on the baggy side but not slacker baggy and band tee-shirt from a recent The Pretty Reckless concert.
Oops, my bad, forgive my manners but Colin, this is my roommate, Deirdre Bardot and Deirdre, this is Colin van der Meer,” Drew introduced.
Is this your idea of a fucking joke?” I inquired out loud.
W-what?” Drew stuttered. “The guy and I both happen to work days at Common Bean and nights at O’Shaughnessy’s next door—calm the fuck down, okay?”
Van der Meer?” I questioned out loud. “You know the name of my goddamn shrink is Doctor van der Meer so what I want to know is how is this guy related to my head doctor because I don’t find it the least bit funny!”
Colin and Drew looked at one another before our newest guest answered, “Your doctor is my father but Drew and I have known each other since you two moved here and he started working at Common Bean.”
Shit,” I whispered.
I knew I had overreacted just like they’d expected me to but how did I talk my way out of this one?
Sorry, I’ll be right back.”
I stood and nearly ran up the stairs to my bedroom before I shut the door behind myself. What the hell was I going to do? I took a chance my sister wouldn’t be too busy and called her cell phone.
Deirdre? What’s the matter, honey?”
You know I wouldn’t normally do this and I’m sure you’re in a meeting—”
I’m on my way to one so talk fast,” she interrupted.
Drew invited a new friend over and I’m sure he’s bi but there’s just one problem.”
Well, what is it?”
He’s Dr. van der Meer’s son. I mean, what are the odds? Seattle is huge—this isn’t Tacoma. How could this happen?” I questioned as I paced back and forth.
It happens all the time. Some people call it just something completely random and others call it fate. Why are you trippin’ so hard, sweetie? Damn, get a grip, girl.”
But he’s really hot and there must be something against…I don’t know…sleeping with your shrink’s son or something.”
Mmm, he must be really hot if you’re contemplating an end to your friends with benefits situation with Drew. Listen, I gotta dash but after I get off work, I’m coming over so don’t you dare let Mister Hottie leave, okay?”
Not on your life,” I responded before we ended the call mutually.

Elle Chardou is a world traveler and author of several different series.
Ms. Chardou is the author of The Ties That Bind Trilogy, The Atonement Series, The Hart Family Saga, The Vamp Saga, The Supernaturals, Beginnings: Book I (The Plague) series.
She is currently working on Killing Me Softly, Only Love, Jenna & the City of Light, and several novellas for her paranormal series.

Ms. Chardou has lived abroad in Stockholm (Sweden), Manchester (England), Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and Portland. She currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada

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